Jihadistan Part II: Defending Against It

Published in Washington Law & Politics

In our last episode, we considered the problem of “Jihadistan” – the violent, expansionist Islamic fundamentalism that has created an “arc of terror” from North Africa through the Middle East and Central Asia to the Philippines and Indonesia, and which is now firmly established in Europe and North America. This session, what to do about it. Six items here.

First comes the obvious question: Is it necessary or desirable to do anything? Yes, if America genuinely believes that a more peaceful, more democratic world serves everybody’s interests. If you hold that other people’s affairs are none of our business, if you’re willing to buy your oil under whatever terms they care to impose and acquiesce in whatever they do, there are many fine articles in this magazine. Please proceed directly to those.

Second, it’s vital to recognize that not all problems require American attention. Not so long ago, a sparrow couldn’t fall to earth without the CIA determining whether it was a communist or an anti-communist bird. Let’s not go there again, substituting Islamic for communist.

Third, let others be strong. The United States should support the European Union’s project to establish its own Rapid Reaction Force for use in places like the Balkans and Africa. So far, American response has been hostile, mostly on the grounds that it’ll weaken NATO. So what? NATO, as a decade of Balkans experience has revealed, is worthless for these types of military operations and, given its expansion (and the requirement for unanimity) is probably militarily worthless, period. The European military establishment, structured against a Soviet invasion and chronically starved for cash, has been well described as “two million useless soldiers.” Better a small mobile force than a large pointless one.

The United States should also look favorably upon recent CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States, the titular successor to the USSR) proposals to create a Rapid Reaction Force of six former members, led by Russia, who face Islamic terrorism and insurrection on their own territory.

Fourth, it’s time for the United States to get serious about homeland defense in all its aspects, including missile defense. (No space here to discuss the Bush administration’s missile defense plans, but I’ll say one thing – folks, it ain’t what ya think.) The United States should establish a Homeland Security Agency with three components. Disaster preparedness and “consequence management,” centered on the current Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Law enforcement and interdiction, centered on the FBI, Customs, and the Border Patrol/INS. Military aspects, centered on a new unified Homeland Defense Command, with the National Guard given primary responsibility.

And – lest we forget – a Homeland Security Oversight Board stacked with civil libertarians who aren’t averse to occasional well-timed press leaks.

Fifth, start getting ready for the inevitable American “peace-enforcement” mission to Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. This will provide the crucial test of whether the United States can deal effectively with Jihadistan.

Some months ago, the Al Aqsa Intifada segued into a Lebanon-style civil war, a ugly conflict between two peoples who covet the same land; two peoples with nowhere else to go; two peoples who know that, in the end, nobody really gives a damn about them. Whether the State of Israel ever should have been created is arguable. Point is, it’s there, and under international law has every right to be. In equal measure, the Palestinian people deserve a nation of their own. At what point this people became a nation in its own mind and actions is irrelevant. Point is, it’s here.

But they can’t stop fighting on their own; the extremists won’t allow it. The basic Islamic strategy is to force Israel into a long, economically ruinous struggle (the Palestinian economy is already ruined) and force it to drastic actions that will bring in other nations, perhaps to the use of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

If foreign intervention seems imminent, Israel will have to pre-empt, or else retaliate with nuclear weapons. Why? Put simply, the Israel Defense Force that won the victories of 1956, 1967, and 1973, the juggernaut of a strong standing force and a nation of reservists on instant recall, no longer exists. Conscription is down; most reservists no longer report for training. One reason the late Yitzhak Rabin started the Oslo process was that he knew his own army could not be trusted to endure or take drastic measures against Palestinians; well over 300 Israeli soldiers and reservists have been arrested for conscientious refusal of one form or another since the current mess began. All this, plus another, purely military fact. It does no good to have a strong reserve force if, when they go to the armories and depots to draw their gear, those places have already been contaminated by chemical or biological attacks.

For these reasons (plus others), Israel has quietly shifted from conventional to nuclear pre-emption and retaliation, including the purchase of several German-made, cruise-missile firing submarines.

If pushed to annihilation, doubt not that they’ll take a lot of people, including a lot of innocent people, down with them.

At some point, the United States, to universal condemnation, disapproval, and relief, will have to get between these people and make it stick.

Finally, when that happens, and when it’s shown again that no good deed goes unpunished, the American people will have to make a fundamental decision. What are we? Sometimes we pretend we’re the world’s policeman; we’re not. Sometimes we pretend we’re the world’s therapist or nanny; we’re not. But we are, by virtue of our power and influence, capable of actions for good that others are not. To what, if anything, does that oblige us?

And as we fill the body bags, what next?

Philip Gold

Dr. Philip Gold is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, and director of the Institute's Aerospace 2010 Project. A former Marine, he is the author of Evasion,: The American Way of Military Service and over 100 articles on defense matters. He teaches at Georgetown University and is a frequent op-ed contributor to several newspapers. Dr. Gold divides his time between Seattle and Washington, D.C.