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The Costs of Violence   - Masters of Mankind :  Information Clearing House - ICH

The Costs of Violence   - Masters of Mankind :  Information Clearing House - ICH

No doubt
right now U.S. strategists are seeking ways to
murder the “Caliph of the Islamic State” Abu Bakr
al-Baghdadi, who is a bitter rival of al-Qaeda
leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The likely result of this
achievement is forecast by the prominent terrorism
scholar Bruce Hoffman, senior fellow at the U.S.
Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. He
predicts that “al-Baghdadi’s death would likely pave
the way for a rapprochement [with al-Qaeda]
producing a combined terrorist force unprecedented
in scope, size, ambition and resources.”



Polk cites
a treatise on warfare by Henry Jomini, influenced by
Napoleon’s defeat at the hands of Spanish
guerrillas, that became a textbook for generations
of cadets at the West Point military academy. Jomini
observed that such interventions by major powers
typically result in “wars of opinion,” and nearly
always “national wars,” if not at first then
becoming so in the course of the struggle, by the
dynamics that Polk describes. Jomini concludes that
“commanders of regular armies are ill-advised to
engage in such wars because they will lose them,”
and even apparent successes will prove short-lived.



Careful
studies of al-Qaeda and ISIS have shown that the
United States and its allies are following their
game plan with some precision. Their goal is to
“draw the West as deeply and actively as possible
into the quagmire” and “to perpetually engage and
enervate the United States and the West in a series
of prolonged overseas ventures” in which they will
undermine their own societies, expend their
resources, and increase the level of violence,
setting off the dynamic that Polk reviews.



Scott Atran,
one of the most insightful researchers on jihadi
movements, calculates that “the 9/11 attacks cost
between $400,000 and $500,000 to execute, whereas
the military and security response by the U.S. and
its allies is in the order of 10 million times that
figure. On a strictly cost-benefit basis, this
violent movement has been wildly successful, beyond
even Bin Laden’s original imagination, and is
increasingly so. Herein lies the full measure of
jujitsu-style asymmetric warfare. After all, who
could claim that we are better off than before, or
that the overall danger is declining?”And if we
continue to wield the sledgehammer, tacitly
following the jihadi script, the likely effect is
even more violent jihadism with broader appeal. The
record, Atran advises, “should inspire a radical
change in our counter-strategies.”


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