Saturday, October 20, 2007

"The Five Front War"

Daniel Byman directs the Security Studies Program and the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University. He is a Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and also served on the 9/11 Commission. He regularly writes about terrorism and the Middle East for the Washington Post, Slate, and other publications.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book The Five Front War: The Better Way to Fight Global Jihad, and reported the following:
From page 69:

One of the most effective forms of defense is domestic intelligence: identifying suspicious individuals and carefully monitoring their activities.

Domestic surveillance of U.S. Muslim and Arab communities, which would be the communities from which al-Qa’ida would recruit and its sympathizers would emerge, may backfire in the end. Surveillance and official hostility may lead these communities, which for now are well integrated into U.S. society, to see a gap between being a Muslim and being an American.

So far, the United States has not thought about homeland defense — and about other aspects of the “war on terrorism” from a strategic point of view. The dilemma mentioned on p. 69 is a classic problem in counterterrorism. Stepping up government monitoring of a particular Arab-American or Muslim-American individual or group is necessary where there is a specific and well-founded suspicion of wrongdoing. But blanket measures usually produce little of value while alienating large swathes of the community. A few members might see this as justification for violence, but the biggest and most predictable effect is that the community as a whole no longer sees the police as its friend. If they do notice something suspicious, they do not trust the government to handle it properly. So far, many of the big breaks in domestic terrorism arrests have involved just this sort of community support. Losing it would be disastrous.

Beyond homeland security, there are many programs that are valuable for tactical reasons, such as renditions, targeted killings, and aid to dictatorships that can create more anger in the long-term. Terrorists exploit this anger to attract recruits and money, and publicized abuses lead vital allies to shrink from open cooperation with the United States. To be clear, such programs are at times necessary, but the day-to-day rewards must always be balanced with the longer-term picture in mind. The Five Front War uses such a perspective to evaluate key American’s struggle against militant jihadists, paying particular attention to homeland security, intelligence, the use of the military, information strategies, the promotion of democracy, alliances, and the situation in Iraq.
Read an excerpt from The Five Front War and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue