Worldwide terrorism deaths rise 40% in 2006


Why is it that, in spite of the hundreds of billions of dollars the U.S. has borrowed to finance its War on Terror, terrorism has steadily increased? Could it be because violence benefits chaos, rather than stability?

It’s also because the US insists that fighting terrorism must be done by using state-on-state tactics, and it’s not that kind of conflict. The US uses the wrong tactics and the wrong approach, thinking that if they can just cut off the head of whoever they deem as the Chief Evildoer this week, that terrorism will end. This totally misunderstands the tactics and organization of those the US deems as terrorist.

From the inside flap to John Robb’s new book, Brave New War

[The] evolutionary leap in the methods of warfare makes it possible for extremely small nonstate groups to fight states and possibly win on a regular basis. The use of systems disruption as a method of strategic warfare gives rise to a nightmare scenario in which any nation—including the United States—can be driven to bankruptcy by an enemy it can’t compete with economically. We are staring at a future where defeat isn’t experienced all at once but as an inevitable withering away of military, economic, and political power through wasting conflicts with minor foes.

In other words, the US can build all the Green Zones it wants in Iraq, and a few insurgents can still bring down crucial oil pipelines and the electrical grid almost at will, thus eroding the power of the government and of the US, as well as costing them millions, if not billions.

It is time, says Robb, to decentralize all of our systems, from energy and communications to security and markets. It is time for every citizen to take personal responsibility for some aspect of state security. It is time to make our systems, and ourselves, as flexible, adaptable, and resilient as the forces that are arrayed against us.

Those forces can be Islamists, transnational gangs, home-grown militias, or whatever. Their aims may differ, but the tactics and approach are the same. Small, highly mobile, loosely networked groups who inflict major damage despite their much smaller size. Robb sees the state itself as a declining force with its power worldwide starting to ebb, to be replaced by corporations, private militaries, insurgencies, regional networks, and other such decentralized organizations that will emerge in the hollowed-out structure of what used to be a state.

He uses the response to Hurricane Katrina as a telling example. The government wasn’t able to respond quickly. Instead, who was on the ground quickly, offering huge support? Wal-Mart and Blackwater, that’s who. Wal-Mart used their huge logistics system to get food, water, and supplies quickly to people who needed them. Blackwater private military were hired by the wealthy to protect their property and lives. Whether you loathe Blackwater isn’t the point, that they were able to get there fast and efficiently when the government couldn’t IS the point. The US government is preoccupied and probably bankrupting itself slogging through (and losing) wars it started but doesn’t understand. Which is precisely what those opposed to the US want to happen and according to Robb, have deliberately planned to happen.

That “violence benefits chaos” is precisely their goal. Robb, whose blogs I read regularly, is not right-wing, and says he doesn’t have politics or even vote. He’s more of a futurist with a background both in military special ops and high tech software startups. That we are moving towards a highly decentralized world that the US government appears clueless about is, I think, a given. Those who survive will be those who adapt.

[tags]Brave New War[/tags]

  • DJ

    Great post– very meaty and with excellent points. In Sri Lanka (a conflict I have studied in great depth), the LTTE, which has never had more than 10,000 cadres and is currently estimated to have about 6,000, has failed to be vanquished by the government’s military, which now numbers a quarter million.

    It is worthwhile mentioning, however, that the war “works” not only for the LTTE leadership, which never has to face a peaceful election as long as the war continues, but for Sinhalese leaders in the government as well, giving them the platform they need to consolidate power (and eliminate participatory democracy) among the Sinhalese, hence neither leadership really needs to find a solution to the conflict. This gives rise to an alternate model of the conflict: it is not the “Sinhalese” against the “Tamils;” it is the leaders of the two groups against the mainstream population of Sri Lankans.

    In this new model, the means of ending the conflict is not satisfying the demands of the “Tamils”– because the Tamil people are not the ones making the demands– but changing systems and consciousness so that the people of the two groups realize that the war is being perpetrated not by them, but against them– encouraging them to choose new leaders (or transform the old ones) and create participatory representation. On their own– or at the demand of a small segment of society– the leaders will never change. But when the consciousness of the whole of society begins to change, leaders must change as well.

    Can it be done? Yes. We came near to succeeding in 2001-2002. But we dropped the ball after the Cease Fire Agreement, because everyone, ourselves included, mistook cease-fire for peace. We expected that, having taken the process that far, the leaders would take it the rest of the way– but these were the same leaders that were served by the conflict so of course that’s not what they did. Cease fire, we now realize, is only the beginning, and (like a seed planted in the garden) it must be nurtured and is remarkably easy to disrupt.

    The cycle of violence means that extremists (both governmental and extra-governmental) gain support (power) with strategic attacks, and lose support (power) in times of calm. To counter this effect takes planning, strategy, and comprehensive action over a long period. And above all, it takes change in consciousness from adversarial relationships to holistic thinking. Protest has not been one of our tools (and though I think it has its place, I am in the minority on my team). The methods, like the goal, must be a holistic combination of strategies toward the goal of inclusiveness. We cannot transform adversarial relationships by being adversarial ourselves.

    The first step in any solution is to understand the problem, and this post is an excellent step in that direction. Thanks, Bob. I look forward to seeing where this leads.

  • Robb discusses the LTTE in BNW as precisely that, a small group that keeps the Sri Lanka government continually off balance and defensive. They are hollowing out the government and establishing a power base for themselves in the semi-void.

    Sue sometimes sighs about conflicts saying, well, I guess it’ll be over when they all kill each other. But conflicts can resolve. Northern Ireland is at peace now. It can happen. Is everyone happy about the way it resolved. Of course not. But the bombings and murders have stopped and former deadly enemies are at least in the same rooms of government with each other now.

    Maybe that’s a model to study to determine how it happened. One part certainly was the mothers on both sides who quite courageously stood up and said the slaughter must end. So protest can help, I think.

  • DJ

    There’s an important distinction between protest and demonstration. As I mentioned, protest, as in adversarial confrontation with a political goal, had no part in the 1999-2002 (almost successful) peace initiative in Sri Lanka. Demonstration, however, did. In August 1999, 170,000 people gathered in Colombo from all over Sri Lanka to meditate for peace. The leaders of all parties were also invited, though of course they didn’t make an appearance. But the demonstration of the People’s will for peace, along with the invitation to the leaders to join in, was key to the changing of consciousness. (Some will argue that the meditation itself had a spiritual effect on transforming the consciousness of society; while not ruling that out, I remain skeptical.) Without the change of consciousness, the 2002 CFA never could have happened. Politics alone are not enough.

    Incidentally, that was the first of many peace meditations (the logical form of demonstration in a country where Buddhism is the majority). There were many others, the largest of which had over 600,000 participants. Not a bad showing for a country of only 18 million.

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