Tuesday, March 02, 2010

leverage from a high profile kidnapping

Let's say I'm presently opposed to the U.S./NATO escalation of the war in southern Afghanistan. They're currently in the process of ousting Taliban remnants from the town of Marjah in the Helmand Province. I suppose once this phase of the operation is complete they'll set their sights on the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. Hopefully then, Obama will enter into some kind of negotiations with the Afghani government and finally call for a troop withdrawal. I'm slightly optimistic that major combat operations will cease and we'll retain our bases there even though we're widely despised. People fail to realize that Afghanistan is an incredibly xenophobic country. If the citizens of Iraq hate us; trust me, the Afghanis truly loathe us.

I suppose we could have a debate on the merits of clearing out towns in southern Afghanistan as it relates to protecting our collective freedom in the United States. Personally, I barely see any correlation. But then again, I'm hardly an expert on the topic. I do know that our present commander in the region is Stanley McChrystal. That probably puts me in the 2% of the U.S. population who pay any attention to the war. I'm wondering what percentage of the U.S. population could give a rudimentary explanation for the surge in Afghanistan. Bush would sometimes say, "You're either with us or against us." Kudos - great motto. Hey, at least he didn't have to scribble it on his hand. And I've never seen Obama offer up anything concrete. The best I've heard so far goes like this...

Al Qaeda was originally given sanctuary by the Taliban. If the Taliban can reemerge as a dominant force in the Afghan government, they'll welcome back Al Qaeda and they'll use this region as a safe haven to plan and facilitate attacks against the United States homeland. I think about half of U.S. voters could make this argument. There's a degree of reason and it's a simple concept to grasp. Of course, you could make a better argument that an Al Qaeda group in Yemen or Pakistan could function just as easily (probably more effectively with better access to technology). Americans have a particularly naive, insular view of this. After having repeatedly been exposed to the Jihadist camps and their sophisticated training methods (the infamous monkey bars and some kind of white-robed game of leap frog), we know there are evil-doers who wish to do us harm. After all, they hate us because they hate our freedom. Perhaps the biggest crock of shit ever sold to an ever-increasingly gullible population. Once again, I digress.

So what's my point? My point is that the majority of American voters DO NOT CARE about the war in Afghanistan unless they have a loved one who's presently serving. Some are concerned about its impact on the U.S. deficit. But most U.S. voters feel that even if they vehemently oppose the war, they just can't do anything to stop it. And more troubling, a greater number of Americans neither have the attention span nor the desire to be informed. Typical.

So what can you do? Write a blog about it? Most blogs have an average readership of 2. And one of them is the person who writes the damn thing. So that probably won't yield favorable results. How about holding up a sign at a major intersection? It's the old "read my sign because I'm a dread locked hippie and haven't bathed in 3 days approach." People could honk their horns as you bask in the glow. Hopefully, the mental satisfaction derived could have a slight cleansing effect. Good job - you made quite an impact near Value City in South Wheeling on a Tuesday afternoon.

But what could you really do? It probably depends on just how far you're willing to take it. How much do you believe in the cause? And what constitutes an effective way of making your point. Here's what I would suggest. I would kidnap the granddaughter of an owner of a successful NFL team. Amber alerts would certainly be issued as such a story would tug at the heartstrings of mainstream America. Then I would anonymously send a list of POLITICAL demands to the team's headquarters. This would constitute an unusual precedent. Using a high profile kidnapping as a means of political extortion. You could threaten severe bodily harm unless your demands our met. I would start with issuing threats if team practice sessions were held and I'd increase my bargaining position with automatic forfeit of upcoming games. Eventually, I'd move my demands into the political arena. I'd commence with political demands that I know are already under consideration by the current administration. Keeping the demands realistic is critical as it would ensure credibility.

This would wreak havoc all over the place. An attack on a sports franchise, its fans and all the related gambling interests as well as tons of local jobs and revenue while the fate of a young girl is held in abeyance. All of a sudden, large amounts of the population have been impacted. And its more than that because you've stolen the news cycle. Kind of like a Chandra Levy/Gary Condit, but way more powerful because the ransom is an innocent young girl.

Considering the prevalence of kidnapping as a means of financial extortion, is it not reasonable to assume that at some point it could grow more sophisticated? We live in a world of 4th generation warfare. Asymmetric tactics and the mere threat of system disruptions are commonplace abroad. It's only a matter of time before some group with an agenda (you can call them terrorists, if you wish) decide to exploit the ongoing news cycle.

The vast majority of Americans have 2 things in common - they have virtually no attention span and don't give a fuck about what happens outside the continental United States. Well, the limited attention span dilemma has been removed. And all of a sudden, the war in Afghanistan has a tangible effect. Peoples routines have been disrupted. This is a valid way to exact change through unrelated means. Who was the philosopher that said, "There's only one rule in war - There are no rules."

Of course the scenario I devised is totally revolting. Is it unfathomable though? I don't think so. Kidnapping is big business across the border in Mexico. I think it's just a matter of time before some person or group commits a single kidnapping of an unlikely child in an attempt to reign in what they perceive to be greater, more institutional atrocities. If you can keep it in the news cycle, you'll have made your case. The abduction of a small child w/ the prospect for imminent harm and the ensuing demands would keep the story alive and relevant. If you're able to dominate the news cycle with no visibly clear end game, you have achieved a tangible victory. And here's the most important contention - your agenda has successfully displaced both the combined offensives in Marjah and Kandahar. How's that for 4th generation warfare transaction costs?


Anonymous said...

Are you that ignorant? The reality is that we owe the people of Afghanistan something.
it's not just about the 'selfish' needs of the U.S. It sometimes is about doing the right thing. Do you rememebr how the Taliban destroyed spiritual art? (500 year-old statues with dynamite)


Do you remember how they treated the people there? (especially the woman and children?


Sometimes, just sometimes the right people sacrifice for the right reasons.

maybe people like you, who have never sacrificed a rice cake should work harder to see through their own vanity and self idolatry.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your perspective and the fact that you provided links to substantiate your views. I'm well aware of the oppression of women under the Taliban regime. I'm also familiar with the horrific treatment they face in Saudi Arabia and much of the Muslim world. You could make a similar argument for going to war in Sudan, Nigeria, and a plethora of countries in central Africa over concerns of the disgusting practice of "female genital circumcision." If your basis for going to war is womens rights issues in the third world, the U.S. military is in for a long haul. I believe the dominant mission of the U.S. military should be to defend OUR country. Nation building and liberating others, particularly in regions where we're despised is a futile and costly endeavor.

Regardless, here's the point I was trying to make. I think you missed it. The manner in which the U.S. fights wars and has attained victory in previous wars is incredibly outdated. The specific battles, like the taking of Marjah, Afghanistan could be rendered worthless by the news cycle. Our military could spend 50 million on a specific operation and "liberate" a city from the oppressive Taliban - but this has no staying power in the news cycle.

Isolated systemic disruptions will be the prevalent in waging successful fourth generation warfare (more on the defensive side). If you can control the portrayal of your message in the media, you'll win. Money spent, land taken, lives lost are becoming an increasingly poor barometer for measuring victory.

Think about it - The manner in which Bush defined "victory" in Iraq was complete nonsense. Most wars fought for socio-politcal engineering are doomed before they are undertaken.

In retrospect, the kidnapping scenario I threw out was not a good one. I was just trying to come up with a realistic scenario that would have staying power and not fade from the news cycle. SAF