Urban terror strategy

John Robb author of Brave New War, The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization, has an essay in City Journal about "The Coming Urban Terror."

His book was written before the success of the surge so some of his premises are already subject to challenge. He looks at the infrastructure of the modern cities and sees vulnerabilities to "system disruption" attacks. That has certainly been an objective of many of the Sunni terrorist in Iraq and it has certainly slowed the progress of the Iraqi economy from recovering from the abuses of Saddam. To see how much, you need to contrast the significant progress in Kurdistan since 2003 and compare it to Baghdad and Anbar province where the enemy attacks have disrupted the economy.

However, since the surge, we have developed techniques that have made it much more difficult for the enemy to mount attacks in the markets and our recent attacks on al Qaeda sanctuaries has clearly disrupted their infrastructure of terror. That is largely how the Israelis defeated the Palestinian second intifada.

Robb also focuses on the problems caused by the enemy's diffusion of authority and dispersal of operational decisions. What he misses is that this diffusion and dispersal has made it a much less effective operations. Just compare its spectacular attacks leading up to 9-11 to its attacks since 9-11. Its inability to stage operations and plan without harassment has led to much less lethal attacks and fewer means of delivering the spectacular.

It should also be noted the enemy has chosen this less effective means of operations out of necessity and not because he thinks it is stronger. While the leadership of al Qaeda has survived its ability of command and control of operations has disappeared and any attempt to do so could lead to the leaders' destruction.

While the enemy would like to disrupt our economy in hopes of making it impossible to send our forces to defeat them, they have had strategic defeat of major proportions in that effort since 9-11. The US economy quickly recovered from the attacks and is stronger today than ever and employment and economic growth continue. Meanwhile, the enemy's capacity for system disruption continues to look anemic outside of Iraq and Afghanistan where the enemy forces face increasing pressure and are producing shrinking results.

Strategy Page
discusses why the Taliban has had to change it leadership structure and its command and control. It also talks about how al Qaeda has hunkered down in Pakistan after threats of the US hitting their bases.


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