Sola's Note: I am posting this at the request of Dr. Steve Carol, a retired history professor and associate producer of the Middle East Radio Forum. Very worth reading and pondering.
By Barry Rubin
Radical forces in the Middle East have rewritten the international rulebook in a way designed so they can't lose. That is, there is no easy response to their behavior and strategies. Even more worrisome is the widespread failure in the West even to realize this is happening.
Hamas and Hizbullah fire from among civilians and use civilian homes for military purposes; Syria or Iran deploy disinformation; radical regimes pretend moderation, and there are plenty of suckers to take the bait.
Extremism makes many believe that kind words and concessions can transform them; intransigence produces the response that if they won't give up, we must do so.
HERE ARE some new rules in which "we" represents such disparate forces as Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran, Iraqi insurgents, al-Qaida, Syria, the Taliban and others, including radical Arab nationalists.
These forces are not all alike or allied, but do often follow a parallel set of rules quite different from how international affairs have generally been conducted.
1. We'll never give up. No matter what you do, we will continue fighting. No matter what you offer, we will keep attacking you. Since you can't win, you should give up.
2. We're indifferent to any pressure you put on us. We will turn this pressure against you. Against us, deterrence does not exist; diplomacy does not convince.The carrot cannot buy us off, nor the stick make us yield. There are no solutions that can end the conflict. You cannot win militarily, nor make peace through diplomacy.
3. If you set economic sanctions, we'll say you are starving our people in an act of "collective punishment." Moreover, sanctions will cost you money and generate opposition among those who lose profits.
4. In response to military operations, we'll attack your civilians. Casualties will undermine your internal support. We will try to force you to kill civilians accidentally. We won't care, but will use this to persuade many that you are evil. Thus we will simultaneously murder your civilians and get you condemned as human rights violators.
5. If you try to isolate us we will use your own media and intellectuals against you. At times, we will hint at moderation and make promises of change. We won't do so enough to alienate our own followers, but enough to subvert yours. They will demand you engage us, which means you making concessions for nothing real in exchange.
6. Talking to our own people, we will foment hatred and demonize you. Speaking to the West, we will accuse you of fomenting hatred. We will hypocritically turn against you all the concepts you developed: racism, imperialism, failure to understand the "other," and so on. These concepts, of course, describe what we are doing, but your feelings of guilt, ignorance about us, and indifference to ideology will make you fail to notice that fact.
7. We will claim to be victims and "underdogs." Because you are stronger and more "advanced," that means you are the villains. We are not held responsible for our deeds, or expected to live up to the same standards. There will be no shortage of, to quote Lenin, "useful idiots" in your societies to help echo our propaganda.
8. Since our societies are weak, undemocratic and have few real moderates, you will have to make deals with phoney moderates and dictatorial regimes weakened by corruption and incompetence.
9. Even the less radical regimes, often our immediate adversaries, partly play into our hands. Due to popular pressure — plus their desire to mobilize support and distract attention from their own shortcomings — they trumpet Arab and Islamic solidarity. They denounce the West, blame all problems on Israel and revile America, even as they accept your aid. They glorify interpretations of Islam not too far from ours. They cheer Iraqi insurgents, Hizbullah, and Hamas. They don't struggle against Iran getting nuclear weapons. They lay the basis for our mass support and recruits.
10. There is no diplomatic solution for you, though you yearn to find one. There is no military solution for you, whether you try that or not. You love life, we love death; you are divided, we are united; you want to get back to material satisfaction, we are dedicated revolutionaries.
We will outlast you.
Finally, our greatest weapon is that you truly don't understand all the points made above. You are taught, informed, and often led by people who simply don't comprehend what an alternative, highly ideological, revolutionary world view means.
In effect, we will try, and will often succeed, to turn your "best and brightest" into the worst and dimmest who think you can persuade us, who blame you for the conflicts, or expect that we will alter our course. We will use those mistakes against you.
THE ABOVE analysis seems pessimistic, but is actually the opposite. Most of this strategy's power is based on spreading illusions, depending on gullibility. Much of the rest relies on the enemy's psychological weaknesses.
In a sustained conflict, the radicals' technological and organizational weaknesses, along with their mistaken assessments and unrealistic ideology, will bring inevitable defeat. They will lose even if they never surrender. They can kill people, but not overcome societies determined to grow, prosper, and survive.
The keys to a successful response are steadfastness and understanding. To paraphrase Francis Bacon and Franklin Roosevelt, there is nothing to fear but fear — and gullibility — itself.