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August 31, 2006

A New Kind of War 

The armies and intelligence services of the Western nation-states suffer from definite weaknesses in the War on Radical Islam.

They are big organizations, bound to respect rules and laws, and go through bureaucratic processes to get a lot of things done. This makes them rigid, slow to react and to adapt to new situations, and often unable to use the most effective methods. In contrast, the enemy is flexible, nimble, quick and unbound.

A total reformation of the Western organizations is hopeless; even if it could be done, the timescale is too long.

Quite a few writers (Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler just to make two names) have postulated the formation of semi-private, semi-legal entities dedicated to fight terrorists and the like without the constraints of governmental agencies. Of course those are fictional stories, but I think that they're onto something.

A lot of things can be done in the field of intelligence, counter-intelligence and psyops without actually killing people and blowing up stuff. I'm thinking about the Internet here: there is a vast array of tools that can be used to disrupt and/or infect the jihad communications network.

Hacking into websites and databases of users on jihadi websites; scams and phishing; setting up false websites; identity theft; spreading disinformation posing as legitimate actors; DOS attacks; diffusion of tailored viruses, trojans and worms - especially attached to propaganda material. All these instruments are used with considerable success against corporations and other targets; I don't think that jihadi networks would be much harder to crack. One drawback is that the risk for these anti-jihad digital warriors would be somewhat higher than for the common hackers.

As far as I know, intelligence services do a bit of this, but they must obtain the proper authorizations before doing anything illegal - and even more importantly, their decision-making process is slow, going through many people and layers, and hampered by politicking.

A private corporation - acting in a governmental blind-eye environment - could act much faster: decisions are taken by a restricted group of people used to rapid decisions and implementation.

In the physical space, a corporation can use corruption and wheel-greasing to uncover the enemy's intentions and structure; in a more far-fetched scenario, it could hamper the enemy by providing faulty items and/or information. Ultimately, it can even perform sabotage and low-level military actions.

Addition: Another problem of regular armies is that they are very visible when they move. Thus, people with some preparation and determination can simply disappear in front of them, and come back as guerrillas/terrorists. Corporations would be much less obtrusive and visible; they can also rely on locals, either as full-time employees (after a careful vetting) or on a free-lance basis.

Money should be the prime mover, in fact. Besides being paid by the government for the work done, an hypothetical anti-jihad corporation should be authorized to steal from the enemy and retain that money as they see fit.

It is important to regain the initiative and make the jihadis feel the heat: will their bank accounts still be available tomorrow? Will their identity be stolen some day? Can they trust this Abu Moahmmed claiming he learnt to build IEDs in Iraq? (ok, I'm sure that serious jihadis have vetting procedures in place, but there is room to manouvre).

These measures cannot replace a strong military power and a political will to fight the war, but will help to close the gap in the netwar capabilities.

Comments:


It's an interesting idea, although we cannot say if it can really be implemented successfully.

There's a follow up problem though. Who's gonna exercise control over these private firms and, should they turn up more effective than our regular security forces, who will to protect us from them should they turn rogue.

 

These corporations are intended to coadiuvate, not replace the regular security forces. Ultimately, if the corporation steps out of certain bonds, the government would open its blind eye and intervene.

Though the problem of control is a real one.

 
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