9/11/01 Ten Years Later: Thoughts On The War On Terror
Recently, I found myself on NPR speaking about 9/11, ten years later and some of the experience has dulled to a point where I no longer feel like I have some sort of PTSD. However, in talking about it, I began to think about how things are going with the war on terror low these many years later. With the recent events of killing Osama Bin Laden, and the roll up of other key players (be they arrested or in many cases, killed by hellfire missiles shot from UAV’s) I have to say that I am feeling somewhat optimistic about the war on terror.. At least from the perspective of breaking AQ’s back so to speak.
We have seen over the past few years particularly, a movement (AQ) that has been foundering because of more than a few factors;
- The net is tightening around them, more countries are getting more agile at intelligence sharing
- Their aegis of caliphate and jihad is being dulled by the Arab Spring
- Their titular leader OBL is dead and their new leader is perceived as the old man who yells at you to get off the God Damn lawn by the foot soldiers
- They are having recruiting trouble because it is harder to get to their ‘training’ countries. This is due to much more monitoring on borders
- AQ as an organisation has been marginalised due to its own set of strict rules
- AQ has, once again, been marginalised or contained. Its message is more diluted as many spin off (splinter) orgs have formed
- The takfiri movement is failing, not too many takfir want to be shahid suicide bombers
- New converts are not finding themselves similarly motivated to become shahid for the movement by wearing the vest
- The online jihad has been foundering, they are not technically as adept as they would like to be and keep getting shut down
- Due to being shut down online much of the time, they are not able to recruit and ingrain the “jihad” mindset as easily
- Due to the jihad being online, the converts are not as controlled by management, and thus there is no re-enforcement of belief to make them act
So, in many ways, the war on terror has been effective in marginalising the AQ core, but, at the same time, new groups have popped up. Lone wolf attacks (radicalising online and acting) is the predominate way that AQ/AQAP have seen as the future of the Jihad. I have personally seen them grapple with not only the technology but also the propaganda war itself in their magazine “Inspire” They have been trying to figure out ways to propagandise, radicalise, and re-enforce the word of Jihad by keyboard as opposed to the Madrassa . This in particular is problematic for them as they are used to that madrassa method. By getting kids in the door at a young age, abusing them, and only teaching them the wrote recitation of the Koran in tandem with their particular spins on Jihad, had they created so many shahidi. It’s just not that simple online trying to reach out to more Western minds who have not been controlled in such a way.
Instead, what we have seen is an increasing number of mentally unstable individuals (Emerson Begolly, Malik Hassan, Richard Reid, etc) be drawn in by the propaganda online and then go on to commit “lone wolf” acts of terror. Frankly, these people are no more a real terrorist threat (these radicalised and mentally ill folks) than the average spree killer. However, since they hang their hat with the Jihad and AQ, then, they become more of a perceived threat to the masses.. Erroneously I think.
The Elephant With Its Trunk In Our Collective Coffee:
Reflecting on all of what I state above, I then find myself pondering the costs of those wins for us. Two wars ongoing for those 10 years, our nations economy failing rapidly from the outpouring of money into said wars (and of course all of the other malfeasance that happened with wall street, bankers, etc etc) that at present, just seem to have no end. Can we in fact do anything in Afghanistan substantively? Or, are we just the next country to fall into a morass and not heeded the history of the region as well as the immortal words of Vizzini in Princess Bride “never get involved in a land war in Asia” So many have failed at trying to tame the region and all have fallen to a tribal society that has not changed that much in a thousand years. Add to this that we have just come off looking like the new brute occupying their lands, and we have the trifecta of imminent failure.
Meanwhile, at home, we have, over these ten years, traded our freedoms for perceived security. There are so many arguments to be made here, but, I have to say that there have been excesses and misuse of power. Our government has become ungovernable and radicalised into three parties, and we the people have little say any more because corporations are now “people” according to the court system (just look up the idea of the ‘super pac’ *see Steven Colbert for more) We have indeed traded security for privacy and the right to be a part of how we are governed by our own apathy.
Frankly, its rather scary. Of course all of the losses to privacy can be directly attributed to 9/11 and the land grab after it within the intelligence collective and government’s desire to outsource those same collection means as well as war-fighting capacities (Xe aka Blackwater ring a bell?) I’m afraid that much has been done in the name of liberty and freedom that we as a people might not like so much. So it is kept from us by over classification and secrecy. The panoptacon has been built around us all and, like the frog in the pot, we just don’t feel the heat as we are too happily playing with our new iPhone.
Are we really more secure from these enhanced rights the government has? Or is it that we have prosecuted the war in a much better way intelligence wise as well as boots on the ground to stop these guys in country? It seems to me, that back in the day the NSA could do all of this type of surveillance on other countries and it was all good. Now, they see everything and have the right to work in the US…
So just how many of these terrorist arrests were made in the US?
How many US jihadi terrorists were caught by the FBI due to the enhanced continental powers granted?
Am I just missing all those headlines? Because I am not remembering too many plots being stopped here. So, yes, we have traded privacy for a perceived security by allowing the government carte blanche… And no, we are not better off for it.
Of course now with the advent of Anonymous and LulzSec, we have a new kind of terrorism (albeit one that has not been uttered yet or legislated into existence) Just how long will it be before we see this happen? All of it proves though, that there is no fool proof way to insure security. We, as a people need to understand this and come back to our collective senses. Look at Europe, specifically look at England..
Do you want a camera on every corner? (almost there)
How about shotgun mikes? (almost there too)
The infrastructure is being built around you fellow frogs… Time to talk to your legislators about this if it concerns you.
As I see it, the days of AQ are starting to wane and the days of the crazy lone wolves is just the same as it was before. All the attempts at radicalising have failed really to raise an army. I think we are winning the overall battle against Jihad… But.. We are losing the battle for our own country. Ask yourself this though; “Once AQ and the like are gone, just who will all these methods and technologies be turned toward? With no major enemies to watch, will it all be decommissioned? Somehow I doubt that.
For every time someone mentions how Facebook is so perverse about personal privacy, please take a step back and think about the government under which you governed. With all of the morass we find ourselves in, and how much we complain collectively about it being the governments fault, please ponder that said same government has the technologies available to do whatever they like and then mark it secret. Never to see the light of day.
I do hope the war on terror ends, but I shudder to think about what will happen after it does.