Terrorism: September 29, 2001


Run Silent, Run Deep- The War on Terrorism will be fought like past wars, only differently. In any war, the object of any battle is to find the enemy forces, and then destroy them. The War on Terrorism will proceed like that. But finding terrorists requires different techniques than finding tanks, infantry, ships, submarines or warplanes. The key to finding the foe is information. And the other guy does not want to be found. It's no coincidence that Osama bin Laden calls his overseas terrorists "submarines," for subs are the most difficult target to find. Terrorists spend much of their time and energy keeping themselves out of sight. This is especially the case when their victims are aware of terrorist operations being planned. When America thought the terrorist threat was mainly overseas, and that the FBI was keeping enough pressure on those terrorists in the United States to prevent major terrorist operations, it was much easier for skillful terrorists to plan and carry out elaborate and deadly operations. September 11th demonstrated that.

Since September 11th, the search for terrorists intensified and results were immediate. Hundreds of suspects were found, many possessing materials clearly indicating terrorist operations. European nations also turned up the heat and flushed out scores of suspects. This initial haul of suspects was the easy part. The terrorists are on their guard now and will, as bin Laden described them, operate more like submarines. The terrorists will sink deeper into the civilian population and go about their deadly business even more quietly. As submariners put it, "run silent, run deep." The anti-terrorism battle will soon be one resembling a large, slow moving chess game. The terrorists will always leave some clues, usually very faint. Searching for them will rely on picking up hundreds of information fragments, sorting them out and creating a web of leads the terrorists will be entangled in. At home, this usually means an arrest, seizing the contents of a bank account, intercepting a courier or inserting an agent to get closer to the terrorist network. Many times, the "battle" will only result in another bit of information, as when a courier carrying encrypted data on a diskette is captured. It can take months to decrypt the data, and that provides more leads.

The war will also go to the source of the terrorism; the camps where terrorist volunteers are screened and trained. Bin Laden's organization is so dangerous because they have modern management techniques to carefully select those volunteers for specific jobs they have a talent for. Some volunteers have more zeal than talent, and are either given low level jobs like support duties at the camp, acting as couriers or are just given some indoctrination and sent back to their homes to spread the word and encourage more recruits. Other volunteers may be good at creating or procuring false documents, building bombs or simply guarding the camp. The most skillful are trained to be "submarines," the expert agents that can carry the war to the infidel. Without the training facilities at the camps, the "submarines" go into action much less well prepared, and are more easily caught. 

It was no accident that the most productive terrorist camps were set up in Afghanistan. In the middle of nowhere, in a region run by a fanatical religious movement and surrounded by a populations notoriously hostile to armed foreigners, the mountains of Afghanistan were the perfect place to become terrorism central. These camps, at least 55 of them, and the 13,000 staff, graduates and trainees in them, will eventually disappear in a complex military operation using guided bombs, commando raids and several flavors of diplomacy. But the bin Laden organization, even without bin Laden, will go on. The many graduates of the camps will try to resurrect the training camps elsewhere. In jungles, forests, mountains and large cities, the terrorist training camps will be recreated. Smaller and better hidden, the battle to root out the source of skilled terrorists will require a constant battles with diplomats following up the work of agents and analysts to allow attacks by local police or commandoes. 

While the anti-terrorism efforts will become more effective, so will the evasion skills of the terrorists. But without the ability to train better terrorists, the threat will shrink. It will never go away until the source of the hatred is dealt with. The current terrorism movement is driven largely not by a hatred of America, but the inability of the Islamic nations to create a civil society. Rule by law, not a dictators whim, an economic policy that provides more, not less, for most of it's citizens, are the things that will end the Islamic terrorism movement. But the reform of the Islamic nations must come largely from within, as it slowly is. The irrational movement to blame non-Islamic nations for internal problems will continue to flourish in the meantime and the terrorism this creates must be destroyed. Self-defense is a virtue no matter how much the attackers feel they are on a mission from God.


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