Thursday, January 16, 2003

I've been reading "In the Name of Osama Bin Laden" by Roland Jacquard. Thinking as I have been about emergent intelligences, one quote in particular struck me.

"He held no official post as military leader, ideologue, or religious leader, but his influence was real and profound. He demanded nothing, but there was always a fighter burning with the desire to give him satisfaction. He never gave precise instructions, but there was always a mujahed somewhere in the world to obey blindly what he believed to be an order, or even to anticipate his wishes. If we are to believe what he said or what we read in his statements and fatwas, Osama bin Laden never explicitly ordered an attack ... "

Imagine four main castes:

The Queen of the anthill : This is Osama himself, but although killing him would be worthwhile, many anthills can produce another queen when the old one dies. Although he provides some money, his main function is to publically praise terrorist attacks after the fact it appears. This could be done by someone else if he died. It is more than mere speech though, because it contributes to the belief of the next bunch of terrorists that they are on their way to paradise. Hell must be one heck of a shock for these guys.

The murderer (or warrior) caste: This is the potential pool of suicide assassins. Direct action against it has a very low chance of success, because it consists of all combat veterens who do not think "what a bunch of stupid thugs" when hearing about a suicide attack.

The drones: This is all the really poor and desperate millions who somehow believe a murderer can also be a martyr. Without the knowledge of these millions in the back round, the underlying knowledge of the hell prepared for them might leak into the consciousness of the would be suicidal killers and make them try to build a life instead of a pyre.

The really stupid drones: These are the rich people who give money more or less knowingly to terrorists and affiliates. Many of them live in countries which Al Qaeda has stated it plans to overthrow, and would lose a great deal of protection and privilege, including perhaps their own wealth. The psychology of the guilt and hypocrisy which contribute to this, and the sheltered easy lifestyle which inhibits the survival instincts are an essay in themselves.

Superficially, the main flaw in this vehicle is lack of brakes. We all know it would be useless to give in even if we wanted to, because there is nobody to give in to. If Osama stopped preaching violence, the people who gain false hope from it would soon find another leader. Thus, it can never bring prosperity to Muslims, but only death to their enemies and retribution to those with homes and jobs and families who can't hide as well as they. I hope that this weapon is not as formidable as it appears, and will be destroyable by conventional means. The only sure fire weapons I can think of against them would be almost pyrric, striking at the roots of our own civilization.

I have always had reservations about some of the things Isreal has done, but think of all the things they haven't done that Arab leaders have done to their own people. The point is not to justify Sharon, but to realize that an enemy who will fight unless (unlike them) we are always perfectly fair is implacable.

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