07 July 2005

A Grave Miscalculation

The center-left and center right blogs Democracy Arsenal and Chrenkoff (seventh update), respectively, both see something of a strategic miscalculation on the part of the al Qaeda-affiliated or al Qaeda-sympathizing group which has claimed responsibility for this morning's bombings in London. From Chrenkoff:

"Rejoice, Islamic nation. Rejoice, Arab world. The time has come for vengeance against the Zionist crusader government of Britain in response to the massacres Britain committed in Iraq and Afghanistan... We continue to warn the governments of Denmark and Italy and all crusader governments that they will receive the same punishment if they do not withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan."

Pretty bad tactical mistake there - Iraq is unpopular, Afghanistan is not. Call for withdrawal from Iraq, and you're merely echoing public sentiment; call for withdrawal from Afghanistan, and you suddebly remind everyone about the war on terror, Al Qaeda, bin Laden, Taliban - all the nasty things that even the French and the Russians are united against.

From Democracy Arsenal:
Tony Blair is saying that the attack was timed to coincide with G-8:
"Just as it is reasonably clear that this is a terrorist attack or a series of terrorist attacks, it is also reasonably clear that it is designed and aimed to coincide with the opening of the G-8."

Yet the group claiming responsibility, the "Secret Al Qaeda Jihad Organization in Europe," is saying instead that the attack was meant to retaliate for Great Britain's cooperation with the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If Al Qaeda was intending the second aim but has stumbled into the first, I hope and pray that they have made a drastic miscalculation. By hitting Great Britain at a time of most intimate involvement with the leaders of the world community -- not just at the G-8 summit but immediately after, for God's sake, the choice of London for the Olympics -- then Al Qaeda has f'ed this one up badly.

I suspect that the various al Qaeda groups face a catch-22 in planning and pursuing their misguided objectives. Grand and dramatic attacks like those upon the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Central London attract fanatics to their cause and give those already involved or already sympathetic something to cheer over, but these also tend to galvanize their opposition and strengthen the resolve of those attacked to continue and escalate the fight against terror. Alternately, a course of attrition -- exemplified by the ongoing hit-and-run insurgency in Iraq -- does more to sap the will of civilian populations and politicians to continue a usually-distant war, but depletes the human and material resources of the terror groups and their members' fighting spirit.

Either course of action leads to failure for the terrorists, as both offer only Pyhrric victories. With grand attacks on first-world civilian targets, the terrorists awaken and mobilize against themselves overwheming forces which can destroy them; with long wars of attrition, those forces may be temporarily checked, but the terrorists' ranks are gradually decimated and their ability to continue will be ultimately exhausted. Their only chance for victory in the latter scenario, that their industrialized Western opponents will choose to withdraw before the terrorists are destroyed, is made less likely by those same terrorists' "successes" like those this morning in London.

Tim Worstall's essay this morning at the Tech Central Station site is probably an accurate take on the likely effect of this morning's attacks upon the British populace. Quoting a line from Rule Britannia that "Britons never will be slaves", he writes:
And I think that's true. I don't think we ever will be slaves. I have no doubt that we can be killed, that we could even be conquered or beaten, but not that we would cower like slaves, give in to threats of further violence. Far from the "fear and panic from the north to the south" [predicted by the terrorists in their message] there is something very different going on . . . . [M]y fellow Britons? Give in, give up? No, I don't think so. We'll bury the dead, comfort the bereaved and carry on in the way we know best.

Neither the Nazis during The Blitz nor the Irish Republican Army later could break the resolve of Britain generally and London specifically; al Qaeda will not manage it now.

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