Friday, November 28, 2008

A Historic Turning Point re: Terrorism

The chief of the Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, will be traveling to India (a first for a ISI director) to assist with the investigation of the recent attacks. This is very, very good news.

At least one goal of these attacks is clear: to provoke India into confrontation with Pakistan. This would slog up the latter government's counter-terrorism push into its tribal regions, apply yet more destabilizing pressure on that shaky government (which fundamentalists would love to see fall), and generally provoke the sort of anti-Muslim counteractions that create more jihadists (this sort of provocation is the prime goal, though most of our leaders seem not to have gotten the memo).

But not this time. "The Indian prime minister stressed the need of intelligence sharing and evolving a joint strategy to counter terrorism." In other words, rivals will be working together to root out the bad guys rather than escalating their rivalries. That's not how it was supposed to work.

For a pragmatic and surprising look at dynamics in the Middle East, including a hopeful perspective on Iran, please watch this great video from CSPAN of a talk by Robert Baer, a retired CIA veteran who just published "
The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower". Really, trust me...don't miss it! Baer believes the jihadist movement is in decline because the tide of Moslem opinion has turned against those guys. For one thing, results have been very poor for Moslems. Baer notes that Moslem mothers have been turning their jihadist sons in to the police in Britain. With the glory gone, and enemies joining together in response to terrorism rather than lashing out at each other, terrorism really does look like a losing proposition.

Which will not, of course, put a firm end to it. Basque terrorists in Spain continue to ply their violent craft to the shame and horror of most Basques - who are mostly opposed or ambivalent to independence. And we'll always have our Ted Bundys and Manson Families, and their technological tool chest will continue to expand. But a few parties truly meriting the term "extremists", operating far out of step with the mainstream of their societies, is a vastly preferable scenario to massively expanded jihadist attacks on civilians.

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