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Topic: US Foreign Policy (Read 36680 times)
Susan Rice of US Foreign Policy
Reply #450 on:
October 27, 2013, 04:04:01 PM »
WASHINGTON — Each Saturday morning in July and August, Susan E. Rice, President Obama’s new national security adviser, gathered half a dozen aides in her corner office in the White House to plot America’s future in the Middle East. The policy review, a kind of midcourse correction, has set the United States on a new heading in the world’s most turbulent region.
At the United Nations last month, Mr. Obama laid out the priorities he has adopted as a result of the review. The United States, he declared, would focus on negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran, brokering peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and mitigating the strife in Syria. Everything else would take a back seat.
That includes Egypt, which was once a central pillar of American foreign policy. Mr. Obama, who hailed the crowds on the streets of Cairo in 2011 and pledged to heed the cries for change across the region, made clear that there were limits to what the United States would do to nurture democracy, whether there, or in Bahrain, Libya, Tunisia or Yemen.
The president’s goal, said Ms. Rice, who discussed the review for the first time in an interview last week, is to avoid having events in the Middle East swallow his foreign policy agenda, as it had those of presidents before him.
“We can’t just be consumed 24/7 by one region, important as it is,” she said, adding, “He thought it was a good time to step back and reassess, in a very critical and kind of no-holds-barred way, how we conceive the region.”
Not only does the new approach have little in common with the “freedom agenda” of George W. Bush, but it is also a scaling back of the more expansive American role that Mr. Obama himself articulated two years ago, before the Arab Spring mutated into sectarian violence, extremism and brutal repression.
The blueprint drawn up on those summer weekends at the White House is a model of pragmatism — eschewing the use of force, except to respond to acts of aggression against the United States or its allies, disruption of oil supplies, terrorist networks or weapons of mass destruction. Tellingly, it does not designate the spread of democracy as a core interest.
For Ms. Rice, whose day job since she started July 1 has been a cascade of crises from Syria to the furor over the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities, the review was also a way to put her stamp on the administration’s priorities.
The debate was often vigorous, officials said, and its conclusions will play out over the rest of Mr. Obama’s presidency.
Scrawling ideas on a whiteboard and papering the walls of her office with notes, Ms. Rice’s team asked the most basic questions: What are America’s core interests in the Middle East? How has the upheaval in the Arab world changed America’s position? What can Mr. Obama realistically hope to achieve? What lies outside his reach?
The answer was a more modest approach — one that prizes diplomacy, puts limits on engagement and raises doubts about whether Mr. Obama would ever again use military force in a region convulsed by conflict.
For Ms. Rice, 48, who previously served as ambassador to the United Nations, it is an uncharacteristic imprint. A self-confident foreign policy thinker and expert on Africa, she is known as a fierce defender of human rights, advocating military intervention, when necessary. She was among those who persuaded Mr. Obama to back a NATO air campaign in Libya to avert a slaughter of the rebels by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
But Mr. Obama drove the process, officials said, asking for formal briefings in the Situation Room and shorter updates during his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office. He gave his advisers a tight deadline of the United Nations’ speech last month and pushed them to develop certain themes, drawing from his own journey since the hopeful early days of the Arab Spring.
In May 2011, he said the United States would support democracy, human rights and free markets with all the “diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal.” But at the United Nations last month, he said, “we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action — particularly with military action.”
Critics say the retooled policy will not shield the United States from the hazards of the Middle East. By holding back, they say, the United States risks being buffeted by crisis after crisis, as the president’s fraught history with Syria illustrates.
“You can have your agenda, but you can’t control what happens,” said Tamara Cofman Wittes, the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. “The argument that we can’t make a decisive difference, so we’re not going to try, is wrongheaded.”
Other analysts said that the administration was right to focus on old-fashioned diplomacy with Iran and in the Middle East peace process, but that it had slighted the role of Egypt, which, despite its problems, remains a crucial American ally and a bellwether for the region.
“Egypt is still the test case of whether there can be a peaceful political transition in the Arab world,” said Richard N. Haass, who served in the State Department during the Bush administration and is now president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “But here, the administration is largely silent and seems uncertain as to what to do.”
The White House did not declare the Egyptian military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi last July a coup, which would have required cutting off all aid to the government. Instead, it signaled its displeasure by temporarily holding up the delivery of some big-ticket military equipment, delegating the announcement to the State Department.
Ms. Rice and other officials denied that Egypt had been sidelined, arguing that the policy was calculated to preserve American influence in Cairo. They also said the United States would continue to promote democracy, even if there were limits on what it could do, not to mention constraints on what the president could ask of a war-weary American public. “It would have been easy to write the president’s speech in a way that would have protected us from criticism,” said Philip H. Gordon, the coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa on the National Security Council. “We were trying to be honest and realistic.”
Mr. Gordon took part in the Saturday sessions, along with two of Ms. Rice’s deputies, Antony J. Blinken and Benjamin J. Rhodes; the national security adviser to the vice president, Jake Sullivan; the president’s counterterrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco; a senior economic official, Caroline Atkinson; and a handful of others.
It was a tight group that included no one outside the White House, a stark contrast to Mr. Obama’s Afghanistan review in 2009, which involved dozens of officials from the Pentagon, the State Department, and the Central Intelligence Agency. Ms. Rice said she briefed Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel over weekly lunches.
Some priorities were clear. The election of Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran presents the West with perhaps its last good chance to curb its nuclear program. Mr. Rouhani has a mandate to ease sanctions on Iran and has signaled an eagerness to negotiate.
But other goals appear to have been dictated as much as by personnel as by policy. After vigorous debate, the group decided to make the Middle East peace process a top priority — even after failing to broker an agreement during the administration’s first term — in part because Mr. Kerry had already thrown himself into the role of peacemaker.
More than anything, the policy review was driven by Mr. Obama’s desire to turn his gaze elsewhere, notably Asia. Already, the government shutdown forced the president to cancel a trip to Southeast Asia — a decision that particularly irked Ms. Rice, who was planning to accompany Mr. Obama and plunge into a part of the world with which she did not have much experience.
“There’s a whole world out there,” Ms. Rice said, “and we’ve got interests and opportunities in that whole world.”
Fantasy vs. Reality
Reply #451 on:
November 12, 2013, 11:05:36 AM »
Stephens: Axis of Fantasy vs. Axis of Reality
France, Israel and Saudi Arabia confront an administration conducting a make-believe foreign policy.
updated Nov. 11, 2013 7:42 p.m. ET
When the history of the Obama administration's foreign policy is written 20 or so years from now, the career of Wendy Sherman, our chief nuclear negotiator with Iran, will be instructive.
In 1988, the former social worker ran the Washington office of the Dukakis campaign and worked at the Democratic National Committee. That was the year the Massachusetts governorcarried 111 electoral votes to George H.W. Bush's 426. In the mid-1990s, Ms. Sherman was briefly the CEO of something called the Fannie Mae Foundation, supposedly a charity that was shut down a decade later for what the Washington Post WPO -0.47% called "using tax-exempt contributions to advance corporate interests."
From there it was on to the State Department, where she served as a point person in nuclear negotiations with North Korea and met with Kim Jong Il himself. The late dictator, she testified, was "witty and humorous," "a conceptual thinker," "a quick problem-solver," "smart, engaged, knowledgeable, self-confident." Also a movie buff who loved Michael Jordan highlight videos. A regular guy!
Benjamin Netanyahu with America's top diplomat. Reuters
Later Ms. Sherman was to be found working for her former boss as the No. 2 at the Albright-Stonebridge Group before taking the No. 3 spot at the State Department. Ethics scolds might describe the arc of her career as a revolving door between misspending taxpayer dollars in government and mooching off them in the private sector. But it's mainly an example of failing up—the Washingtonian phenomenon of promotion to ever-higher positions of authority and prestige irrespective of past performance.
This administration in particular is stuffed with fail-uppers—the president, the vice president, the secretary of state and the national security adviser, to name a few—and every now and then it shows. Like, for instance, when people for whom the test of real-world results has never meant very much meet people for whom that test means everything.
That's my read on last weekend's scuttled effort in Geneva to strike a nuclear bargain with Iran. The talks unexpectedly fell apart at the last minute when French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius publicly objected to what he called a "sucker's deal," meaning the U.S. was prepared to begin lifting sanctions on Iran in exchange for tentative Iranian promises that they would slow their multiple nuclear programs.
Not stop or suspend them, mind you, much less dismantle them, but merely reduce their pace from run to jog when they're on Mile 23 of their nuclear marathon. It says something about the administration that they so wanted a deal that they would have been prepared to take this one. This is how people for whom consequences are abstractions operate. It's what happens when the line between politics as a game of perception and policy as the pursuit of national objectives dissolves.
The French are not such people, believe it or not, at least when it comes to foreign policy. Speculation about why Mr. Fabius torpedoed the deal has focused on the pique French President François Hollande felt at getting stiffed by the U.S. on his Mali intervention and later in the aborted attack on Syria. (Foreign ministry officials in Paris are still infuriated by a Susan Rice tirade in December, when she called a French proposal to intervene in Mali "crap.")
But the French also understand that the sole reason Iran has a nuclear program is to build a nuclear weapon. They are not nonchalant about it. The secular republic has always been realistic about the threat posed by theocratic Iran. And they have come to care about nonproliferation too, in part because they belong to what is still a small club of nuclear states. Membership has its privileges.
This now puts the French at the head of a de facto Axis of Reality, the other prominent members of which are Saudi Arabia and Israel. In this Axis, strategy is not a game of World of Warcraft conducted via avatars in a virtual reality. "We are not blind, and I don't think we're stupid," a defensive John Kerry said over the weekend on "Meet the Press," sounding uncomfortably like Otto West (Kevin Kline) from "A Fish Called Wanda." When you've reached the "don't call me stupid" stage of diplomacy, it means the rest of the world has your number.
Now the question is whether the French were staking out a position at Geneva or simply demanding to be heard. If it's the latter, the episode will be forgotten and Jerusalem and Riyadh will have to reach their own conclusions about how to operate in a post-American Middle East. If it's the former, Paris has a chance to fulfill two cherished roles at once: as the de facto shaper of European policy on the global stage, and as an obstacle to Washington's presumptions to speak for the West.
A decade ago, Robert Kagan argued that the U.S. operated in a Hobbesian world of power politics while Europe inhabited the Kantian (and somewhat make-believe) world of right. That was after 9/11, when fecklessness was not an option for the U.S.
Under Mr. Obama, there's been a role reversal. The tragedy for France and its fellow members of its Axis is that they may lack the power to master a reality they perceive so much more clearly than the Wendy Shermans of the world, still failing up.
Stratfor: US Foreign Policy with Iran
Reply #452 on:
November 15, 2013, 08:57:19 PM »
The U.S.-Iran Talks: Ideology and Necessity
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - 04:12 Print Text Size
By George Friedman
The talks between Iran and the Western powers have ended but have not failed. They will reconvene next week. That in itself is a dramatic change from the past, when such talks invariably began in failure. In my book The Next Decade, I argued that the United States and Iran would move toward strategic alignment, and I think that is what we are seeing take shape. Of course, there is no guarantee that the talks will yield a settlement or that they will evolve into anything more meaningful. But the mere possibility requires us to consider three questions: Why is this happening now, what would a settlement look like, and how will it affect the region if it happens?
It is important to recognize that despite all of the other actors on the stage, this negotiation is between the United States and Iran. It is also important to understand that while this phase of the discussion is entirely focused on Iran's nuclear development and sanctions, an eventual settlement would address U.S. and Iranian relations and how those relations affect the region. If the nuclear issue were resolved and the sanctions removed, then matters such as controlling Sunni extremists, investment in Iran and maintaining the regional balance of power would all be on the table. In solving these two outstanding problems, the prospect of a new U.S.-Iranian relationship would have to be taken seriously.
But first, there are great obstacles to overcome. One is ideology. Iran regards the United States as the Great Satan. The United States regards Iran as part of the Axis of Evil. For the Iranians, memories of a U.S.-sponsored coup in 1953 and Washington's support for the Shah are vivid. Americans above the age of 35 cannot forget the Iranian hostage crisis, when Iranians seized some 50 U.S. Embassy employees. Iran believes the United States has violated its sovereignty; the United States believes Iran has violated basic norms of international law. Each views the other as barbaric. Add to this that the ideology of radical Islamism regards the United States as corrupt and evil, and the ideology of the United States sees Iran as brutal and repressive, and it would seem that resolution is impossible.
From the American side, there is precedent for reconciling national differences: China. When the United States reached out to China in the 1970s, Beijing was supplying weapons to the North Vietnamese, who used them against American troops. China's rhetoric about U.S. imperialism, replete with "running dogs," portrayed the United States as monstrous. The United States saw China, a nuclear power, as a greater threat for nuclear war than the Soviet Union, since Mao had openly stated -- and seemed to mean it -- that communists ought to welcome nuclear war rather than fear it. Given the extremism and brutality of the Cultural Revolution, the ideological bar seemed insurmountable.
But the strategic interests of both countries superseded ideology. They did not recognize each other, but they did need each other. The relative power of the Soviet Union had risen. There had been heavy fighting between China and the Soviet Union along the Ussuri River in 1969, and Soviet troops were heavily deployed along China's border. The United States had begun to redeploy troops from Europe to Southeast Asia when it became clear it was losing the Vietnam War.
Each side was concerned that if the Soviet Union chose to attack China or NATO separately, it could defeat them. However, if China and the United States collaborated, no Soviet attack would be possible, lest Moscow start a two-front war it couldn't win. It was not necessary to sign a treaty of military alliance or even mention this possibility. Simply meeting, talking and establishing diplomatic relations with China would force the Soviet Union to consider the possibility that Washington and Beijing had a tacit understanding -- or that even without an understanding, an attack on one of them would trigger a response by the other. After all, if NATO or China were defeated, the Soviets would be able to overpower the other at its discretion. Therefore, by moving the relationship from total hostility to minimal accommodation, the strategic balance changed.
In looking at Iran, the most important thing to note is the difference between its rhetoric and its actions. If you listened to Iranian government officials in the past, you would think they were preparing for the global apocalypse. In truth, Iranian foreign policy has been extremely measured. Its one major war, which it fought against Iraq in the 1980s, was not initiated by Iran. It has supported third parties such as Hezbollah and Syria, sending supplies and advisers, but it has been extremely cautious in the use of its own overt power. In the early days of the Islamic republic, whenever Tehran was confronted with American interests, it would pull closer to the Soviet Union, an atheistic country making war in neighboring Afghanistan. It needed a counterweight to the United States and put ideology aside, even in its earliest, most radical days.
New Strategic Interests
Ideology is not trivial, but ultimately it is not the arbiter of foreign relations. Like all countries, the United States and Iran have strategic issues that influence their actions. Iran attempted to create an arc of influence from western Afghanistan to Beirut, the key to which was preserving and dominating the Syrian regime. The Iranians failed in Syria, where the regime exists but no longer governs much of the country. The blowback from this failure has been an upsurge in Sunni militant activity against the Shiite-dominated regime.
But the arc of influence was interrupted elsewhere, particularly Iraq, which has proved to be the major national security challenge facing Iran. Coupled with the failures in Syria, the degradation of Iraq has put Iran on the defensive when, just one year earlier, it was poised to change the balance of power in its favor.
At the same time, Iran found that its nuclear program had prompted a seriously detrimental sanctions regime. Stratfor has long argued that the Iranian nuclear program was primarily a bargaining chip to be traded for guarantees on its security and recognition of its regional power. It was meant to appear threatening, not to be threatening. This is why, for years, Iran was "only months" away from a weapon. The problem was that despite its growing power, Iran could no longer withstand the economic repercussions of the sanctions regime. In light of Syria and Iraq, the nuclear program was a serious miscalculation that produced an economic crisis. The failures in foreign policy and the subsequent economic crisis discredited the policies of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, changed the thinking of the supreme leader and ultimately led to the electoral victory of President Hassan Rouhani. The ideology may not have changed, but the strategic reality had. Rouhani for years had been worried about the stability of the regime and was thus critical of Ahmadinejad's policies. He knew that Iran had to redefine its foreign policy.
The United States has also been changing its strategy. During the 2000s, it tried to deal with Sunni radicals through the direct use of force in Afghanistan and Iraq. The United States could not continue to commit its main force in the Islamic world when that very commitment gave other nations, such as Russia, the opportunity to maneuver without concern for U.S. military force. The United States did have a problem with al Qaeda, but it needed a new strategy for dealing with it. Syria provided a model. The United States declined to intervene unilaterally against the al Assad regime because it did not want to empower a radical Sunni government. It preferred to allow Syria's factions to counterbalance each other such that neither side was in control.
This balance-of-power approach was the alternative to direct military commitment. The United States was not the only country concerned about Sunni radicalism. Iran, a Shiite power ultimately hostile to Sunnis, was equally concerned about jihadists. Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional rival, at times opposed Islamist radicals (in Saudi Arabia) and supported them elsewhere (in Syria or Iraq). The American relationship with Saudi Arabia, resting heavily on oil, had changed. The United States had plenty of oil now and the Saudis' complex strategies simply no longer matched American interests. On the broadest level, a stronger Iran, aligned with the United States, would counter Sunni ambitions. It would not address the question of North Africa or other smaller issues, but it would force Saudi Arabia to reshape its policies.
The Arab Spring also was a consideration. A mainstay of Washington's Iran policy was that at some point there would be an uprising that would overthrow the regime. The 2009 uprising, never really a threat to the regime, was seen as a rehearsal. If there was likely to be an uprising, there was no need to deal with Iran. Then the Arab Spring occurred. Many in the Obama administration misread the Arab Spring, expecting it to yield more liberal regimes. That didn't happen. Egypt has not evolved, Syria has devolved into civil war, Bahrain has seen Saudi Arabia repress its uprising, and Libya has found itself on the brink of chaos. Not a single liberal democratic regime emerged. It became clear that there would be no uprising in Iran, and even if there were, the results would not likely benefit the United States.
A strategy of encouraging uprisings no longer worked. A strategy of large-scale intervention was unsustainable. The idea of attacking Iran was unpalatable. Even if the administration agreed with Israel and thought that the nuclear program was intended to produce a nuclear weapon, it was not clear that the program could be destroyed from the air.
Therefore, in the particular case of Iran's nuclear program, the United States could only employ sanctions. On the broader issue of managing American interests in the Middle East, the United States had to find more options. It could not rely entirely on Saudi Arabia, which has dramatically different regional interests. It could not rely entirely on Israel, which by itself could not solve the Iranian problem militarily. These realities forced the United States to recalibrate its relationship with Iran at a time when Iran had to recalibrate its relationship with the United States.
All Things Possible
The first U.S.-Iranian discussions would obviously be on the immediate issue -- the nuclear program and sanctions. There are many technical issues involved there, the most important of which is that both sides must show that they don't need a settlement. No one negotiating anything will simply accept the first offer, not when they expect the negotiations to move on to more serious issues. Walking away from the table for 10 days gives both sides some credibility.
The real negotiations will come after the nuclear and sanctions issues are addressed. They will pertain to U.S.-Iranian relations more broadly. Each side will use the other to its advantage. The Iranians will use the United States to repair its economy, and the Americans will use the Iranians to create a balance of power with Sunni states. This will create indirect benefits for both sides. Iran's financial woes will be an opportunity for American companies to invest. The Americans' need for a balance of power will give Iran weight against its own enemies, even after the collapse of its strategy.
The region will of course look different but not dramatically so. The balance of power idea does not mean a rupture with Saudi Arabia or Israel. The balance of power only works if the United States maintains strong relationships on all sides. The Saudis and Israelis will not like American rebalancing. Their choices in the matter are limited, but they can take comfort from the fact that a strictly pro-Iranian policy is impossible for the United States. The American strategy with China in the 1970s was to try to become the power that balanced the Soviet Union and China. After meeting with the Chinese, Henry Kissinger went to Moscow. Thus, in terms of bilateral relationships, U.S.-Saudi and U.S.-Israeli relations can stay the same. But it now creates another relationship and option for the United States. In the end, Iran is still a secondary power and the United States is the primary power. Iran will take advantage of the relationship, and the United States will manage it.
It is hard to imagine this evolution, considering what the United States and Iran have said about each other for the past 34 years. But relations among nations are not about sentiment; they are about interest. If Roosevelt could ally with Stalin, and Nixon with Mao, then it is clear that all things are possible in U.S. foreign policy. For their part, the Persians have endured for millennia, espousing many ideologies but doing what was necessary to survive and prosper. All of this may well fall apart, but there is a compelling logic to believe that it will not, and it will not be as modest a negotiation as it appears now.
Read more: The U.S.-Iran Talks: Ideology and Necessity | Stratfor
Stratfor: Gauging the Jihadist Movement, part two
Reply #453 on:
November 27, 2013, 12:12:04 PM »
Editor's Note: The following is the second installment of a series examining the global jihadist movement. Click here for Part 1.
Last week's Security Weekly was the first in a series of analyses intended to gauge the current status of the jihadist movement. The introduction to the first part discussed the two standards that will be used to assess the jihadist movement. The first scale is the goals and objectives of the movement itself and the second gauge is insurgent and terrorist theory. An analysis of the jihadists' goals noted that almost all jihadists -- whether they are transnational or nationalist in ideology -- seek to establish an Islamic polity along the lines of a medieval emirate. This goal is not only a matter of rhetoric, but action -- several jihadist groups have attempted to establish emirates. Once established, the emirate would be ruled under an extremely austere interpretation of Sharia, as seen in Afghanistan under the Taliban, which was the first jihadist emirate. Transnational jihadists also seek to expand beyond the creation of an emirate to re-establish the caliphate.
Insurgency is armed rebellion, and militant organizations waging insurgencies will often utilize terrorism as a tool in that rebellion. There are many conflicting definitions of terrorism, but for our purposes we will loosely define it as politically motivated violence against noncombatants. By definition, all insurgencies employ violence, but not all of them employ terrorism. Therefore, while the two concepts are often complementary, they are not synonymous. In the specific case of the jihadist movement, we have seen them utilize terrorism as an element of their various insurgent campaigns. However, in order to fully understand them, we must approach these two complementary concepts -- and the theory behind them -- separately.
This week's security weekly will examine insurgent theory and terrorism theory to see how they can be used to measure the jihadist movement.
Insurgency, the Long War
Insurgency, sometimes called guerrilla warfare or irregular warfare, has been practiced for centuries in a variety of different regions and by a number of actors from different cultures. One of these historical examples was the Prophet Mohammed, who is seen by the jihadists as a model for their military campaigns. After Mohammed left Mecca and established the first Islamic polity in Medina, his forces began to conduct asymmetrical military operations against their stronger Meccan foes, attacking their commercial caravans and conducting hit-and-run attacks until they were able to amass the power necessary to conquer Mecca and expand the Islamic state to include a large section of the Arabian Peninsula.
In the 20th century, insurgent theory was codified by leaders such as Russia's Vladimir Lenin, China's Mao Zedong, Vietnam's General Vo Nguyen Giap and Latin America's Che Guevara. But at its core, the theory is based on the historic concepts of declining battle when the enemy has superior forces and attacking at a time and place where the insurgents can mass sufficient forces to strike where the enemy is weak. The insurgents take a long view of the armed struggle and seek to survive and fight another day rather than allowing themselves to be fixed and destroyed by their enemy. They may lose some battles, but if they cause losses for their enemy, forcing them to expend men and resources disproportionately while remaining alive themselves to continue the insurgency, it is a victory for them. Time is on the side of the insurgent in an asymmetrical style of battle, and they hope that a long war will serve to exhaust and demoralize their enemy.
There are varying conceptual differences between figures such as Mao, Lenin and Guevara regarding how to best advance a given political situation in order to strengthen an insurgent's position and recruit forces. For example, Mao believed in extensive political preparation among the peasant citizenry before launching an armed struggle. In contrast, Guevara believed that a small vanguard (or foco) of guerrillas could begin to conduct attacks without extensive political priming and that the armed struggle itself could shape public opinion and raise popular support for the cause. These differences are largely based upon what worked in a specific insurgency situation. However, looking at the bigger picture, all insurgent theorists promote the concept of insurgent leaders working to build their military forces so that they can engage in progressively larger military engagements while simultaneously degrading their enemy's capabilities. Starting with small-scale attacks (sometimes utilizing terrorism), they want to move up from hit-and-run raids to conventional combat, eventually seeking to achieve military parity and then superiority with the enemy so that they can conquer and hold territory.
In the case of an insurgency against a foreign occupier, it is not always necessary to follow this progression and achieve military parity with them. Local insurgents invariably have superior intelligence as well as the advantage of fundamental interest. Put another way, a foreign occupier nearly always has less interest in a particular piece of territory than the locals who call it home. If the insurgents resist long enough and cause enough expenditure of blood and treasure, often the occupier can be forced to leave, even if the insurgents are taking disproportionately heavier casualties.
As noted above, the jihadists seek to emulate what they believe to be the pattern of the Prophet Mohammed and his followers, who progressed from caravan raids, to irregular warfare, to the capture of Mecca and eventually the formation of a vast empire conquered and realized by conventional military forces.
Given insurgent theory and the example of Mohammed, we are in a position to look at the various jihadist groups and gauge their current status -- and more important, their trajectory -- based upon their stage of insurgency. Has the group progressed from small-scale attacks to irregular warfare? Have they regressed? Have they conquered and held territory? Have they lost it?
Terrorism tends to be a tool of the weak. It is often used as a way to conduct armed conflict against a militarily stronger enemy when the organization launching the armed struggle is not yet at a stage where insurgent or conventional warfare is viable. Marxist, Maoist and Focoist groups often seek to use terrorism as the first step in an armed struggle. In some ways, al Qaeda also followed a type of Focoist vanguard strategy by using terrorism to shape public opinion and raise popular support for their cause. Terrorism can also be used to supplement insurgency or conventional warfare when it is employed to keep the enemy off balance and distracted, principally by conducting strikes against vulnerable targets in the enemy's rear. The Afghan Taliban employ terrorism in this manner. Such attacks against "soft" targets require a disproportionate allocation of resources to defend against. While costly in terms of materiel and manpower, such an allocation is absolutely necessary if the security forces wish to prevent the targeted population from feeling terrorized.
Used as a tool by any organization conducting an armed struggle -- whether that organization is Marxist, Maoist or jihadist -- terrorist attacks are most effective when employed in a manner that is guided by an overarching strategy, one that seeks to achieve the organization's military (and ultimately political) objectives. Because of this, a hierarchical organizational structure, with direct lines of command and control, is the best model for terrorists to use in a perfect world -- as it is for any military organization for that matter. However, conditions on the ground often prohibit the use of a hierarchical organization, the most significant inhibitor in the field being the aggressiveness of security forces.
In a location where the security forces are weak and disorganized, it is quite possible for terror groups to utilize a hierarchical command model. But in places where the security forces are competent and aggressive, the terrorists' job is harder. A proficient security force can become quite successful at collecting intelligence on a militant organization, perhaps even to the extent of penetrating the organization with agents, or developing informants from within. Such intelligence operations permit the security forces to quickly identify and round up members of the group, using their own established hierarchy as a targeting framework.
Practicing good operational security can help a militant organization protect itself from the intelligence collection efforts of the security forces, but those measures can only go so far. If the security forces are capable and aggressive, they can still find ways to infiltrate the organization. One way militant groups have countered such aggressive intelligence efforts is to move away from a hierarchical configuration and toward a cellular structure in which small teams or cells work independently and do not have links to each other.
In some organizations, the cells can be totally independent and self-contained operationally, conducting all their activities internally based on direction received from their central command. Other organizations will employ functional cells that conduct the different sorts of tasks required for a terrorist operation. In such an operational model, there might be finance and logistics cells, command cells, bomb-making cells, propaganda cells, recruitment cells, surveillance cells, assault cells and so on. The idea is that if one cell is compromised, the damage will be contained and will not allow the authorities to identify the entire organization. But still, these various cells are linked by a common command element and directed in their operations.
However, even cellular organizations are vulnerable to intelligence penetration. Because of this fact, some terrorist theorists have proposed an operational model called leaderless resistance, in which independent cells and individuals conduct attacks without direction from a central command.
The concept of leaderless resistance is really quite old, but its modern form was perhaps best articulated and documented by a series of American white supremacist leaders following the 1988 Fort Smith Sedition Trial. While the 13 white supremacist leaders charged in the Fort Smith case were eventually acquitted, testimony and evidence from that trial demonstrated that the white supremacist movement had been heavily infiltrated by American law enforcement agencies. Some of the leaders of those penetrated groups began to advocate leaderless resistance as a way to avoid heavy government intelligence activity.
In 1989, William Luther Pierce, the leader of a neo-Nazi group called the National Alliance and one of the Fort Smith defendants, published a fictional book under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald titled Hunter, which dealt with the exploits of a fictional lone wolf named Oscar Yeager. Pierce dedicated the book to convicted serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin and he clearly intended it to serve as an inspiration and model for lone-wolf operatives. Pierce's earlier book, The Turner Diaries, was based on a militant operational theory involving a clandestine organization, while Hunter represented a distinct break from that approach. (Coincidentally, Franklin was executed by the state of Missouri as this article was being written.)
In 1990, Richard Kelly Hoskins, an influential "Christian Identity" ideologue, published a book titled Vigilantes of Christendom in which he introduced the concept of the "Phineas Priesthood." According to Hoskins, a Phineas Priest is a lone-wolf militant chosen by God and set apart to be God's "agent of vengeance" upon the earth. Phineas Priests also believe their attacks will serve to ignite a wider "racial holy war" that will ultimately lead to the salvation of the white race.
In 1992, another of the Fort Smith defendants, former Ku Klux Klan leader Louis Beam, published an essay in his magazine The Seditionist that provided a detailed roadmap for moving the white hate movement toward the leaderless resistance model. Beam's roadmap called for lone wolves and small "phantom" cells to engage in violent action to protect themselves from detection.
The leaderless resistance model was advocated not only by the American far right though. Influenced by their anarchist roots, left-wing extremists also moved in the phantom direction and movements such as the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front adopted operational models that were very similar to the leaderless-resistance doctrine prescribed by Beam.
Upon seeing the success the United States and its allies were having against the al Qaeda core and the wider jihadist network following 9/11, jihadist military theoretician Abu Musab al-Suri began to promote a leaderless resistance model for jihadists in late 2004. This was based on the jihadist concept of individual jihad. As if to prove his own point about the dangers of maintaining a high profile and communicating with other jihadists, al-Suri was reportedly captured in November 2005 in Pakistan. It is believed that he was released from prison in Syria in late 2011 or early 2012.
Al-Suri's concept of leaderless resistance was embraced by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the al Qaeda franchise group in Yemen, in 2009. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called for this type of strategy in both its Arabic-language media and its English-language magazine, Inspire, which published long excerpts of al-Suri's theories pertaining to individual jihad. The magazine also endeavored to equip aspiring do-it-yourself jihadists with practical material, such as bomb-making instructions. Inspire's bomb-making directions have been used in a number of plots, including the Boston Marathon Bombing.
In 2010, the al Qaeda core also embraced the idea, with U.S.-born spokesman Adam Gadahn echoing the call for Muslims to adopt the leaderless resistance model.
However, in the jihadist realm, as in the white-supremacist realm before it, the shift to leaderless resistance is an admission of weakness rather than a sign of strength. Jihadists recognized that they have been extremely limited in their ability to successfully attack the West. And while jihadist groups openly welcomed recruits in the past, they are now telling them it is too dangerous to travel because of the steps taken by the United States and its allies to combat the transnational terrorist threat. The advice is that they should instead conduct attacks in the Western countries where they live.
The net result is that we can use terrorist theory as a way to measure the status of a particular jihadist group. Are they able to operate as a hierarchical organization, or do they have to work in a cellular structure? Can they project their power by conducting attacks across transnational boundaries, or is their reach confined to a specific city, country or region?
Next week we will apply these measures of insurgent and terrorism theory to a variety of jihadist groups. By also incorporating the objectives of the jihadist movement (as examined in part one of this series) as a benchmark, we will be able to see exactly where these groups stand in relation to each other and interrogate their relative condition and status.
Read more: Gauging the Jihadist Movement, Part 2: Insurgent and Terrorist Theory | Stratfor
Re: US Foreign Policy
Reply #454 on:
December 04, 2013, 09:40:04 PM »
Krauthammer: Woe to US Allies
Reply #455 on:
December 08, 2013, 10:46:41 AM »
Pasting this here from the Incorrect thread
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