Pick a Perp, Any Perp
Knowing thy enemy is half the battle
Pick a Perp, Any Perp
by Steve Dupree
There is an old joke that I was reminded of this morning. A sadist and a masochist meet at a party. The masochist says, “Beat me, beat me!” The sadist looks at the masochist coldly and says, “No!”
If you can’t understand that joke, there may be no reason to read farther. At least get someone to explain it to you. It is relevant to my thinking for my recent column about the national response to IX/XI [“Little Bully,” Dec. 1]. This time, I shall attempt to make things more clear than I apparently did last time.
First, some facts that I find hugely important:
• On 9/11 we were not attacked by a nation.
• On 9/11 we were not attacked by a religion.
• On 9/11 we were not attacked by an ethnicity.
• On 9/11 we were attacked by a self-selected group whose membership was multi-national.
• According to official U.S. government reports, of the 19 known hijackers, 15 of them were citizens of Saudi Arabia, two were citizens of the Union of Arab Emirates (UAE), one was Egyptian, and one was Lebanese.
• The hijackers received much of their training to handle aircraft in the air in flight schools in the United States.
No doubt you have by now noticed the lack of Afghanistan and Iraq on the list. No doubt you have noticed the large presence of Saudi citizens on the list. Another thing I might point out, though you doubtless know already, is that the hijackers knew what they were getting ready to do. They planned their own violent deaths months in advance.
As I indicated in my previous column, I was pissed off about the attacks, and I wanted the perps to pay. What I wasn’t was wildly and irrationally angry at an entire genre of people, most of whom had no more to do with the planning or execution of the attacks than did I. It took a while for the thought to form in a way that I could explain it, but I knew that for us, this represented a new kind of threat—something that would have to be handled in a relatively new way.
Planning to fight your next battle as though it were going to be a repeat of the battle you just fought is one of the more frequent mistakes made by military commanders throughout history. It has happened once more. We responded to that attack as though it were a nation that had attacked us. We even picked a nation and made them the whipping boy, and when that wasn’t satisfactory enough, we picked another. We simultaneously said that we were going to treat a concept, a military tactic, terror, as though it were a nation and declare war on it. As anyone could have predicted, those things were politically very popular initially. The knee jerk response of “hurt somebody” or “do something, even if it is wrong” was prevalent throughout the nation. However, it wasn’t my response.
I got very calm and cold and rational. I wanted a series, however many it took, of surgical strikes and operations that would absolutely remove the cancer that caused the deaths of my countrymen, and I wanted it to be done in such a way that allowed for two things: 1) plausible, if unconvincing, deniability that we had done anything other than the previously mentioned food and clothing drop, and 2) the instillation of terror in the hearts of any of those who might have been sympathetic to the cause and were potential future operatives against us.
Instead, we showed them that if they simply train in a country other than their own and receive funding from citizens of a variety of nations, then their friends, relatives and countrymen will have nothing to worry about should the United States retaliate for an act of a self-selecting terror group.
One critique I heard struck me as very valid. I have no idea of such operations as the CIA may have carried out. However, if such operations have been carried out, they failed to meet the second of my criteria stated above, as our government claims that there are still active terror threats out there that are being interdicted (unless they are lying to us about those recent successes).
Still, the basic idea remains valid. I wanted to hurt the perps. Others wanted something to be done that they could feel good about. That is the basic difference between us. It isn’t whether one loves the nation more or who is more of a patriot. I wanted, and still want, a high degree of specificity as to whom the punishment was meted out. I also understand the concept of cultural difference and think that threatening folks, who are prepared to blow themselves up in any of several fashions, with death is counterproductive. In a fight, the idea is to do things that hurt your opponent. They could possibly be things that hurt you as well, but they may not be. This is why the first maxim of combat is to know your opponent. Understand, the criminals were not Americans in funny hats; they were of a significantly different culture than us.
Only a fool would neglect to take that into consideration when planning to fight them.