Belmont Club

The Rumor of War

What if World War 3 has started and nobody knew it? If conflict in the 21st century takes takes the form of intelligence operations and targeted assassinations is it really war any more? Maybe it’s illegal to attack a government but if you do it slowly, quietly enough, then no red lines are crossed; no Security Council resolutions are enacted.  The Daily Telegraph quotes former British Labor Environment Minister as saying his party has been infiltrated by a secret cell of Islamists who are slowly but surely taking parts of it over.

“They are acting almost as an entryist organisation, placing people within the political parties, recruiting members to those political parties, trying to get individuals selected and elected so they can exercise political influence and power, whether it’s at local government level or national level,” he said.

But Islamists aren’t the only ones who’ve discovered that it’s possible to conduct war by other means. The Weekly Standard described the extraordinary extent and success of the Administration’s Drone War. Kenneth Anderson says that America is policing the lawless parts of the world from the air with robots.

The Predator drone strategy is a rare example of something that has gone really, really well for the Obama administration. Counterterrorism “on offense” has done better, ironically, under an administration that hoped it could just play counterterrorism on defense—wind down wars, wish away the threat as a bad dream from the Bush years, hope the whole business would fade away so it could focus on health care. Yet for all that, the Obama administration, through Predator strikes, is taking the fight to the enemy.

Anderson bemoans the Administration’s failure to put forward a legal doctrine under which it conducts this extraordinary program of targeted assassinations. But why should it? If the press doesn’t demand it and conservatives are content to watch the perps zapped then perhaps it is better not mentioning it at all.

Newsweek says Drone warfare has become so attractive that everyone wants them. “At least 40 other countries—from Belarus and Georgia to India, Pakistan, and Russia—have begun to build, buy, and deploy unmanned aerial vehicles … all told, two thirds of worldwide investment in unmanned planes in 2010 will be spent by countries other than the United States.” Invasions are so yesterday. Today you just send over a drone and whack who you don’t like. And for those who can’t afford them or who prefer old fashioned methods, there’s always the hit team. One thing assassins can do that drones can’t is cover up their tracks or make them lead the wrong way. Defense Update says the question of who ordered hit on the Hamas leader in Dubai is getting murkier with each passing day. Did the Mossad kill Mahmoud al-Mabhouh? Or were they same people who killed “Imad Mughniyah in central Damascus”, whoever those were? And “they” might just be a consortium. Amazingly the list of suspects may include the Saudi secret services who are rumored — just rumored mind you — to be making common cause with the Jewish state when the occasion suits.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah is also still bent on avenging the 2008 killing in Damascus of its leader, Imad Mughniyeh. The Mossad was blamed for that, too. Israeli sources claim that Hezbollah has already made 10 attempts to attack Israeli targets inside and outside the Jewish state since Mughniyeh was blown up by a booby-trap inside the high-security zone in central Damascus. Israeli security authorities expect Hezbollah to try again marking the second anniversary of the death of Mughniyeh, who until Osama bin Laden came along was the most wanted terrorist fugitive on the planet.

It is a common “secret” that Israeli and many foreign intelligence services are thought to cooperate closely in a variety of areas of common interest – including on the Iranian nuclear program, and in the fight against Sunni ‘Global Jihad’ organizations.

It’s not wholly out of the question. In fact Spacewar claims the Saudis have secretly helped America turn the tide in Afghanistan by bribing and otherwise pushing the ISI into betraying their proteges in the Taliban. Their men in Lebanon say:

The flow of high-grade intelligence from Pakistan’s leading security organization that has led to the recent capture or death of a dozen top Taliban chiefs was the result of high-level pressure from Saudi Arabia, diplomatic sources said. …

The Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service which helped create the Taliban in the 1990s, was persuaded to cooperate with the United States by the powerful head of Saudi Arabia’s principal intelligence service, the General Intelligence Presidency, Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, younger half-brother of King Abdallah.

He conducted shuttle diplomacy between Riyadh and Islamabad, where he convinced Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of staff of the Pakistani army, to order the ISI to play ball.

Saudi petrodollars had a lot to do with that. The sources say that Riyadh has been helping the Pakistani military pay for its recent offensive against the Taliban.

America’s enemies may not have much in the way of lasers, satellites and missiles but on thing they have a lot of is a lack of scruples. And ruthlessness may be the one military commodity worth anything any more on our politically correct planet.  Maybe the reason Kenneth Anderson will never get his wish is that it is so much more convenient to deny you did it rather than to ask for permission. The basic principle of 21st century warfare is that that like CS Lewis’ devil it’s main aim is to convince everyone that it does not exist. The days of uniformed armies, navies and air forces may be numbered and in their place a world where disputes are settled by assassins, robotic or otherwise, cris-crossing the continents looking for a man with a problem.

Where would you go to monitor a World War 3 without contiguous battlefields? Maybe on Twitter, which you can mine for nuggets of things that never were. Wired says the Pentagon is sort of, kind of lifting its restrictions on the use of social networking sites so there’s a chance for journalists there. “On Friday, the Pentagon announced a new social media policy that will the troops to use Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites, within limits. True to form, Pentagon social media czar Price Floyd announced the policy change in a Twitter update.” And you might surf the Web from Iceland, which is considering becoming the Switzerland of online secrets. “Could global news organizations with a home office in Reykjavík soon be as common as Delaware corporations or Cayman Islands assets?” But maybe it isn’t lawsuits journalists will be hiding from in the frozen. But in a world where there is no war and no formal enemies, what is there to fear? Just the shadow in the doorway which is only a trick of your imagination.

Who is Keyser Soze? He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Soze. You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, poof. He’s gone.


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