Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: December 28, 2009


Inside Our OODA Loop

Something that’s been bouncing around inside my head the past couple of days is that it really seems like al Qaeda (and terrorists in general) have gotten inside our OODA Loop.

For those who don’t know, you can find a really good description of the OODA Loop here and a good summary here. Briefly it’s the decision cycle (“observe, orient, decide, act”) of those engaged in some sort of struggle or competition. The faster and more accurate one’s decision cycle, the more quickly he can disorient and defeat his opponent. By forcing your opponent into a defensive posture, where your moves are not readily or easily discerned, you can outmaneuver and even control what your opponent does — hence, you are inside his OODA Loop. So when I say that the terrorists have gotten inside our OODA Loop, I mean that we are fighting them from predictable, even enemy-dictated stances that make it easier for them to survive and continue fighting.

To some extent, of course, that’s almost entirely what terrorism is designed to do: i.e. affect our decision-making process in such a way as to turn the populace against the government. The terrorists attack soft targets, and the government responds by restraining the freedom of its own citizens, maybe even going overboard. In fact, in countries where a considerable amount of freedom is the norm, most if not all such government restrictions will seem like they are going overboard, because only the terrorists really know how and when they are going to attack next (recall the famous IRA admonishment to Margaret Thatcher: you have to be lucky every day; we just have to be lucky once). The people eventually get tired of the restraints and overbearing policies of the government and either demand a stop to the war against the terrorists or join the terrorists’ cause. Indeed, the whole concept behind Petraeus’ counterinsurgency was an attempt to reorganize our OODA Loop in a way that was not affected by the terrorists’ actions. The idea was to win over the populace to the coalition side by taking the fight to the terrorists and protecting the citizens. When it comes to fighting terrorism on as a nation, however, we don’t seem to have any similar strategy, and that appears to be helping al Qaeda, et al.

That’s not to say that the terrorists will ever truly defeat America and the West, because that’s not ever going to be possible. Militarily, whether speaking in terms of strategy, tactics, policy or just sheer power, they are simply no match for us on any level. Even so, they have become somewhat adept at pushing our buttons in a way that makes us turn on one another, thus weakening our resolve. Keep in mind too that they don’t have to “win” in this struggle, they just have to tie. If we leave Iraq and/or Afghanistan before those nations are able to effectively capable of governing themselves in a peaceful manner, including the ability to keep terrorists at bay, then they will count that as a victory and we will face an emboldened enemy. If we react in predictably defensive ways to every terrorist act, and let them dictate how our government rules her citizens, then we hand them all the controls they need to thrive. And when we do that coupled with a near-pathological fear of offending a protected class of persons, even when we have some really well-founded reasons for distrusting a certain, easily identifiable class of persons, we practically write a script for the terrorists to help us implode.

Just consider how we treat foreign nationals who wish to come to America. On the one hand we keep productive, job-producing citizens out, while allowing watch-listed BVD-bombers easy access:

The question on the visa is critical. No one has a right to a visa to the US. If we have credible information that someone constitutes a threat — and a father’s testimony should be considered at least credible enough to hoist a red flag or two — then the visa should be canceled until more investigation can take place. It’s absolutely ridiculous that we’re kicking out Anatolie Vartosu for being too successful in America while keeping Adbulmutallab’s visa in place because we’re just not sure he’s a radical jihadi. It’s as ridiculous as doing strip-searches on Grandma while allowing a Nigerian on a watch list to pass through two sets of security without a patdown.

The whole point the watch-list and no-fly lists, not to mention the ridiculously random and complicated TSA security measures in general, was to prevent another 9-11 from happening. Yet the only people whom seem to be at all hampered by these government restrictions are those who have no intention of blowing up airplanes.

So in response to the attempted terror attack over Christmas, TSA will apparently adopt a new policy prohibiting passengers from moving during the last hour of a flight. Also, no pillows or blankets during that last hour.

In addition to keeping with its usually [sic] tradition of making policy on a reactionary [sic] basis, this one wouldn’t even have done anything to prevent the attempt over the weekend. The guy was in his seat when he tried to light the explosive device. And the passenger who confronted him got out of his seat to do it.

[...]

TSA … equates hassle with safety. For all the crap they put us through, this guy still got some sort of explosive material on the plane from Amsterdam. He was stopped by law-abiding passengers. So TSA responds to all of this by . . . announcing plans to hassle law-abiding U.S. passengers even more.

If you’re really cynical, you could make a good argument that they’re really only interested in the appearance of safety. They’ve simply concluded that the more difficult they make your flight, the safer you’ll feel. Never mind if any of the theatrics actually work.

That’s one way of explaining how the cycle of terrorist act/government restriction/citizen agitation works. Or, you could say that al Qaeda is inside our OODA Loop. And we can’t seem to find an effective way to remove them.

Well, that’s not entirely correct. The best way we’ve found of dealing with terrorists is by taking the fight to them, and forcing them to fight for their own ground. When we did that, we severely disrupted their ability to form and execute new plans, and made it increasingly difficult for state-supporters to remain hidden or passive. Of course, our government still took the ridiculous, theatrical approach to safety at home anyway, so the system isn’t fool-proof. Essentially it’s Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy writ large in a place that’s not sanguine about a military presence, but where plenty of us will whine and moan if the theater doesn’t put the show on anyway (while remembering to annoying everyone equally, even if our business cards declare us to be soldiers for Allah). We put them on the defensive, and that’s right w.here they belong now.

Victor David Hanson predicts that we will see the Obama administration start heading that way in the near term, and perhaps it already has. I hope that’s right. Because taking our foot off the gas is not getting the job done. It just lets the enemy get back to steering our bus in the direction they want. Back inside our OODA Loop.


Riots In Iran: Obama Administration Gets A Second Chance

What do I mean by that?  Well, the first time this happened when the elections were disputed during the summer, the administration was anything but supportive of the dissenters.  In fact, while it engaged in a full-up diplomatic attack on Honduras for doing what its Constitution demands, the administration all but ignored the turmoil in Iran.

Of course the excuse given by apologists for the administration claim that the administration felt there was more to be gained by “engaging” the rogue regime vs. backing a movement that may actually see that regime toppled.  Obviously, given what has happened this week in Iran, those dissenting there haven’t been waiting on Obama’s blessing or support.  The movement has been simmering since the election and again violence against the regime has broken out in the streets of the country in a battle against the oppressive mullocracy.

At least eight anti-government protesters, including a nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Iran’s opposition leader, were shot dead yesterday as the smouldering confrontation between the regime and the so-called Green Movement finally erupted.

Early reports put the number of dead at five, but as clashes continued late into the night, Iranian state television reported that the number of dead had risen. A report on the website of state television put the number of dead as high as 15 and quoted the Ministry of Intelligence that more than 10 were members of “anti-revolutionary terrorist” groups.

The other five who reportedly died during the bitter clashes in the Iranian capital were killed by “terrorist groups,” Iranian TV claimed.

Analysts heralded the start of what could be a bloody endgame as hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters poured on to the streets of Tehran and other cities and fought running battles with the security forces. Opposition websites claimed that some policemen had refused to fire on demonstrators.

This isn’t something which is happening in some isolated city in Iran, or just Tehran for that matter – this is a movement that has gone national and is gaining support.

Question: Wouldn’t it be in our best interest and the best interest of the region and world if the current regime fell? Obviously there’s some “what if” to be done here, like “what if the replacement regime is worse”? Hard to imagine given the supposed agenda of those now rioting in the street, but it is certainly remotely possible. But it would seem to me to be a risk well worth taking given the present regime.

So, of all people, that brings us to Hillary Clinton, a speech she recently gave in Georgetown and a “put your money where your mouth is” moment.

Ms. Clinton said that the administration, “like others before us, will promote, support and defend democracy.” She pledged that it would publicly denounce abuses by other governments and support dissidents and civil society groups.

Really? Well, here’s your chance, Ms. Clinton. Here’s a chance to positively effect the lives of an oppressed people. Here’s a chance to help bring down an oppressive regime and actually “promote, support and defend democracy”. Here’s a chance to “publicly denounce” the abuses of the Iranian regime.

Imagine if you will, the effect of that regime actually falling. It would immediately have an effect in both Iraq and Afghanistan where our soldiers battle insurgents backed by the country. It would also have an effect on the greater middle east, removing one of the mainstays of support for both Hamas and Hezbollah. And it would kick one of the supports out from under other dictators, such as Hugo Chavez, who continues to make noises about acquiring “nuclear capabilities”.

In fact, enabling and supporting the dissident movement in Iran would be one of the smartest things we could do right now. Any distraction that puts Iran off its gain is a good distraction in terms of the rest of the world and specifically the US. Shouldn’t that be the overriding reason for our foreign policy – what is good for us? Isn’t it the job of our government to pursue that aim?

So what are these words from Clinton and the Obama administration? Empty platitudes or policy?

Over the next few weeks we should be able to make that determination as they react (or don’t) to the situation in Iran.

~McQ


Napalitano Concedes “System” Didn’t Work

Apparently what was clear to every other person in the land has just recently become obvious to our DHS Secretary:

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano conceded Monday that the aviation security system failed when a young man on a watchlist with a U.S. visa in his pocket and a powerful explosive hidden on his body was allowed to board a fight from Amsterdam to Detroit. The Obama administration has ordered investigations into the two areas of aviation security — how travelers are placed on watch lists and how passengers are screened — as critics questioned how the 23-year-old Nigerian man charged in the airliner attack was allowed to board the Dec. 25 flight. A day after saying the system worked, Napolitano backtracked, saying her words had been taken out of context. “Our system did not work in this instance,” she said on NBC’s “Today” show. “No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way.”

Taken out of context? The fallback claim of every yahoo caught saying something stupid or inane. In fact, there were any number of signals which should have had this guy shunted off to the side for a more thorough check – like the warning his father had given the US embassy.

Officials said he came to the attention of U.S. intelligence last month when his father, Alhaji Umar Mutallab, a prominent Nigerian banker, reported to the American Embassy in Nigeria about his son’s increasingly extremist religious views. In a statement released Monday morning, Abdulmutallab’s family in Nigeria said that after his “disappearance and stoppage of communications while schooling abroad,” his father reached out to Nigerian security agencies two months ago. The statement says the father then approached foreign security agencies for “their assistance to find and return him home.”

The family says: “It was while we were waiting for the outcome of their investigation that we arose to the shocking news of that day.”

Some questions:

How can a Muslim student, whose name appears on a US law enforcement database, be granted a visa to travel to America, allegedly acquire an explosive device from Yemen, a country awash with al-Qaeda terrorists, and avoid detection from the world’s most sophisticated spy agencies?

Every intelligence agency across the world is fully aware that the targets of choice for al-Qaeda and its numerous affiliates and sympathisers are airliners – preferably those flying to the US. Yet Abdulmutallab seems to have avoided detection in both Nigeria and Holland when he passed through the various security checks at Lagos and Schiphol airports respectively. [How? -ed.]

Embarrassingly for the Washington, Lagos airport had recently been given the “all clear” by the US’s Transportation Security Administration [Why? -ed.], an agency established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks which was supposed to improve the security on American airliners.

Bottom line – if you want to make security more effective without increasing the hassle factor for everyone, there is a solution: start profiling.

Yeah, that’s right – if you’re warring against the Mongols, you don’t go looking for Latvians. It’s time we started pulling the “Mongols” out of line and checking them thoroughly. For instance, had this guy undergone a check for explosives, they’d have gotten him early:

Security experts said airport “puffer” machines that blow air on a passenger to collect and analyze residues would probably have detected the powder, as would bomb-sniffing dogs or a hands-on search using a swab. Most passengers in airports only go through magnetometers, which detect metal rather than explosives.

If, as a matter of routine, such travelers were sent through such devices or checks, do you think it might further diminish the threat of such attacks and cause them to look for different venue for their attacks?  Might it also put pressure on Muslims everywhere, when singled out as a threat because of their common link to the terrorists,  to clean up their radical elements?

Instead, you can count on the Obama administration, via the TSA, to make the new and reactive rules both draconian and applicable to everyone and pretend the 800 lb. gorilla in the room doesn’t e. But real security doesn’t play “political correctness”. It identifies the threat as specifically as possible, details characteristics of those who comprise that threat and then focuses its limited resources on them. That isn’t what we do, and we know why. And that’s why guys like Abdulmutallab and Richard Reid find ways to get on aircraft with explosive devices.

~McQ