Monday, June 8, 2015

Asymmetric warfare is relatively new to history

There is something terribly disturbing in some extremist rhetoric, which included the “boat manifesto” of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev  in Watertown – that ordinary civilians (even children) should be held morally responsible for what their governments do. The latest details on what was in his mind seem to be here on CNN, and the thought processes are pretty shocking, even for Dr. Phil to analyze. 
This idea is to be differentiated a bit from another idea, that those who gained what they have without actually earning it, deserve to have it expropriated.  That was an idea that I often heard articulated by the radical Left (like the “People’s Party) in the early 1970s, and was sometimes heard in conjunction with Vietnam era protests. But the ideas could be connected in some people’s minds.
I was quite shocked in October 2001 when the Bush administration, on a Sunday afternoon, allowed Osama bin Laden’s “address” to the American people over how they would “pay” personally for allowing their government to occupy Islamic lands, to be broadcast on major networks.  Or maybe that was journalistic duty.  All of this does underscore Peter Bergen’s assertions that 9/11 had been more about foreign policy than loose morals at home.  Today, it’s possible to make similar claims about ISIS. 
Except for 9/11 (and the watchfulness that followed) and Pearl Harbor, American civilians have been largely insulated from the possibility of personalized violence because of international politics.  That’s partly because of being protected by two oceans.  The last time American civilians were really hugely affected at home physically was the War Between the States.  That’s a major point of “Gone with the Wind”.   The largest risk of war to Americans usually has come from the military draft, which became morally controversial with the deferment and later lottery system during the Vietnam War.
Overseas, though, of course, we know the lessons of history, time and time again.  Today, of course, the Middle East – Iraq and Syria, as well as Israel and Palestine.  Before, Bosnia, many conflicts in the third world (like Rwanda), the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, and of course Nazi Germany, and the empire of Japan.  British civilians learned this lesson at home big time in 1940.
Asymmetry is changing that.  While the Internet has empowered individuals to act on their own productively with less bureaucracy and pre-approval by others, it has also left us open to enemies in new ways.  Asymmetric psychological warfare is new but real.
I still think that the big catastrophe – the “overdependence” on technology and lack of preparedness (to protect the power grid, for example) could be our undoing someday.  Especially in 2012-2013 I wrote a lot about this.  The “Lone Wolf” recruiting problem leaves us wondering, why aren’t teachers, police, parents, imams (as well as Jewish and Christian pastors) able to reach young people with “reality”.   That ought to be doable. 

Some forms of terrorism, though, are old.  "Biowarfare" with smallpox happened against Native Americans before the Revolutionary War.
Zach Beauchamp has a story explaining Islamic extremism, here. It mentions the writings of Jonathan Rauch.  

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