Terrorism: Specific Terror That Works

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Mon, Oct 27 - 9:00 am EDT | 3 years ago by
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    Lines of Departure - Specific Terror

    To understand specific terror, it might be well to think of yourself as the target. You have annoyed someone, or someone – a very large and collective someone, a someone with a cause that matters to him – wants you to do something, or refrain from doing something, and is willing to go to pretty extreme measures to get your cooperation. I am not talking here of some infinitely tiny and ineffectual group that has sent you a note. I mean here a group that has grown large enough to demonstrate over and over again that they mean what they say, they can do what they say they will, they will do it, ruthlessly, and they are competent enough to get away with it. Additionally, you may assume they are hard to identify, and the police are fairly or completely helpless here, perhaps because co-opting the police was their first campaign.

    Extreme? Well, we’ll give benefit of the doubt and assume you’re gutsy enough that shooting you is no big deal, and – I am sure you’ll agree – will in no way guarantee your cooperation. Bombing, too, we’ll say, is a case of, “meh?” But what if they never shoot anyone? What if they rarely use bombs? Beheading? “Dude; that’s so Seventh Century! We prefer First Century.”

    What if, instead, they’ve demonstrated that they burn or roast or boil alive. They crucify. They do the death of 1000 cuts. They stake over ant hills. What if your neighbor’s 13-year-old daughter was taken on her way from school, raped for the video cameras, and then impaled. “If only he’d done us the little favor we’d asked of him…”

    What if they’re really quite clever and understand that you are the target, but that the best way to reach you is not directly through you?

    And then you get a note, asking for some small favor, yourself. It’s accompanied by a couple of pictures of your daughter. One shows her hanging by her arms, with her arms behind her, her feet bicycling so fast, just a few inches above the floor, that they’re a blur. The other is a close up of her face, and it is a study in primal agony. The note, of course, directs you not to bother going to the police, because they’re suborned, anyway, and your bad faith will mean a very large sharpened stick up your kid’s vagina until it comes to rest against the roof of her mouth. And it assures you that she’s no longer hanging by her arms, but is awaiting her ultimate fate in a comfy little soundproof closet. Further, it tells you that, once your cooperation is given, she’ll be let go, not much the worse for wear, and they won’t even rape her.

    Precedent says they’re telling the truth.

    You, of course, stand on principle. You refuse to cooperate. You demand…

    My ass; you demand nothing; you do whatever they say. You may be brave. Anyone may be brave. But there are people we love and we cannot stand for them to be hurt. Through human history this decision has been faced over and over and one thousand times over. And nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand (yes, of course, I pulled that number out of my ass; it’s probably a higher percentage), a normal, or even an abnormally brave, human being cooperates.

    Security? Yeah… ummm, no. You have an economic life your daughter also depends on. You have to go places and do things. You cannot guard and you are not going to be seen as important enough to guard, in a world of limited resources.

    The President’s family; they’ll be guarded 24/7. We could guard every member of Congress, the Supreme Court – to include their clerks, every general officer, every colonel, every mayor of a city over one hundred thousand, every chief of police… and all their family members. But we cannot guard you and yours.

    One notes, parenthetically, that during the Vietnam War, we used to sneer a lot, we Americans, at the South Vietnamese. Among the reasons to sneer was the alleged frequency with which they cooperated with the enemy. I am sure it happened. But that’s what they faced, day in, day out. Maybe some of our sneers were misplaced.

    That all, however, as I mentioned, is a very extreme form of specific terror. Few would ever experience it. Few would ever have to, because once the terrorist organization has demonstrated that kind of reach and that kind of ruthlessness, often enough, and with impunity enough, they don’t have to take your kid. They don’t have to go after you. They just have to tell you what they want and you will give it to them.

    We also tended to sneer at the Latins – our sneering egged on by the press, the same press which has such an important role to play in making specific terror effective – and the vicious dictatorships that sprang up down there in the last century, and at the heavy handed wars they waged, seemingly against their own citizens. College students disappeared! Poets tortured and killed! Legitimate political opposition stifled!

    Again, my ass. The Latins were ultimately facing just this kind of problem, aided and abetted – indeed, carried out – by college students, encouraged by left wing poets, at the behest of out of power leftist politicians, and they knew it. I’ve been told by someone in a position to know, that Peru’s Sendero Luminoso, the Maoist “Shining Path” group, liked to tie cords tightly around tongues, the resulting swelling causing slow suffocation. It may not be as graphic as crucifixion, but it has simplicity and efficiency going for it.

    The time to stop that kind of terror is, of course, before it starts, before it has the kind of reach that few can feel safe from it, before they’ve infiltrated and suborned the police and military so badly that there’s no recourse in them. That’s also something the Latins understood. Unfortunately, rule of law and stopping that kind of terror do not necessarily go hand in hand. Sometimes – Northern Ireland comes to mind – they do go together. Even so, one notes that the law had to bend over more than once for necessity, even in Northern Ireland and even with the very legalistic British police and military.

    Sometimes, however, they don’t. Sometimes, to stop this kind of thing before it becomes unstoppable, you have to disappear the very kinds of people the Latins did. Sometimes, indeed, you have to use the very same kind of terror you’re fighting. And often you must be indiscriminate.

    In our particular case, I rather hope it never comes to that. Our most likely candidates for this kind of terrorist problem are ethnic and religious. And with those the problem has such a head start on growing to the level of uncontrollable, and identification of terrorists becomes so difficult, that genocide will at least be considered, and may be carried out.

    The law? Silent leges inter arma: Faced with arms, the law is silent.

    Next week, the other reliable kind or terror, genocidal.

    Don’t miss last week’s column: When Specific Terror Isn’t.

    Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from Amazon.com for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through baen.com.

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      • Justin Watson

        To be fair, we haven’t tried, capture, torture, exploit data, kill, capture, torture, exploit data, kill on the terrorists we do find. Not systematically and not efficiently. I think we should at least try that before we go committing indiscriminate genocide.

        • AussieTom

          I think that’s next week’s topic.

          This week is about how criminal elements use specific terror to get what they want from individuals and groups of individuals. What Tom hasn’t spoken about is how a state actor could use specific terror against groups, especially if it can’t identify who they are and who supports them.

          Or perhaps an example of state action specific terror is drone strikes: i.e. if you spend any time near an Al Qaeda #2 then expect to be vaporised along with him. Of course the effectiveness of that campaign would be increased by a decision to ignore borders and extend down to Al Qaeda #867.

        • Tom Kratman

          I don’t think drone strikes really arise to the level of specific terror, ordinarily.

        • Ori Pomerantz

          Having your loved ones killed quickly by a drone is a lot less terrorizing than having them tortured to death. Is that what you mean?

        • Tom Kratman

          That, and that there is something more terrifying about it being personal, maybe somewhat in the same way as bayonets are scarier (for most people) than bullets.

        • akulkis

          Very true. I utterly abhor whoever decided that bayonet training should be removed from Basic Training.

          It’s been found in Afghanistan that the best way to keep detainees and captured HVT’s in line is for the guards to put a bayonet on his rifle or carbine. The tought of getting shot in the back and having a traumatic lung-ectomy doesn’t bother them nearly so much as the tought of getting 5-6 inches of cold steel into the abdomen or throat.

        • http://www.simplesurvival.us/ Cincinnatus

          In Iraq we found that we got much more cooperation on raids when we had bayonets fixed. It became SOP in my Cavalry Troop to fix bayonets before we started kicking down doors on a raid.

        • Tom Kratman

          It scares people, In general. There’s a medic with a couple of tours who hangs on on Baen’s Bar who has a funny story about n Iraqi truck driver running a stop sign through all kinds of firepower but who stopped _immediately_ when said medic pulled his pistol. Why? Personal guess is that pistols are carried by _authority_, which has authority for summary execution.

        • Tom Kratman

          I commend to anyone interested the writings of Ardant du Picq. He explained what the bayonet is mostly about, and for the rest, think of it not as a killing instument in a man to man fight – hardly ever happens – but as a terrorizing instument because of the way they really are used, finishing off the wounded.

        • Jason75

          That’s mentioned in On Killing, isn’t it? The close kill, the personal one, is both the one that people take most personally, and the one that is the hardest for the individual to enact.

          Bombing and artillery fire might be the most destructive forms of warfare, but they lack the intimate brutality of close quarters combat. It is easy to drop a bomb, but also easy to endure bombing because there’s nothing personal in it.

        • Tom Kratman

          Dave Grossman addesses it, but it’s been known for a very long time. VERY long.

        • AussieTom

          I didn’t make my point very well. Drone strikes could be used for specific terror strikes. (They aren’t now, especially when you’re government goes out of its way to avoid civilian casualties.)

          I think you’re missing out on the suddenness and apparent god-like ability to strike from above without warning. i.e. 1 minute you’re at a wedding with your strange uncle who is back from Afghanistan and the next the area is a giant fireball with dead & dying. Meanwhile your president is on the TV confirming that the gloves are off and all who associate with their terrorist enemies will be terrorised in return.

        • Tom Kratman

          I understand, but for it to be effective specific terror it has to work. I don’t see much in the way of indicators that drone strikes work, as tools of terror or counterterror, even where we _have_ gotten familiy members. Admittedly, our disgusting tendency to apologize for collateral damage we ought to be crowing over probably doesn’t help here.

        • Kristophr

          Target the mullahs recruiting for AQ as well.

        • Tom Kratman

          You’ve got a tough calc to make when this is standing in the wings. Genocide should certainly be our last course of action, _in_preference_. But a) we don’t always get our preferences while b), a Lidice or two beats industrialized death.

        • Justin Watson

          It is tough, and I actually think we’re likely to stumble into a genocidal (or near genocidal) response because of our unwillingness to countenance a much lower degree of brutality now. But then again, you’ve written books on this.

        • Kristophr

          I’ve always felt that the fastest way to put an end to islamic terror is to start targeting extremist mullahs for reprisals. Give enough of them impromptu flying lessons from helicopter doors, and they might take a hint.

          But reprisals are scary, dontcha know?

        • Tom Kratman

          Assuming we were going to do that, we ought remember that mullahs are not necessarily, indeed are probably not, cowards. In other words, forget them; you must target their families, their _extended_ families. If you, meaning society, lack the will and ruthlessness to do that and to keep it up, better not to start and just go with genocide, which is, at least, over and done with in fairly short order.

        • Rick Randall

          Precisely. You would have to single out a few, exterminate their entire lines in gruesome manner (feeding feet first into logchippers, say), and do a significant mutilation (say, complete castration) on the mullahs so targeted, in order to reliably establish your bona fides as a solid, “do not f### with me, dude,” kind of force before you could start relying on the terror.

          And I’m not ready for that, yet.

        • akulkis

          Target their women…especially unmarried daughters. That, more than anything, will make them go ape-shit.

          And at the same time, we can say, they’re in “Protective Custody” so that tey won’t be in the cross-fire when we come back for dear old dad.

          And since the Muslims consider age 13 to be “of age,” they are legitimate targets.

          As for the mullahs… no, throwing them from helicopters won’t work.
          The solution is the one used by Blackjack Pershin when facing Muslim guerillas in the Phillipines –
          Mass execution — followed by pigs/hogs being allowed to forage from the bodies. Make sure they spend several hours with the bodies, so that they defecate among the remains, too. All except for ONE survivor, who is let go to spread the word of what fate will befall those who fight us.

          The Mullah’s don”t fear physical death… no problem … just go along with their belief system, and use what is most terrifying in THAT belief system — defilement by porcine creatures.

        • Tom Kratman

          That will work with some of the more primitive and superstitious ones; the ones where Islam is a shoddy and somewhat weak grafting on an ancient, non_Islamic culture. With others it will not work in the slightest.

          Here’s your clue; go find an Arab graveyard in a village and ask someone where their great grandfather is buried. They will not know. The graveyard will have all kinds of unmarked stones with bodies – well, bones, anyway – underneath, but they don’t worry about it overmuch because the body is just dross. The important part, the soul, is already with God.

        • Jack Withrow

          Sir, the Mullah’s I had dealings with over there struck me as welcoming martyrdom. It was as if they were actually courting it, just daring anyone to kill them.

        • Tom Kratman

          Yeah. Makes me want to hurl everytime I hear some ignorant politician (Lord, forgive us our redundancies) say something like, “Cowardly terrorists.” They can be criticised for many things, but cowardice is not usually among them.

      • Jack Withrow

        I always thought the example the Soviets (KGB) made of some of the idiots in Beirut in IIRC 82 when they kidnapped some Soviet Diplomats was the best example of specific terror in the modern era.

        • Tom Kratman

          It’s a very _good_ example, anyway. But I chose this way of presenting it to make people understand.

        • Jack Withrow

          Fair enough. Now the challenge is getting it through peoples’ heads that specific terror works and works well. Also in the long run, it can save many lives.

        • KenWats

          Couple this with the knowledge that the only really effective arab militaries are tribe based and do we get something resembling a useful (if ruthless) strategy? Ie, you’ll stop supporting the Islamic State because we will begin executing the heirs of your tribe. We’ll never do it.

        • Jack Withrow

          I have been told effective Arab Militaries exist, but I have yet to see one personally. They may be effective standing up to their own disarmed citizens in a riot situation, but when has one been effective standing up against a professional Western Army? The ANA could not find its private parts with both hands and a map. The Iraqis were little better from what I could tell. I do not have a good opinion of any Arab Army. IMO we are wasting our time trying to train any Arab Army. I am more and more convinced the Crusaders had the right idea: “Kill them all, God will know his own.” I believe it is high time for a dose of genocide in the Middle East, maybe the survivors will learn to behave as a civilized culture after the fact.

        • Tom Kratman

          The Arab Legion is fair. It used to be a lot better, under Brit officers. Because Brits are inherently brighter? No. Because they’re not bound by the web of tribal and clan alliances.

        • akulkis

          That certainly worked on the Germans and Japanese. The survivors of WW2 were thoroughly pacified.

        • http://www.simplesurvival.us/ Cincinnatus

          Actually, the “Kill them all, for God will surely know his own” quote comes from the Albigensian Crusades in southern France and not the Crusades in Outremer. The sentiment however, is very apt regarding today’s Muslims.

        • KenWats

          Fair enough, I should know to parse my words better. Strike “really effective arab militaries” and replace with “somewhat effective arab militaries”? ;)

      • Douglas Brown

        No. Once you have threatened me and mine, you’re dead as is everyone and everything you’ve ever loved. Once you bend to a threat, the effectiveness of the threat is validated. At that point, everyone you have cared for becomes a target, and perhaps the next group is not as honorable as the first. No. Done. Invest in salt.

        Perhaps, as my wife loves to suggest, I really am a high functioning sociopath.

        • Eric McLaughlin

          Kaiser Soze light, maybe.

        • Tom Kratman

          Only if you know who it is, Doug. You won’t. If they thought you knew who they were, you would probably go first, then the family, to make sure.

        • Justin Watson

          Yeah, the colonel’s right. You may be a bad motherfucker, but that may not be enough.

        • Tom Kratman

          It’s funny, or would be were it not tragic, how rarely people really think about the details of how bad it can be and how hard it can be to fight.

        • Rick Randall

          I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m not strong enough to “stand firm” against that kind of pressure.

          Let me get mine to a point of security (even if it means I have to geek for the freaks for a while to get then back), and we’ll talk extermination feud. But not while my loved ones are still plausibly at risk.

        • Tom Kratman

          That’ll work for a couple of people, after which they’ll start taking hostages against future good behavior. Good for you, for a while, if you can get your family away first. Really tough, though, if you’re late doing it. And, then how do you support and guard them when they’re safe and you’re still trying to earn a living?

        • akulkis

          True. IF you send them out of hte country for their safety.. and then leave, so that you won’t be separated… the terrorists have, in fact, won.. by driving an opponent out of the country.

          Revenge must be done with as much or even better OPSEC than what the terrorists themselves use. You have to hit, hit quickly, hit hard, leave just as quickly, and leave them wondering WHO hit them, because if they find out who hit them, your entire family will be killed eventually.

          Covert chemical attacks (gas, skin agents, poisons) can create MUCH confusion.

        • http://www.simplesurvival.us/ Cincinnatus

          I have had that conversation with my wife as well. She thinks I am weird because of my stated position that I would go on a killing rampage against the family of anyone who threatens my own family.
          I think what really scares her is that I am a combat vet and have no problems killing people that deserve it.

        • Tom Kratman

          But you still need actionable intel, C. Otherwise, that doesn’t work.

        • http://www.simplesurvival.us/ Cincinnatus

          Actionable intel is the hard part. I would assume that were something to happen to a family I would t least know which group had targeted them. That would be a starting point and if I could not find the responsible individual I might just settle for destroying the entire group.

        • Tom Kratman

          You may not even know that. Perhaps it’s Moslems and they control the press enough to invariably get it blamed on Jews, or perhaps it’s Jews or Christians controlling the press to blame Moslems.

        • James

          Or perhaps It’s the Muslims blaming the jews but perhaps its also the jews blaming the muslims or if your arab its both at the same time.

          That way of thinking makes my head hurt.

      • Drang

        I am enjoying these articles. Perhaps “enjoying” isn’t the word, I dunno, I’m just a dumb retired NCO.
        But you keep making points I made, or tried to make, in sociology classes in the 70s, so maybe it is…

        • Tom Kratman

          I assure you, I do not LIKE seeing the world clearly and without the filter of sentiment or sensitivity.

      • Joe Bond

        “We could guard every member of Congress, the Supreme Court – to include
        their clerks, every general officer, every colonel, every mayor of a
        city over one hundred thousand, every chief of police… and all their family members. But we cannot guard you and yours.”

        SCOTUS and the House and Senate leadership definitely, but that’s about all that could be protected given past experience of who the RAF and IRA were able to attack.

        • Rick Randall

          Even then, all we’d really be guarding them against is the extended torture porn deaths. Still vulnerable to straight up killing.

        • Tom Kratman

          Yes, but even that would be better.

        • Tom Kratman

          Wrong calc in a couple of ways. One is that the Germans and Brits hardly militarized at all to deal with the ‘Ra and RAF, compared to what they could have done, and there were few enough _successful_ attacks that, as discussed earlier, nobody was much deterred or persuaded to do or refrain from doing anything. If we had to, we’d come up with a million guards for the purpose. The police would get to be even less appropriate as police than to many of them are now, but we could come up with the guards.

        • akulkis

          Italiy’s “Red Brigades” (who, in fact, never had enough members to even put an entire squad together…) and the Red Army Faction are both studies in utter futilty.

        • Tom Kratman

          Oh, they probably did; those poster presses didn’t run themsel…Oooooo, you mean actual _fighters_. Probably not.

      • akulkis

        Here in Michigan, the entire city of Dearborn has become problematic, to say the least.

      • http://www.simplesurvival.us/ Cincinnatus

        Specific terror is used so often because it works. That is why it is used by both political and criminal groups. Unfortunately, modern Western civilization does not have the stomach to do what it takes to forestall this kind of terror.

        • Tom Kratman

          Thing is, lately it has not been used too often.

        • http://www.simplesurvival.us/ Cincinnatus

          From reading news reports, I get the impression that the Mexican drug cartels are using it quite often and quite effectively in the border provinces.

        • TexasStomp

          Based on news reports for the past 10 years, you can’t stick a shovel in the ground anywhere in Mexico without hitting a mass grave site. Found another one this week. Who knows how many thousands of Mexicans are killed every year by gangs, gov’t, federales, local leos or anyone with a gun who’s all out of peanut butter and bored. I’m an advocate of population control but seems a bit extreme even for a third world shitehole. :O

        • http://www.simplesurvival.us/ Cincinnatus

          I recently read a news story that claimed there are some towns in Mexico that he police and army have essentially written off and refuse to enter because it is too dangerous. It seems to to me that a combination of specific and general terror has worked quite well in Mexico.

          General terror seems to also have worked quite well in getting the French police to stay out of certain Muslim majority banlieues. A few yeas ago I was in Epinal, France to lead the firing party at the Memorial day observance at the American military cemetery there and asked the local police about that when we stored our weapons with them and they confirmed it.

        • Tom Kratman

          In Europe, that’s not really random or general terror; that’s orders from politicians and bureaucrats to the police to not cause trouble lest those (dare I say it?! I dare) multiculturally sensitive, which is to say treasonous, souls’ pet philosophies be shown for the societal HIV they are.

        • Tom Kratman

          On my list to do a book about that, actually.

        • Tom Kratman

          DIdn’t say “never.” And yes, there’s a good example.

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