Terrorism: October 9, 2001


Winning Without Fighting- The best victories are always those won without a battle. For thousands of years, the most successful generals knew this. Winning without fighting requires smarts, a powerful army and lots of money. Superpowers end up fighting this way, because they realize it's cheaper. America is not the first superpower in history. There have been dozens before and they always had a preference for fighting, whenever possible, with money instead of troops. A superpower also tended to be run, in large part, by accountants. You got to be a superpower by spending money on the right things. Superpowers tend to have large armed forces and this is a very costly proposition. Fighting a lot of battles is expensive. You lose soldiers that took a lot of time and money to train and equip. Too many casualties is bad for morale, as well breaking the bank. Thus smart generals soon learned it was cheaper to spend money than soldiers lives. 

In the past, superpowers used bribes liberally to entice enemy generals to surrender or switch sides. Powerful opponents were paid "tribute" to stay off your case and allies were often given large amounts of cash to stay friendly. Groups in rebellion against an enemy kingdom were often subsidized to keep up the fight. All of this came to be called "Byzantine diplomacy" in the West. For a number of reasons, this approach to warfare and diplomacy acquired a bad reputation, especially in the United States. Despite this, America has increasingly used the Byzantine methods. Foreign aid is given out based on what political effect it will have. Rewards were offered, during the Cold War, to Russian pilots who would defect with high tech warplanes. Money was given to leaders of nations we wanted as allies, but were not sure we could trust. America has actually been fighting its wars this way for some time. Rather than get a lot of troops killed, much money (which we had a lot of) was spent on expensive weapons and ammunition. 

In 1984, the United States began offering rewards of one to seven million dollars for information leading to the capture of terrorists and lesser amounts to those who provided evidence against a terrorist or provided good information about a planned terrorist act. The informer, and his family, were also offered removal to a safe place (including the United States). So far, five major terrorists have been captured because of this program. Over $6 million has been paid out to in over 20 cases. Some 42 percent of the informants requested security protection and another 42 percent sought relocation for themselves and family members to another country or region to avoid of retaliation. 

Osama bin Laden currently has a $5 million reward on his head, plus another $10 million from German millionaire Kim Schmitz and $10 million from other sources. In addition to that, there are some unofficial rewards from governments to whichever organization can bring in bin Laden. 

The problem with the reward program is that it does not pay attention to the realities of international terrorism. Most major terrorists are well protected and hidden. Sure, there are people who know where they are, and can get in contact with people around the bad guy. But an operation to nab one of these fellows requires a large incentive. Any bounty hunters are going to approach this as a business proposition. The greater the risk, the greater the payoff they want to see. It's currently thought that a reward of $50-$100 million for bin Laden would get major warlord and criminal organizations in the area interested. Just word of that kind of activity would put some heat on bin Laden, and it wouldn't cost a nickel. We pay for bin Laden COD. 

Throughout the Cold War, and down to today, America has played the money game in diplomacy, but not in wartime. Partly, this is due to our major wars being against foes fighting for ideological reasons. In the past, most wars were fought over real estate, money or personal grudges. These wars had a commercial flavor to them, and cash often carried as much weight as weapons. While international terrorism has an ideological component to it (Islamism), because terrorists are a minority, they have to deal with many people who are not as energetic about the cause. These people on the fringes can be persuaded with monetary rewards. This has already worked. The problem is that America doesn't have enough spies and agents around the world to promote and supervise the use of all this reward money. You need local "connections" to work with those interested in earning a reward. If your people cannot get in touch people who can give up terrorists or information, it doesnt matter how much money you have. There are other ways to get the word out. In the Pakistani border area with Afghanistan matchboxes are now available carrying a picture of Osama bin Laden along with details (in the local language) with information about the reward and how to collect it. But this is a poor substitute for a network of agents who can listen to the local gossip and spread the word where it will do the most good.

Its always been difficult to hammer the enemy with money. What makes the difference is those vital connections inside the enemy camp. America let this capability waste away over the last few decades. These connections will have to rebuilt before the United States can fully employ its most potent weapon in the War on Terrorism; cash.


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