Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Bombay World

The Jihadist, terror attacks in Bombay, which have at latest report have as many as 300 feared dead, are the symbol of the problems of the modern world. For most of the Twentieth Century, threats to Western nations were from industrialized, modern powers. Either other Western nations, such as the Kaiser's or Furhrer's Germany, or Soviet Russia, or modernized Asian nations such as Tojo's Japan or Mao's nuclear armed China. Failed nations and states like Pakistan or Somalia were not considered threats. What armies did they have? What navies? What strategic air forces or ICBMs? That of course has all changed, mostly without anyone noticing it until now. When it must be noticed.

The problem is that the diffusion of modern technology, like the AK-47, across the globe allows even failed societies like Pakistan to export their troubles to neighbors, or even distant places. Like England or the United States. Technology has become so cheap and widely available that even places that can't produce it on their own can buy the technology in the global marketplace. The United Nations in 2001 estimated that an AK-47 could be purchased in many places in Africa for as little as $6. That is the price of something that is a commodity. While doubtless prices have risen since that report, the ubiquity of the AK-47 worldwide is proof that Western nations no longer have technology advantages.

From what is known, by reporting from various sources, the Bombay assault was planned for a year in advance. Training was conducted in Kashmir and Rawalpindi (the military heart of Pakistan). The attack team consisted of between ten and possibly as many as twenty men. Considerable logistics support was required, to stash arms and water and ammunition inside the hotel, and other places, and keep the hotel staff away from the rooms or prevent them from reporting the arms and water caches. Targets were carefully surveilled, and the targets included the very obscure Lubavitcher Jewish Center in Bombay, which was unmarked and unknown to nearly all of Bombay (so much for security by obscurity). The gunmen operated in pairs, in the manner of US Marines and other American combat infantrymen. The gunmen, according to the survivor, expected to survive and escape. The goal, according to the survivor, was to kill as many people as possible, the number that the attackers desired to reach was 5,000 people.

India is a nation of about a billion people. The "demands" of the group claiming responsibility, the Deccan Muhajideen, were for the entire Indian subcontinent to be put under Islamic rule and Sharia Law. It was not of course, a serious demand. The purpose of the attack was not hostage-trading, or publicity for demands. Or even killing to achieve a political objective from the target, i.e. "negotiations" or giving in to demands that did not require great sacrifices from the target. No, the killing was all about raising an exile army. Liberals consistently ask "Why do they hate us?" and Conservatives answers are often "They hate us for our freedoms." Neither provide a good answer for why Bombay's atrocities took place. It is not about us, it is about them.

Westhawk believes that the attack, like 9/11 organized by Al Qaeda, is all about mobilizing the Caliphate. The attack, in other words, was designed to create a backlash against Muslims in India and create a religious-ethnic war between India and Pakistan. This is only partly right. What Westhawk misses are the goals of men like Ayman Al-Zawahari and Osama bin Laden. As amply documented in Lawrence Wright's "The Looming Tower," the goal of both Al-Zawhari and Bin Laden was to create an exile Army. An exile Army capable of overthrowing the regimes of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where each could then rule his native land. This is the big flaw of Islam, in that there is no other path to power in Islamic societies except sitting out in exile somewhere, and organizing a coup, or assassinations of the leaders. There are no peaceful paths to power, by political organizing, as there is in the West. There is no accommodations, for powerful forces, as there is in say, China or Japan, in a more consensus-driven environment (and ruthless suppression of those who do not cooperate). Thus, Islamic society, heavily influenced by it's polygamy and "Big Man" society, with a chief who runs everything and owns everything, and everyone else below, predictably creates these exile forces. Algeria is plagued by the GIA and GSPC, Egypt by Islamic Jihad, Saudi Arabia by Al Qaeda, Morocco by Al Qaeda, Indonesia by the Jemaah Islamiyah, and so on. Pakistan is the worst, with an alphabet soup of terrorist groups, all fighting for influence and power. Each group is hoping to overthrow the current regimes, using Islam as a lever (and the convenient tactic of labeling the current regime as "infidel") and assembling it's own exile Army and group of supporters inside the nation.

Simply put, these men want power. The power of the ruler. They aim to get it. And the way they get it is by demonstrating they are winners.

Wright demonstrates how Al-Zawahari and Bin Laden only fitfully arrived at the "winning" model for assembling lots of men, money, and supporters inside their target country. At first, both tried assassination attempts and terrorism against the regime. Egyptian Islamic Jihad had a series of failed attempts to kill Mubarak, and attacks against tourists in Southern Egypt and elsewhere. Osama's attacks against Saudi regime figures, and agitation got the same results as Al-Zawahari's Egyptian endeavors. Police crackdowns, imprisonment of supporters, execution of a good many suspected backers, and very visible failure. Funding and support from backers dried up. Men stopped coming to the camps in Sudan, or Somalia, or Pakistan. Their host nations got nervous and informed them that perhaps they would find a better climate elsewhere, under pressure from Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Then, with the tactic of killing lots of Americans, with impunity, both Al-Zawahari and Osama bin Laden found men and money pouring into their camps. Al Qaeda went from an obscure bunch of "losers" who were nowhere near the vanguard of Islamic Jihad to the leaders. This success of course attracted considerable American retaliation in the end, and put both men on the run and unable to take full advantage of their ability to raise money and men and gain followers inside their target nations (for takeover). But every would-be usurper and terrorist leader took notice. To gain the lion's share of money and men, one must successfully attack and kill lots of Westerners.

The danger of American retaliation could be finessed in several ways. First, by not claiming direct responsibility, and using a cover organization, while covertly spreading the word that it was, indeed, your own that directed the attack. Second, by banking on the election of Muslim-friendly (if not Muslim himself) Barack Hussein Obama as President of the United States, who has written in his autobiography "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance" that he would "stand with Muslims" rather than America in the event of a Muslim attack on the US. Third, by manipulating the desire for legalistic "proof" in Western societies before any action in retaliation for an attack takes place. By carefully choosing men who have no direct connection to a terrorist group, there can be no "proof" that a terrorist group was responsible.

Meanwhile, the advantage for any would-be terrorist kingpin for pulling off such an attack is great: he can very likely receive tens of millions of dollars at least from Gulf oil interests, and others, around the Muslim world. Not the least of which is the money that can be raised from Muslims in the West. It is alleged that much of the financing for the Bombay attack came from Muslims in Britain. It is further alleged that some of the dead attackers were British Citizens as well. At least the former seems plausible and the case of the latter is bolstered by the number of British Muslim Citizens (and Canadians, for that matter) captured or killed in the battlefields of Afghanistan in the last seven years. This is not surprising, a recent poll reveals that forty percent of British Muslims want Sharia Law in the UK. A full twenty percent had sympathy for the 7/7 bombers.

The problem for the West, and other non-Muslim societies, is that there are too many would-be "Big Men" sitting out in exile, figuring that they can quite reasonably expect to at least run their own lucrative private Armies, if only they can figure out a way to kill lots of non-Muslims and get away with it. This has of course, always been the case for Islamic societies, while both Western and Eastern societies have largely done away with exile leaders since well, Napoleon.

What has changed is the ability of technology, and the weakness of both Western and Eastern societies, which depend on cooperation and non-violence, to make this desire of Muslim exile leaders quite possible.

In examining the Bombay Jihadist atrocities, the relative cost of the operation is not high. Almost any well organized terrorist group could pursue it, at relatively little risk. The surveillance of the targets was relatively low risk, even if discovered the PC attitudes of most nations and screaming of "profiling" particularly America and Europe, would lead to charges being dismissed. Try again with another target. Groups of two men, five to six teams in all, could produce enough reporting and raw data to plan an effective attack. The cost for the surveillance could be as little as $20,000.

The training of the men who would carry out the attack, and their careful selection, would take more time, but would not cost much. AK-47's are ubiquitous and easily obtained in places like Pakistan, or Somalia, or many other parts of the world. Creating mock-ups of the targets, screening the men, training them, providing them with meals and sleeping arrangements, could very likely be done for only $70,000. The largest cost component of this phase would be security and investigations of the proposed attackers.

Next comes the plausible deniability. Care must be taken to feed appropriate intelligence agencies fake plans, intentions, and so on. Perhaps fake denunciations of schismatic people conducting the training in case of their involvement being revealed. Payoffs and bribes to the local authorities, must also be considered. This could be a sum as little as $80,000.

After that, comes the positioning of the arms and other supplies used in the attacks. The difficulties encountered by the Bombay attackers in coming from sea (the Indian Coast Guard nearly caught them) means that it is unlikely this means will be pursued further. It is more likely that the arms will be smuggled in or purchased piecemeal off the black markets, one at a time. This is likely to cost around $130,000 or so. Perhaps more in societies with a larger, more robust police presence, and concentrated geography, perhaps less in places with a more spread out geography and less able police. The aim being to keep the arms and attackers separate until right before the attack begins, for maximum surprise and effectiveness.

Finally, comes the infiltration of the attackers. Ideally they should enter the country through normal commercial means, as many of the 9/11 Hijackers did, though under assumed identities. They would be indistinguishable from the mass of people moving in and out of modern Western societies. The cost for this would be only $20,000 or so. Very cheap.

So the total cost of $320,000 give or take, could be estimated to produce around $20 million in funds raised from sympathetic Gulf interests and Jihadist networks in Europe and America. It certainly is risky. But then so is sitting out in the desert in Pakistan, hoping to overthrow the Egyptian or Saudi government, or the Pakistani government for that matter. Men who will take that risk, will take this risk. The only trick is to avoid retaliation by the Americans, who are at this point the only forces capable (well, besides the Chinese and Russians) of producing misery for the men who would plan the attacks.

The widespread affordability of cheap but reliable AK-47's, grenades and other weaponry, makes this tactic of mass-killing by sudden assaults likely to be repeated. Until they stop working, which means they fail to produce money and men and supporters at "acceptable" levels of risk for the plotters. Which means in turn that the plotters don't end up dead.

The likely targets would not at first be American. India was chosen for a reason. It was next door to Pakistan, it had poor security, and exiting to Pakistan was theoretically possible. Indeed if there were twenty not ten attackers, then ten have escaped. The Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Spain, France, Britain, are all convenient targets. All these nations lack any meaningful ways of killing the plotters, which to them is the only thing that matters in considering such attacks. Neither Britain nor France will nuke Pakistan. Certainly not over an attack that "merely" kills 5,000 people. These societies present a "free shot" for men who wish to become Caliph.

Which brings to mind the irony of how technology has created this situation. In the movie "The Man Who Would Be King," Sean Connery and Michael Caine use their superior technology (repeating rifles) and military know-how to become kings of "Kafiristan" (in reality the last pagan outpost in Afghanistan before it was conquered in 1895-96 by Muslims). Their reign as "Kings" comes to an end, however, when they are revealed to be men not gods, and the Kafiris turn on them. In that instance, the superior technology of the West enabled for a while, the Connery and Caine characters to pose as Gods and rule as Kings.

Now, cheap transportation from anywhere in the Globe, and cheap and available weaponry, means that the Man Who Would Be King is not a some ex-Sergeant Major of the British Army in India, looking for an easy target, but an ambitious exile from Egypt, or Saudi Arabia, or perhaps a native Pakistani, who would be King himself. And his means is not seizing a weak, broken place like Kafiristan, separate and outside of modern technology. No, the ambition is to be like Reza Khan, who rose from an officer in the Persian Kossack Army, to Shah. Or Saddam Hussein, who rose from a simple assassin in the Baath Party to undisputed leader of Iraq. Or Gamel Abdel Nasser, or any one of the strong men who control the Muslim world. Muslim history and particularly modern Muslim history is littered with examples of people who assembled an exile and internal army and staged coups to become undisputed rulers of their countries. All that is needed is men and money.

Both readily available to anyone who can attack Westerners with impunity.

So these types of attacks will not end any time soon. If anything they will only increase. Because they are the quickest path to power in the Muslim world.

These attacks are not about Israel, or Jews, or Freedom, or why they hate us. It is about power and money, pure and simple, and enabled by modern technology along with the limits of the West.

However, like everything else, it will not last forever. The West has been coasting on the internal peace and prosperity bought by cheap energy, as documented in my post The Bailout, along with a lack of any serious threat impacting security and safety. The Soviet Nuclear Threat was largely neutralized by America's nuclear arsenal, creating a stand-off. Soviet Marines did not pose a constant threat of landing in New York City or Barcelona and massacring holiday shoppers in a shopping mall. Success and managing the one threat facing the West depended on cooperation and signaling (to the Soviets) a lack of any aggressive intent.

That is now changed. It is quite possible and eventually likely, that holiday shoppers or stadium-goers or attendants at Mass, or any other large public event could be massacred by Jihadis intent on killing as many infidels as possible, just so their masters and planners can assemble an exile Army.

This will change Western society in profound ways just as the threat of global nuclear war with the Soviets helped produce a deep and profound feminizing influence on the West (which was in some ways deeply beneficial).

First, in culture we will see a shift away from consumerism and status (which mean nothing if there is a realistic chance of being shot up by a jihadi in a large social setting) towards independence and self-reliance. Since those are the traits that provide success when realistically threatened by sudden violence at any moment. We will see a celebration of the spread out suburbs, which are unattractive targets to gunmen, and a disdain for the "loser" cities and concentrated urban areas.

The cry of the Indian photographer of "I wish I had a gun" will be felt more sympathetically. India has strict gun control laws, and the idea that armed Jihadis will be stopped by making sure their targets are unarmed will be deeply unappealing. The alliance of women, progressives, Blacks, Hispanics, etc. who are anti-gun ownership by ordinary people, will not change. However, their influence as more and more shootings happen, particularly in European nations with strict gun control, and horror stories of defenseless victims, is likely to wane.

SWAT teams and police units are likely to be the last line of defense. Even in compact cities like New York City, there simply won't be enough police to combat the attackers. Particularly if the police face multiple attacks to spread out their response. Politically, cities will be the last to allow hand gun possession by licensed legal owners. Because of the political alliances inherent in urban politics (women, gays, non-Whites).

However, that will just reverse the trend of "new urbanization" or the move to the cities. Instead, the safe suburbs, and shopping online, will dominate. Places that allow licensed concealed carry will have more people moving into them, and those that don't (in the US) will not. In Europe, it is likely that people will simply carry concealed and highly illegal weapons.

These attacks will not fundamentally threaten Western civilization. However, they will significantly change it. When people face the prospect of being killed at random in public places, they change their behavior. We are likely to see a switch from centralized, SWAT type response, while people wait to be killed, to a series of gunfights with the attackers. We are also likely to see the development of more powerful firearms that can stop attackers quickly, and alternatives to firearms that promise the same (vortex ring weapons, sonic weapons, microwaves, etc). Particularly as body armor becomes part of the attacker's gear.

After all, SWAT is designed to respond to fairly infrequent, violent threats. That type of protection, based on a centralized and governmental response, does not work (and certainly did not) when faced by a large number of attackers over a dispersed area.

The threat from the attackers is distributed and decentralized. It is likely that the response to the threat to be effective will be decentralized and distributed also.


Anonymous said...


Followed you here from Dirty Harry's Place.

Your writings are a breath of fresh air.

Keep up the good work.


usual suspect #7 said...

This site smelled just fine until you arrived. You can always tell the stupid ones; they can't post without being vulgar and obscene. Have you never heard of suitcase nukes, Anon.10-20.

usual suspect #7 said...

Anon. 9-24-Your post betrays the immaturity of your brain. How can a weapon be MOSTLY a myth? It is either a myth or it is not. The level of discussion on this site is beyond your comprehension. Go back to your homework, Sonny, and leave the grown-ups alone.

Whiskey said...

Anon 10:20 --

No vulgarity allowed. Your comments were deleted because of obscene language.

The United States or India is not going to collapse. However, technology allows even failing/dysfunctional states and peoples to inflict large amounts of pain on Wealthy Western Nations.

Consider the amount of damage done to India by around (if Spenger at Asia Times is to be believed) 30 men, most of whom got away. Death toll around 200, property damage in the hundreds of millions, fleeing Foreign Direct Investment in the billions.

Or the cost to shipping by re-routing traffic away from the Horn to the Cape of Good Hope. Egypt's Suez Canal has already seen substantial losses in transit fees and prices are going up for shipping having to completely abandon the Suez route due to Somali piracy.

Pakistan's government and ISI got nothing out of the attack, as far as leverage over India wrt Kashmir or concessions from an incoming Obama Presidency, and still the Bombay attack happened. It's only going to continue. The price the West will pay will only increase as time goes on. Pakistan has more than 100 nukes and is on the record as increasing it's arsenal.

Anon 10:20 said...

I will now refrain from profanity and vulgarity. Usual Suspect #7: If I am so stupid, how the hell did I find that WSJ article and you stick to Hollywood and TV for your ideas?

I'm going to post the article link again: The author is a political conservative, since obviously, a liberal or moderate won't get any respect from the people who frequent this website. The man responsible for the suitcase-nuke myth is a Russian general named Alexander Lebed; he has a history of exaggerations and half-truths. Do some research on it, and then respond.

random passerby said...

While doubtless prices have risen since that report, the ubiquity of the AK-47 worldwide is proof that Western nations no longer have technology advantages.
They do. The reason why Muslims must resort to terrorism is because they have no way of taking on the advanced and effective militaries of Western nations. Their futile efforts of destroying Israel are a testament to their incompetence (and just look at how effortlessly the US took Afghanistan and Iraq). In the past, Muslim armies conquered vast amounts of territory and almost overran Europe, and they would do it all over again if they had the means. But they don't.

These attacks are not about Israel, or Jews, or Freedom, or why they hate us. It is about power and money, pure and simple, and enabled by modern technology along with the limits of the West.
It actually is about religion. Westerners think it's about money and power because they're projecting their own mindset on Muslims. Western atheists and secular Christians can't comprehend the idea of mutilating women and blowing up random people in the name of religion, so they seek alternate explanations that make sense to them. Political correctness is another factor: it's politically correct to say that terrorists are hijacking Islam, but not correct to say that they're fulfilling their religious obligations.

These attacks will not fundamentally threaten Western civilization. However, they will significantly change it. When people face the prospect of being killed at random in public places, they change their behavior. We are likely to see a switch from centralized, SWAT type response, while people wait to be killed, to a series of gunfights with the attackers.
There have been many rampages in the US, and elsewhere in the Western world, but people are in no hurry to advocate concealed weapons for civilians. After the last school shooting here in Finland, the corpses of the victims had barely gone cold before the prime minister started talking about taking away or restricting handguns. Whenever there's a shooting incident in the US, people always spout the same shit about gun control. There's also a very widespread attitude that self-defense is not only impossible and futile but morally wrong as well, and that the only reasonable response to a violent situation is to either flee or allow yourself (and others) to be victimized.

We are also likely to see the development of more powerful firearms that can stop attackers quickly
We already have plenty of those.