Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Austin Bay and the London change of perspective

Austin Bay is back and reports on the changing tide of opinions in London on a whole host of security matters. His source, an article in the London Times, cites figures from polls conducted since the attacks last week:

::::::::A large majority supported measures to reduce the threat of any future terrorist attacks. Nearly nine out of ten favoured giving the police new powers to arrest people they suspect of planning terrorist acts (86 per cent), tighter controls on who comes into the country (88 per cent) and security check and baggage inspections at stations (89 per cent).

More than two thirds of the public (70 per cent) backed an increase in police powers to stop and search people on the street, while three fifths (61 per cent) said that they supported the introduction of ID cards. There are were marked regional variations.

Those living the furthest away from London were the strongest supporters of tough action.While 95 per cent of Scots support security checks and baggage inspections at stations, 84 per cent in London and the South East back this measure.
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I don't have the information about the poll or the sample used to generate these results. If valid, this would certainly not be the results Al Qaeda was looking for. Roger Simon notes that the backlash from the attacks in London will likely take the form of some very strict immigration laws and, perhaps, sweeps of predominantly Muslim communities looking for illegal immigrants. The newly-passed anti-defamation law in England - the one that makes it a crime to speak ill of a religion - is almost certainly going to be applied back at the very Muslims who lobbied so hard to get the law passed in the first place. I forsee increased deportations coming.

The Belmont Club has a post that puts the current conflict into a different light, and a troubling one at that because it certainly looks like a report that's closer to the reality than the current model. We are in an assymetrical war, but not because of the techniques used to fight it. Rather, we say it's a war and we're fighting it like it is. They appear to be fighting a feud, and there's much more difference between them than simple scale. Quoting from Lee Harris' article in Tech Central:

::::::::In the blood feud, the orientation is not to the future, as in war, but to the past. In the feud you are avenging yourself on your enemy for something that he did in the past. Al Qaeda justified the attack on New York and Washington as revenge against the USA for having defiled the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia by its military presence during the First Gulf War. In the attack on London, the English were being punished for their involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the blood feud, unlike war, you have no interest in bringing your enemy to his knees. You are not looking for your enemy to surrender to you; you are simply interested in killing some of his people in revenge for past injuries, real or imaginary -- nor does it matter in the least whether the people you kill today were the ones guilty of the past injuries that you claim to be avenging. In a blood feud, every member of the enemy tribe is a perfectly valid target for revenge. What is important is that some of their guys must be killed -- not necessarily anyone of any standing in their community. Just kill someone on the other side, and you have done what the logic of the blood feud commands you to do.
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This sounds like a nearly exact description of our enemy's behavior. Additionally troubling is Belmont's concern that the feud appears to be moving to symmetry - that the West is starting to make this less about waging a war and more about hunting down and killing specific enemy figures. As he says, the war is less professional and more personal. This is a serious mistake on the part of our adversaries. The United States has an exteme capacity to destroy. The only thing keeping our military from starting at the border of Israel and leveling every single village from there to Cambodia is the will of the US public to avoid that route. Convince us that there's absolutely no way to protect ourselves but to wipe out an entire culture and that's just what we might do. We certainly can.

I just now ran across another interesting concept but I have to break off. More to come, soon.