Friday, March 10, 2006


Counterterror: A War For Hearts & Minds

A blog I've sadly neglected lately, Wretchard's Belmont Club, has, as usual, had some fascinating, thought-provoking, and disturbing things to say. Yesterday's post, The Cult, speaks of "deprogramming" jihadis as a useful weapon in the war on terror -- attacking the problem ideologically, in other words, treating captured jihadis the way we sometimes treat brainwashed cult fanatics. Interestingly, this seems to be working.

Wretchard has a lot to say about the long, long history of doing such things... which leads to a discussion of counter-terror, the efforts to make your enemy more afraid of you than you are of him:
One psywar operation played upon the popular dread of an asuang, or vampire.... When a Huk patrol came along the trail, the ambushers silently snatched the last man of the patrol.... They punctured his neck with two holes, vampire-fashion, held the body up by the heels, drained it of blood, and put the corpse back on the trail. When the Huks returned to look for the missing man and found their bloodless comrade, every member of the patrol believed that the asuang had got him and that one of them would be next.... When daylight came, the whole Huk squadron moved out of the vicinity.
Pretty cold-blooded and vicious, by pacifistic standards. But think about it from a military perspective -- by killing one enemy soldier, and leaving him for his comrades-in-arms to find, an entire large combat unit was banished from an area... and we can safely assume that all the survivors were less effective fighters than they were before. To a military mind, that's an extremely cheap and effective victory.

The fighting in question, by the way, was in the Philippines, circa 1950. There's more where that came from, if you're interested.

But Wretchard ties it all together in his conclusion:
Leafing through history, one realizes that it is possible to write an account of warfare without mentioning a single weapons system other than the human mind. The reader can try to expunge from the tale all reference to the human heart, but in vain: for man is at the center of warfare. His will is its ultimate prize; his broken body its ultimate currency. In that light the "deprogramming" efforts of the Australian Federal Police in the dingy corners of the world are simply a return of warfare to its roots. The jihadis want our souls; the rule in warfare is that we will want theirs.
Indeed. And I'm grateful that, in the ideological war, we're beginning to take the fight back to the enemy.

By all means, read the whole thing.


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