06 April 2005


[Note: I'm having to rebuild this short essay from scratch. Blogger has decided to delete it for no apparent reason, substituting a second copy of my entry from earlier today.]

Judge Posner remarked today in the WaPo that

Every nation that we take seriously—even Canada—has a domestic intelligence agency separate from its national police force, the best known being Britain's MI5. Only the United States buries its principal domestic intelligence service in a police force (the FBI). Police hunt criminals, and criminal law enforcement will not defeat terrorism. An agency 100 percent dedicated to domestic intelligence is more likely to do a good job than the FBI, which is 10 percent intelligence and 90 percent criminal investigation.

"Intelligence Critique Fatigue" (06 Apr 2005). This is, of course, a corollary of one of the central principles of intelligence gathering, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and indeed military and paramilitary affairs as a whole.

No principle of warfare is more familiar than the maxim "Know your enemy." No concept has been more thoroughly ignored by the United States in its efforts to eliminate the root causes of Islamic terrorism since 9/11.

James Fallows, "Success Without Victory," Atlantic, Jan/Feb 2005 at 80, 85.

The two pieces together paint a rather disturbing portrait… before we consider other issues. Fallows points out that we do ourselves no favors by pretending that there are no downsides, or at least no legitimate perceptions in the Arab world of downsides, to historical US support for Israel and recent US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Trying to pretend that because "we" (whoever "we" is, because it doesn't include me) don't accept the premises of radical Islam means that nobody will gets us nowhere. Contrast this with Posner's note, and remember that to the man whose toolbox includes only a hammer, every mechanical fastener looks like a nail.

What we should be doing instead is celebrating the disagreements in the Arab world. That's what democracy is about. By its nature, democracy embraces (and requires) dissent. Disturbingly, this fits in with the undercurrents of theocracy in the Arab world all too well, on multiple levels. It bears some consideration that the Founders believed that freedom of speech should be mentioned in the same amendment—the same sentence—even the same breath—as free exercise of religion and nonestablishment of religion. That's why Ward Churchill's situation is simultaneously encouraging and discouraging. (N.B. He's wrong on a lot of things, and a poor writer; but he is correct in trying to see the US-Arab relationship through eyes other than those born and bred in Peoria.)

One of the most clichéd expressions in the military is that military intelligence is an oxymoron. (<SARCASM> Of course, West Point graduates generally haven't read enough to know what an "oxymoron" is, so they just say "contradiction in terms." </SARCASM>) The problem alluded to by Posner is not that military intelligence, or counterintelligence, is an oxymoron; it is that well-managed American military intelligence is. In this instance, we have met the enemy: And he is us.