WikiLeaks Incident Highlights Errors in U.S. Strategy

Thursday, 29 Jul 2010 03:08 PM

By Tawfik Hamid

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The leaking of more than 90,000 records about the Afghanistan conflict by WikiLeaks has raised the possibility that Pakistan, assumed to be an ally of the United States, and its ISI spy service, has met secretly with the Taliban to not only organize militant networks to fight against American soldiers, but even to plot to assassinate Afghan leaders.

If this is true, the possibility of terrorists using WMDs against major cities in the U.S. must be given extra care and attention, as Pakistan has a considerable WMD arsenal.

This extremely dangerous and destructive possibility may necessitate some mandatory reforms to U.S. intelligence policies. Below are some recommendations for how to enhance America's ability to counter such threats associated with radical Islam:
It is vital that the U.S. government learn how to detect radicalism more attentively. Failure to do so can be destructive, as putting trust in so-called "moderates" when they are actually radicals serves to undermine American counterterrorism efforts.

These radicals posing as moderates could ultimately use American support, aid, and shared information to harm the U.S. Failure to recognize who the radicals are among government officials of Islamic countries, as well as failure to define precisely what we mean by the word "radical," can seriously impede the ability of the U.S. to win the war on terror.

Fighting terrorism in and of itself is not enough. Prevention can sometimes be more important than treatment. To better understand this concept, an analogy can be made to medical history. Smallpox was virtually eradicated from the world through mostly preventative measures (vaccination), as opposed to only using medications to kill the virus once it had already established itself within a human body.

On a similar note, a preventative style should be applied to the terrorism problem, as weakening Islamic radicalism at both the psychological and ideological levels is fundamental to interrupting the transformation process that makes one become a terrorist.

Radical Islam must be treated as a real threat that needs immediate intervention rather than just an area of academic interest. Research studies and conferences about radical Islam need to focus on realistic courses of action as opposed to giving a mere overview about the problem.

For example, studying the history and politics of Islam as well as its different sects are important, yet these things in and of themselves are not enough to solve the problem. Such studies must result in suggestions for realistic, active measures.

Vertical growth for intelligence is essential and we must be careful not to have too much horizontal growth. In other words, our focus must be to increase the knowledge of intelligence officers about the problem rather than simply increasing the number of personnel dealing with the topic.

Increasing the number of chess players who are only able to think about one move ahead is not going to solve a problem that needs thinking about four moves ahead. On the contrary, increasing the knowledge of just a single player to the point where he or she can think four steps ahead may be all that is needed to win the game.

The same principle applies to countering radical Islam. Having one person or one small group of people who truly understand the problem and how to treat it can be much more effective than using multiple individuals who are not as able to implement active solutions due to a potentially lower threshold of knowledge about the problem.

Common sense and logic must be used to deal with the problem of radical Islam. Waiting for evidence to prove every point can be useful but can also be destructive as well.

For example, if a patient took a penicillin injection and immediately went into shock, it would be fatal and insane to wait until we find antibodies against penicillin to provide evidence that the shock has resulted from an allergic reaction to the medication.

The patient in such a case must be given treatment based on pure logical analysis before finding the "evidence," as common sense and logic simply tells us that going into shock immediately after getting a penicillin injection is a life-threatening emergency that needs to be immediately treated.

Similarly, it is not difficult to figure out that when people become more Islamic and devout in following radical teachings, they have more potential to become terrorists.

Trying to prove the obvious and waste time on finding evidence for this crystal clear situation can work only for the benefit of the radicals who increase in number and power and make us liable to more threats.

Using logic and common sense in dealing with radical Islam is fundamental. The ‘evidence-based’ approach is excellent in most circumstances but can be fatal when we use it with Islamic radicalism, as with the case concerning shock caused by penicillin allergy.

To conclude, the U.S. needs to adopt a strategy that does the following:
  1. Defines clearly what is meant by the term "radical Islam"
  2. Uses common sense and logic to deal with the problem
  3. Uses a more preventative approach to interrupt the process of radicalization in young Muslims before they reach the stage of their development that classifies them as terrorists
  4. Treats radical Islam as a threat to our civilization that must be ended rather than as an area for endless research and academic study
  5. Increasing the knowledge of intelligence workers concerning radical Islam, not just their personnel size

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