Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Comment on the Belmont Club:
"Different strokes"

Both the American stand off attack and the putative Israeli targeted attack have unintended consequences. From opposite positions they both fail to drive a wedge between the terrorists and the civilian community.

Perhaps the American method of drone attacks creates perverse incentives that encourages the terrorists to use human shields. If you know that the risk of capture is reduced and that the risk of termination is greatest when alone then the logical thing to do is embed within a civilian community. This scales up to the Pakistanis using their own 170 million population as a cover for their abuse and betrayal of the Americans. We could make loud and public noises that in doing so they are dishonorable and have betrayed the standards of their own honor/shame culture. If the US ostentatiously forged a public alliance with India then the Pakistanis might see the consequences of their actions. If when they claimed that our drone attack had killed civilians at a "wedding party" we had instead of apologizing condemned the Taliban as cowards who hide behind the skirts of women they might change their conduct.

If the tactical intelligence that is gained from capturing and interrogating the enemy is forgone then the risk to otherwise innocent civilians increases. The enemy can themselves be made to bear the burden of that choice. The Japanese kamikaze and banzai tactics along with the mass suicide of civilians in Saipan directly increased the pressure for the strategic fire bombing of cities and the employment of nuclear weapons to compel Japan's surrender. What would provide "Shock and Awe" to change civilian Pakistani attitudes would not be more drones in the sky but a fly over Quetta by 100 B-52s. The high valleys of the Pashtun may be difficult to further degrade but without the support of urban centers they are of little threat.

The Israelis choose to pursue the risky and expensive method of targeted attacks with long intelligence tails and deep undercover teams because of their own ethical and cultural desires. Their enemies know this and it empowers the persistent displays of defiance by the civilian community. Here again the link between the terrorist and the civilian community is perversely strengthened. If the Israelis in the middle of the night painted big red Xs on the roofs of the houses of family members of terrorists that would get their attention. If they then announced that hundreds of artillery tubes were ready and that any missile launch would mean immediate counter-battery fire or the destruction of those marked houses then the link between the terrorists and the Gazan community might snap.

In the case of a more decisive effort by either the Americans or the Israelis to break the allegiance of the civilian community to the enemy we can expect the full fury of CNN to be unleashed. The proper response to that should be derision.

To be clear I prefer the more hands on Israeli method, with the entailed moral and human costs involved in slow detailed intelligence operations, because of the potential for gaining intelligence and the benefits of long time close interaction with the civilian community. If there is to be a change then it will come from knowledge and the Israeli method offers that hope.

In a paranoid organization, not getting hit may lead you to be suspected

One cruel thing that a cop can do is pick a guy up, hold him for a few hours while he boasts that he won't talk, and then walk him out the front door and slap him on the shoulder. Then pick up his brother the next day. Repeat and rinse as necessary.

"Hey look honey, the Americans delivered a dozen goats and a new big screen TV."

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