(via Tigerhawk) The New York Times has an article detailing some of the non-combat counterterrorism tactics being employed by the United States against Al Qaeda.
The article itself isn’t as openly hostile to the Bush administration as other New York Times pieces have been, but I perceived a bias meant to foster in the reader a sense that more traditional police counterterrorism methods (and some utilized in the Cold War era) are equal or preferable to the military solution. That isn’t to say that the methods mentioned in the article aren’t interesting or shouldn’t be used to their full ability, but toward the end of the article the Times admits that it is almost impossible to quantify the effectiveness of these strategies. You don’t have to quantify whether or not someone has been rendered moot if they are dead, just ask Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
This nugget is buried toward the bottom of the first page:
In some ways, government officials acknowledge, the effort represents a second-best solution. Their preferred way to combat terrorism remains to capture or kill extremists, and the new emphasis on deterrence in some ways amounts to attaching a new label to old tools.
So if you’re going to read the piece, please keep that in mind. The best terrorist remains a dead terrorist.
Some of the details on page 3 about the subtle efforts to pump up anti-jihad clerics and voices in Islam are quite interesting.
Efforts are also under way to persuade Muslims not to support terrorists. It is a delicate campaign that American officials are trying to promote and amplify – but without leaving telltale American fingerprints that could undermine the effort in the Muslim world. Senior Bush administration officials point to several promising developments.
Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul Aziz al-Asheik, gave a speech last October warning Saudis not to join unauthorized jihadist activities, a statement directed mainly at those considering going to Iraq to fight the American-led forces.
And Abdul-Aziz el-Sherif, a top leader of the armed Egyptian movement Islamic Jihad and a longtime associate of Mr. Zawahri, the second-ranking Qaeda official, has just completed a book that renounces violent jihad on legal and religious grounds.
Such dissents are serving to widen rifts between Qaeda leaders and some former loyal backers, Western and Middle Eastern diplomats say.
“Many terrorists value the perception of popular or theological legitimacy for their actions,” said Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser. “By encouraging debate about the moral legitimacy of using weapons of mass destruction, we can try to affect the strategic calculus of the terrorists.”
On the whole, it’s worth a read if you can get past the little anti-administration digs and inaccuracies. If you are curious, an example of a misleading statement is the Times describing Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as being “a largely Iraqi group with some foreign leaders.” Al Qaeda in Iraq is not largely Iraqi; it is almost wholly made up of foreign fighters according to State Department reports and intercepted fighters entering Iraq. The Times would like for it to be largely Iraqi so as to perpetuate the belief in an unwinnable Iraqi civil war.