Friday, April 10, 2009

Comments on The Belmont Club,
"Commandos free hostages in Somalia but …"

Give the French their due. They have always been cynical hypocrites about the use of force. Whether it was sinking the Greenpeace ship or staging commando raids in Africa, when faced with a national interest and an opportunity they have acted. Insulting Americans was merely the cheap coin paid to the Press to ensure that they were left alone. Like Obama’s pandering to the fetishes of the chattering class it has worked well and been rewarded by the memory hole swallowing a multitude of what in another party would be counted as sins. The French are understandably surprised that anyone else gets annoyed and they are completely oblivious of the idea that there could be larger issues of order and principle at stake when they impede the capacity of Anglo-Saxons to behave as the French do or act as the French would do if they had the capacity.

Habu (who commented on the need to instill fear in our enemies),
Not so much a disagreement as an elaboration lest we mix apples and oranges. Let us consider four possible situations.
1. You wish to find out the annual consumption of Khat in Puntland
2. You wish to find out how many pirates there are and their tribal
3. You wish to find out where the Ambassador's kidnapped daughter is,
     after a severed finger is delivered.
4. You wish to make sure that 50 years from now mothers in
     Puntland teach their sons never to touch a weapon.

In case number one you do not use force, except for implied blackmail, reliable technical information that is not critically time sensitive is best obtained through the craft of intelligence. The vast bulk of what we collect, either by technical or human means falls within this category.

In case number two it is unlikely that the use of force could be justified. Doing so usually shows a lack of skill and will get inaccurate results. While some time pressure may be felt to get tactically useful knowledge, like what bar the bad guys hang out in, a good intelligence service should be trying to build up that background information long in advance. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance and a failure to plan in advance is revealed by sloppy measures under pressure. In fairness though, it is a very big world and we have shockingly few intelligence collectors and analysts. If only the Beast was as large and all knowing as the fantasies of conspiracy theorists.

In case number three you may want to convince the subject being interrogated that cooperation is their only option. That could be by shooting a corpse, as in the untouchables, or convincing them that you are targeting their family, or waterboarding them, or threatening to disgrace their memory. In the end you may feel compelled to go for an eye for an eye but first you have to ask yourself some questions. First what will break them? Unless you are a sexual sadist what you want is an answer. If they seek martyrdom then don't give them what they want. Study what you know about them and work with the shrinks if you can. Second consider the damage to yourself and weigh this against the value of the information. Maybe the Ambassador's daughter is worth it. Maybe she is really Jane Fonda and you offer the bad guy a beer. Maybe that trick works.

Situation number four is easy and what you focused on. In the long term if you want to change their culture kill some of them, and convince the rest that far from being fat paper tigers we really are as dangerous as the members of the junior faculty commons room at University claimed we were, and then give them Lifetime TV.

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