It is incredibly hard to maintain this type of constant tactical evolution, and you cannot protect against everything, but by thinking like the enemy you can plan for possible contingencies that could catch you off guard. Whether you are a beat cop or the chief intelligence officer, thinking like a bad guy will make you a better good guy, and it’s fun to play bad every once in a while.
Terrorism, Then and Now
I’m going to make a bold statement here, read it through and think about it for a second before you discount it and this entire section. Terrorism is just like fashion and music, everything old is new again. By this I mean that like many things in life, terror and crime are cyclical. Sure, the players will continue to change, the tools and specific tactics will evolve to meet the times, but the motivations remain the same.
TW’s publisher and I were sitting in the office recently and she was telling me about one of our publishing group’s old titles—Eagle magazine. As we talked she dug out an old binder packed with back issues, and we instantly made the connection that what was true in the past—terrorism-wise—is still true today. In the June 1984 issue of Eagle, there was an article titled “Target America” in which there is a reference to a speech given at Tufts University in 1975 by Michael Jenkins of the Rand Corporation. He said then that, ”Conventional war is becoming obsolete and terrorist warfare might be taking its place.” He may as well have been wearing a long robe and a pointy hat, looking into a crystal ball. That statement in 1975 is even truer today, except that terrorism has taken the place of conventional warfare. No army in the world can stand against the might of the United States Armed Forces in a conventional, toe-to-toe engagement. To do so would be suicide.
The United States has evolved into the only nation on earth that can maintain a sustained Hyper War. Of course losses must be expected but when it comes to Air, Ground, or Naval might, the U.S. has the ability to decimate any conventional force on the planet. I am sure that we have all read or at least heard the teachings of Sun Tzu and know that it is best to attack where your enemy is weakest. Well, in America today that is simply to attack our will to fight. Americans do not like to see flag-draped coffins coming home. We do not like our very plush lives to be inconvenienced in any way, and most interestingly, we do not want to be seen as “bullies.” While these are limitations we place on ourselves, our enemies are aware of them and I will say this a bit tongue-in-check, If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying. Those that oppose us know these words well and seem to have no compunctions about attacking “soft targets” and generally not playing by the rules.
The motivations of our enemies are the same as those of almost everyone who has ever lived: money, prestige and power. For different people the scale and shape of these things may be different, but the base needs are the same. While I am not terribly interested in being rewarded with 72 virgins in the afterlife, it is my guess that the extremist with 20 pounds of Semtex and 500 ball bearings under his coat is not all that excited about my art collection or my desire to buy a new convertible. But we are both prepared to do what is necessary to try to achieve our goals.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it; these are words that we are also familiar with. TW is going to keep history alive so that we may add the lessons of the past to our collective, “toolbox,” and not doom ourselves any more than we have to.
Let me close with another favorite saying of mine: History gets written by the winner. Keep this in mind as you look at the world around you. Understand that there is always more then one side to every story and the tale you get is colored by the biases of the one telling it to you.