Tag Archives: TERRORISM

Of Guns At Home, And Guns Abroad

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Box cutters (top) were banned from aircraft after 9/11, and Reapers (bottom) were sent around the world to hunt down terrorists. But homegrown terrorists have easy access to AK-47s (middle). (Photo illustration by Mark Thompson, U.S. ATF, USAF)

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO)” By Mark Thompson

“The gun and terrorism issues show markedly different approaches to vexing problems.

Congress demands the Pentagon hunt down and kill every terrorist—and adds billions to its budget to do just that. But it refuses to lift a (trigger) finger to curb domestic terror like that which occurred Sept. 30 in Las Vegas. These mass firearm murders have become an itch that must be scratched.”


“My father hunted deer with his 30.06 deep in the woods of Maine, and taught me and my brothers how to shoot. I helped teach my two sons to shoot in the wilds of New Hampshire. But when you combine all-but-unrestricted access to near-automatic firearms with suicidal shooters, there needs to be a reckoning.

I embrace the Second Amendment, and I don’t want guns banned. I think I am like most Americans in this regard.

Congress has become increasingly pusillanimous during my nearly 40 years in Washington. Despite talk, they have refused to cut the deficit, reform entitlement programs, or fix the zany tax code. This week, we entered our 17th year of war in Afghanistan without lawmakers declaring war. So why should we expect them to do anything about their constituents slaughtering other constituents?

As a reporter for nearly 50 years, I’m pretty much of a First Amendment absolutist. OK: no shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, but that’s about it. That’s barred because—get this—it could lead to people getting hurt, or maybe even killed, in a stampede. But you can’t mow down innocent people by shouting vile epithets at them from the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel.

Why are my staunch Second Amendment-backer friends so opposed to even the most common-sense measures to curb the gun violence in our midst? Do we really need semi-automatic weapons, huge magazines, suppressors—more commonly known as silencers—or “bump stocks,” a legal firearm option used in the Nevada massacre that all but turns semi-automatic weapons into machine guns?

Walmart and Cabela’s, two of the nation’s leading firearm retailers, apparently stopped selling bump stocks following the massacre. That’s sure to impress 58 families. And Congress hasn’t ruled out doing something about bump stocks. Such courage! Even the National Rifle Association broke its typical silence following such shootings to acknowledge such faux machine-gun devices might warrant restrictions. That’s a tentative, but tiny, step in the right direction.

Believing in the fundamental right to bear arms is a long way from the lust for personal firepower that has grown in this country since I was a kid. Why do so many gun advocates and their NRA allies have such a Pavlovian response to any suggestion that the nation needs to get a handle on this scourge? The notion that additional restrictions will inexorably lead to confiscations or bans is a black-and-white mindset in a gray world.

There are 89 guns in this country for every 100 people (No. 2 is Yemen, currently waging civil war, at 55). But 3 percent of American adults own half those guns (78 percent of Americans don’t own a firearm). Americans also possess an estimated 48 percent of the globe’s 650 million guns in civilian hands (that makes the Pentagon, which accounts for about 37% of global defense spending, look like a relative bargain).

One 2015 accounting noted that all of the nation’s wars killed 1,396,733 Americans…while 1,516,863—9 percent more—have been killed by guns, just since 1968. A Gallup survey earlier this year showed that 55 percent of Americans wanted tougher gun-control laws, with only 10 percent wanting them loosened. But that 10 percent, bolstered by more than $4 million in NRA campaign contributions to congressional candidates since 1998, has given the gun lobby unparalleled clout on Capitol Hill.

That’s led to some bizarre etymological debates. Joseph Lombardo, the Las Vegas sheriff, was asked if Stephen Paddock’s 58 murders were an act terrorism. “No, not at this point,” he said. “We believe it was a local individual.” That suggests the post-9/11 fear-mongering has worked, and that one must be an “other” to be a terrorist. A pathetic man can rake 22,000 people from high up in a nearby hotel, killing 58 and wounding nearly 500 more…and none (in charge) dare call it terrorism?

Some of my anti-gun friends say the Second Amendment was the Founding Fathers’ original sin. No, that’s not right either. A sound and fair Second Amendment makes sense for a nation spawned by those shrugging off the yoke of tyranny by force of arms.

But Second Amendment backers also have to acknowledge that the Founding Fathers had no inkling of modern firearms, and the NRA’s death grip on Congress. If the recent conservative embrace of “originalism” in interpreting the Constitution and its amendments means anything, it means that the Founders were familiar with Brown Bess muskets and Pennsylvania rifles, not AK-47s and the NRA.

The nation rightly goes to great lengths to prevent its men and woman in uniform from dying on the battlefield. U.S. taxpayers spent $50 billion on 25,000 Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles that the Pentagon rushed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many by air, to shield U.S. troops from $100 roadside bombs. The flip side of that fact is just as critical: we will spend billions—no, make that trillions—to track down a relatively few terrorists no matter where on the globe they’re hiding. We hurl $2.4 billion B-2 bombers and grim MQ-9 Reapers around the world, along with the cream of our young, to find them and wipe them out.

But our federal government won’t do a damn thing to halt homegrown mass murder. Both terrorists and murderers are vile scum, but what accounts for our skewed priorities?

An annual “Survey of American Fears” (is this a great country, or what?) by California’s Chapman University helps put this into perspective. Government corruption ranked #1 (60.6 percent of those surveyed said they were “afraid or very afraid” of it) in 2016. Terrorism was #2, cited by 41 percent, slightly higher than the 38.5 percent who feared “government restrictions on firearms and ammunition.” Interestingly, in light of that concern, “people I love dying” ranked 6th, at 38.1 percent, edging out the 35.5 percent who feared “The Affordable Health Care Act/Obamacare.”

Experts say fears can be irrational because our brains have evolved to make speedy judgments, fueled by emotion, that may have made sense in the past but no longer do. “Our biases reflect the choices that kept our ancestors alive,” neuroscience journalist Maia Szalavitz has written. “But we have yet to evolve similarly effective responses to statistics, media coverage, and fear-mongering politicians.”

Box cutters were turned into blades of mass destruction on Sept. 11, 2001. They were used by 19 Islamic terrorists to hijack four airliners and kill 2,977 innocents. Forty-eight hours later, before post-9/11 flights resumed, the U.S. government barred them from U.S. commercial aircraft.

No one asked that the handy tool be banned elsewhere. In fact, I just bought a nifty ceramic-bladed model to help me slice up all the Amazon boxes that arrive at my house each week. But banning box cutters from commercial air travel was a necessary step in dealing with the violence they enabled.

The same logic needs to apply to guns. Of course tighter restrictions won’t end firearm violence. But few want to abolish the Second Amendment. They just want reasonable, responsible restrictions to curb the carnage. Such limitations, well beyond banning bump stocks, are coming. The only question is how many more will have to die first.”

Photo of Mark Thompson

By: Mark Thompson, National Security Analyst

Mark Thompson writes for the Center for Defense Information at POGO.

http://www.pogo.org/straus/issues/military-industrial-circus/2017/of-guns-at-home-and-guns.html

 

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A Different Path to War

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“WAR ON THE ROCKS”

“Americans today enjoy a measure of safety that our ancestors would envy and that our contemporaries do envy.

We generally do not need to wage war to keep it that way.

On the contrary, some recent wars have degraded the U.S. military and undermined our security. Policymakers should therefore be extremely reluctant to risk American lives abroad.

The U.S. military is the finest fighting force in the world; it comprises dedicated professionals who are willing and able to fight almost anywhere, practically on a moment’s notice. Any military large enough to defend our vital national security interests will always be capable of intervening in distant disputes. But that does not mean that it should. Policymakers have an obligation to carefully weigh the most momentous decision that they are ever asked to make. These criteria can help.

Any nation with vast power will be tempted to use it. In this respect, the United States is exceptional because its power is so immense. Small, weak countries avoid fighting in distant disputes; the risk that troops, ships, or planes sent elsewhere will be unavailable for defense of the homeland generally keeps these nations focused on more proximate dangers. The U.S. government, by contrast, doesn’t have to worry that deploying U.S. forces abroad might leave America vulnerable to attack by powerful adversaries.

There is another factor that explains the United States’ propensity to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy: Americans are a generous people, and we like helping others. We have often responded favorably when others appeal to us for assistance. Many Americans look back proudly on the moments in the middle and latter half of the 20th century when the U.S. military provided the crucial margin of victory over Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and the Soviet Union.

But, in recent years, Americans have grown more reluctant to send U.S. troops hither and yon. There is a growing appreciation of the fact that Washington’s willingness to intervene abroad – from Somalia and the Balkans in the 1990s, to Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s, to Libya and Yemen in the present decades – has often undermined U.S. security. We have become embroiled in disputes that we don’t understand and rarely can control. Thus, public anxiety about becoming sucked into another Middle Eastern civil war effectively blocked overt U.S. intervention in Syria in 2013, notwithstanding President Obama’s ill-considered red line warning to Bashar al Assad.

But while the American people are unenthusiastic about armed intervention, especially when it might involve U.S. ground troops, most Washington-based policy elites retain their activist instincts. They believe that U.S. military intervention generally advances global security and that the absence of U.S. leadership invites chaos. The essays in this series, “Course Correction,” have documented the many reasons why these assumptions might not be true. The authors have urged policymakers to consider other ways for the United States to remain engaged globally – ways that do not obligate the American people to bear all the costs and that do not obligate U.S. troops to bear all the risks.

But the authors do not presume that the United States must never wage war. There are indeed times when it should. Policymakers should, however, keep five specific guidelines in mind before supporting military intervention, especially the use of ground troops. Doing so would discipline our choices, would clearly signal when the U.S. military is likely to be deployed abroad, and could empower others to act when the United States does not.

Vital U.S. National Security Interest at Stake

The United States should not send U.S. troops into harm’s way unless a vital U.S. national security interest is at stake. Unfortunately, the consensus in Washington defines U.S. national security interests too broadly. Protecting the physical security of the territory of the United States and ensuring the safety of its people are vital national security interests. Advancing U.S. prosperity is an important goal, but it is best achieved by peaceful means, most importantly through trade and other forms of voluntary exchange. Similarly, the U.S. military should generally not be used to spread U.S. values, such as liberal democracy and human rights. It should be focused on defending this country from physical threats. The military should be poised to deter attacks and to fight and win the nation’s wars if deterrence fails.

The criterion offered here is more stringent, for example, than the Weinberger-Powell Doctrine, which held that U.S. troops should not be sent overseas “unless the particular engagement or occasion is deemed vital to our national interest or that of our allies.” By effectively equating U.S. national interests with those of our allies, it allowed for a range of interventions that would not be considered automatically valid under the guidelines spelled out here.  Policymakers should not risk the lives of U.S. troops to protect others’ interests as though those interests were our own.

Clear National Consensus

The American people must understand why they are being asked to risk blood and treasure and, crucially, they must have a say in whether to do so. The U.S. military should not be engaged in combat operations overseas unless there is a clear national consensus behind the mission.

Although modern technology allows constituents to communicate their policy preferences easily, traditional methods are just as effective in ascertaining whether the American people support the use of force. We should rely on the tool written into the Constitution: the stipulation that Congress alone, not the president, possesses the power to take the country to war.

As Gene Healy notes in this series, Congress has regularly evaded its obligations. Although the U.S. military has been in a continuous state of war over the past 15 years, few in Congress have ever weighed in publicly on the wisdom or folly of any particular foreign conflict. Some now interpret Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty or United Nations Security Council resolutions as obligating the United States to wage war without explicit authorization from Congress. This is unacceptable. The president may repel attacks against the United States, but the authority to deploy U.S. forces abroad, and to engage in preemptive or preventative wars of choice, resides with Congress — and by extension the people — of the United States.

Understanding of the Costs—and How to Pay Them

We must also understand the costs of war and know how we will pay them before we choose to go down that path. We cannot accurately gauge popular support for a given military intervention overseas if the case for war is built on unrealistic expectations and best-case scenarios. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is certainly no such thing as a free war.

Deficit spending allows the federal government to pretend otherwise. Politicians make promises, with bills coming due long after they’ve left office. But we should expect more when it comes to the use of force. Advocates for a military intervention should be forced to frame their solution in relation to costs and benefits. The debit side of the ledger includes the long-term costs of care for the veterans of the conflict. Hawks must also explain what government expenditures should be cut – or taxes increased – to pay for their war. The American people should have the final say in choosing whether additional military spending to prosecute minor, distant conflicts is worth the cost, including the opportunity costs: the crucial domestic priorities that must be forgone or future taxes paid.

Clear and Obtainable Military Objectives

We cannot compare the costs or wisdom of going to war if we do not know what our troops will be asked to do. The U.S. military should never be sent into harm’s way without a set of clear and obtainable military objectives.

Such considerations do not apply when a country’s survival is at stake. But wars of choice — the types of wars that the United States has fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere — are different. Advocates for such wars must demonstrate not only that the fight is necessary to secure vital U.S. interests, that it has public support, and that it has funding, but also that the military’s mission is defined and attainable.

Military victory is rarely sufficient, however, as our recent wars and interventions demonstrate. In the case of regime-change wars, ensuring that a successful transition to a stable, friendly government occurs can take a considerable amount of time and resources. Whatever replaces the defeated forces must represent a marked improvement in order for the war to advance U.S. vital interests. U.S. leaders, therefore, must not only define the military objective, but also detail what the resultant peace will look like, and how we will know the mission is complete.

It is easy for Washington to start wars, but we cannot leave U.S. troops on the hook for ending them. Policymakers must account for the tendency of war to drag on for years or more, and they must plan for an acceptable exit strategy before committing troops.

Use of Force as a Last Resort

The four criteria above are not enough to establish a war’s legitimacy, or the wisdom of waging it. After all, modern nation-states have the ability to wreak unimaginable horror on a massive scale. That obviously doesn’t imply that they should. Thus, the fifth and final rule concerning military intervention is force should be used only as a last resort, after we have exhausted other means for resolving a foreign policy challenge that threatens vital U.S. national security interests.

This point is informed by centuries-old concepts of justice. Civilized societies abhor war, even those waged for the right reasons while adhering to widely respected norms, such as proportionality and reasonable protections for noncombatants. War, given its uncertainty and destructiveness, should never be entered into lightly or for trivial reasons.

America has an exceptional capacity for waging war. U.S. policymakers therefore have a particular obligation to remember that war is a last resort. Precisely because no one else is likely to constrain them, they must constrain themselves.

Conclusion

U.S. foreign policy should contain a built-in presumption against the use of force. That does not mean that war is never the answer, but rather that it is rarely the best answer. Americans today enjoy a measure of safety that our ancestors would envy and that our contemporaries do envy. We generally do not need to wage war to keep it that way. On the contrary, some recent wars have degraded the U.S. military and undermined our security. Policymakers should therefore be extremely reluctant to risk American lives abroad.

The U.S. military is the finest fighting force in the world; it comprises dedicated professionals who are willing and able to fight almost anywhere, practically on a moment’s notice. Any military large enough to defend our vital national security interests will always be capable of intervening in distant disputes. But that does not mean that it should.”

New Rules for U.S. Military Intervention

Military Victory is Dead

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“MODERN WAR INSTITUTE AT WEST POINT”

“Victory’s been defeated; it’s time we recognized that and moved on to what we actually can accomplish.

We’ve reached the end of victory’s road, and at this juncture it’s time to embrace other terms, a less-loaded lexicon, like “strategic advantage,” “relative gain,” and “sustainable marginalization.”

A few weeks back, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Harvard Professor Steven Pinker triumphantly announced the peace deal between the government of Columbia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC). While positive, this declaration rings hollow as the exception that proves the rule – a tentative treaty, however, at the end, roughly 7,000 guerrillas held a country of 50 million hostage over 50 years at a cost of some 220,000 lives. Churchill would be aghast: Never in the history of human conflict were so many so threatened by so few.

One reason this occasion merited a more somber statement: military victory is dead. And it was killed by a bunch of cheap stuff.

The term “victory” is loaded, so let’s stipulate it means unambiguous, unchallenged, and unquestioned strategic success – something more than a “win,” because, while one might “eke out a win,” no one “ekes out a victory.” Wins are represented by a mere letter (“w”); victory is a tickertape with tanks.

Which is something I’ll never see in my military career; I should explain. When a government has a political goal that cannot be obtained other than by force, the military gets involved and selects some objective designed to obtain said goal. Those military objectives can be classified broadly, as Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz did, into either a limited aim (i.e. “occupy some…frontier-districts” to use “for bargaining”), or a larger aim to completely disarm the enemy, “render[ing] him politically helpless or military impotent.” Lo, we’ve arrived at the problem: War has become so inexpensive that anyone can afford the traditional military means of strategic significance – so we can never fully disarm the enemy. And a perpetually armed enemy means no more parades (particularly in Nice).

Never in the history of human conflict were so many so threatened by so few.

It’s a buyer’s market in war, and the baseline capabilities (shoot, move, and communicate) are at snake-belly prices. Tactical weaponry, like AK-47s are plentiful, rented, and shipped from battlefield to battlefield, and the most lethal weapon U.S. forces encountered at the height of the Iraq War, the improvised explosive device, could be had for as little as $265. Moving is cost-effective too in the “pickup truck era of warfare,” and reports on foreign fighters in Syria remind us that cheap, global travel makes it possible for nearly anyone on the planet to rapidly arrive in an active war zone with money to spare. Also, while the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba shut down the megacity Mumbai in 2008 for less than what many traveling youth soccer teams spend in a season, using unprotected social media networks, communication has gotten even easier for the emerging warrior with today’s widely available unhackable phones and apps. These low and no-cost commo systems are the glue that binds single wolves into coordinated wolf-packs with guns, exponentially greater than the sum of their parts. The good news: Ukraine can crowdfund aerial surveillance against Russian incursions. The less-good news: strikes, like 9/11, cost less than three seconds of a single Super Bowl ad. With prices so low, why would anyone ever give up their fire, maneuver, and control platforms?

All of which explains why military victory has gone away. Consider the Middle East, and the recent comment by a Hezbollah leader, “This can go on for a hundred years,” and his comrade’s complementary analysis, that “as long as we are there, nobody will win.” With such a modestly priced war stock on offer, it’s no wonder Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agrees with the insurgents, recently concluding, of the four wars currently burning across the region, the U.S. has “no prospect” of strategic victory in any. Or that Modern War Institute scholar Andrew Bacevich assesses bluntly, “If winning implies achieving stated political objectives, U.S. forces don’t win.” This is what happens when David’s slingshot is always full.

The guerrillas know what many don’t: It’s the era, stupid. This is the nature of the age, as Joshua Cooper Ramos describes, “a nightmare reality in which we must fight adaptive microthreats and ideas, both of which appear to be impossible to destroy even with the most expensive weapons.” Largely correct, one point merits minor amendment – it’s meaningless to destroy when it’s so cheap to get back in the game, a hallmark of a time in which Wolverine-like regeneration is regular.

This theme even extends to more civilized conflicts. Take the Gawker case: begrudged hedge fund giant Peter Thiel funded former wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the journalistic insurrectionists at Gawker Media, which forced the website’s writers to lay down their keyboards. However, as author Malcolm Gladwell has pointed out – Gawker’s leader, Nick Denton, can literally walk across the street, with a few dollars, and start right over. Another journalist opined, “Mr. Thiel’s victory was a hollow one – you might even say he lost. While he may have killed Gawker, its sensibility and influence on the rest of the news business survive.” Perhaps Thiel should have waited 50 more years, as Columbia had to, to write his “victory” op-ed? He may come to regret the essay as his own “Mission Accomplished” moment.

True with websites, so it goes with warfare. We live in the cheap war era, where the attacker has the advantage and the violent veto is always possible. Political leaders can speak and say tough stuff, promise ruthless revenge – it doesn’t matter, ultimately, because if you can’t disarm the enemy, you can’t parade the tanks.”

Military Victory is Dead

 

“Jig Saw” – Google’s Plan to Stop Aspiring ISIS Recruits

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“WIRED”

“Perhaps one of world’s most dangerous problems of ignorance and indoctrination can be solved in part by doing what Google does best:

Helping people find what they most need to see.

Google has built a half-trillion-dollar business out of divining what people want based on a few words they type into a search field. In the process, it’s stumbled on a powerful tool for getting inside the minds of some of the least understood and most dangerous people on the Internet: potential ISIS recruits. Now one subsidiary of Google is trying not just to understand those would-be jihadis’ intentions, but to change them.

Jigsaw, the Google-owned tech incubator and think tank—until recently known as Google Ideas—has been working over the past year to develop a new program it hopes can use a combination of Google’s search advertising algorithms and YouTube’s video platform to target aspiring ISIS recruits and ultimately dissuade them from joining the group’s cult of apocalyptic violence. The program, which Jigsaw calls the Redirect Method and plans to launch in a new phase this month, places advertising alongside results for any keywords and phrases that Jigsaw has determined people attracted to ISIS commonly search for. Those ads link to Arabic- and English-language YouTube channels that pull together preexisting videos Jigsaw believes can effectively undo ISIS’s brainwashing—clips like testimonials from former extremists, imams denouncing ISIS’s corruption of Islam, and surreptitiously filmed clips inside the group’s dysfunctional caliphate in Northern Syria and Iraq.

“This came out of an observation that there’s a lot of online demand for ISIS material, but there are also a lot of credible organic voices online debunking their narratives,” says Yasmin Green, Jigsaw’s head of research and development. “The Redirect Method is at its heart a targeted advertising campaign: Let’s take these individuals who are vulnerable to ISIS’ recruitment messaging and instead show them information that refutes it.”

The results, in a pilot project Jigsaw ran early this year, were surprisingly effective: Over the course of about two months, more than 300,000 people were drawn to the anti-ISIS YouTube channels. Searchers actually clicked on Jigsaw’s three or four times more often than a typical ad campaign. Those who clicked spent more than twice as long viewing the most effective playlists than the best estimates of how long people view YouTube as a whole. And this month, along with the London-based startup Moonshot Countering Violent Extremism and the US-based Gen Next Foundation, Jigsaw plans to relaunch the program in a second phase that will focus its method on North American extremists, applying the method to both potential ISIS recruits and violent white supremacists.

An Antidote to Extremism’s Infection

While tech firms have been struggling for years to find countermeasures to extremist content, ISIS’ digital propaganda machine has set a new standard for aggressive online recruitment. Twitter has banned hundreds of thousands of accounts only to see them arise again—manymigrating to the more private service Telegram—while other services like YouTube and Facebook have fought an endless war of content removal to keep the group’s vile beheading and immolation videos offline. But attempts to intercept the disaffected young Muslims attracted to that propaganda and offer them a counternarrative—actual protection against the group’s siren song—have mostly amounted to public service announcements. Those PSA series have included the U.S. State Department’s campaign called Think Again, Turn Away and the blunt messaging of the cartoon series Average Mohammed.

Those campaigns are likely only effective for dissuading the audience least indoctrinated by ISIS’s messages, argues Green, who’s interviewed jailed ISIS recruits in Britain and defectors in an Iraqi prison. “Further down the funnel are the people who are sympathetic, maybe ideologically committed, maybe even already in the caliphate,” says Green. “That’s Jigsaw’s focus.”

To capture the people already drawn into ISIS’ orbit, Jigsaw took a less direct approach. Rather than create anti-ISIS messages, the team curates them from YouTube. “We thought, what if the content exists already?” says Green. “We knew if it wasn’t created explicitly for this purpose, it would be more authentic and therefore more compelling.”

Testing the Theory

Jigsaw and two partners on the pilot project, Moonshot CVE and the Lebanese firm Quantum Communications, assembled two playlists of videos they found in both Arabic and English, ranging from moderate Muslim clerics pointing out ISIS’s hypocrisy to footage of long food lines in the ISIS’s Syrian stronghold Raqqa.

Another video in Jigsaw’s playlist shows an elderly woman excoriating members of ISIS and quoting the Koran to them:

Jigsaw chose more than 1,700 keywords that triggered ads leading to their anti-ISIS playlists. Green and her team focused on terms they believed the most committed ISIS recruits would search for: names of waypoints on travel routes to ISIS territory, phrases like “Fatwa [edict] for jihad in Syria” and names of extremist leaders who had preached ISIS recruitment. The actual text of the search ads, however, took a light-touch approach, with phrases like “Is ISIS Legitimate?” or “Want to Join ISIS?” rather than explicit anti-ISIS messages.

Measuring the actual effects of the campaign in dissuading ISIS recruits isn’t easy. But Jigsaw and its partners found that they at least captured searchers’ attention. The clickthrough rates on some of the ads were more than 9 percent, they say, compared with averages around 2 or 3 percent in the average Google keyword advertising campaign. They also discovered that the hundreds of thousands of searchers spent a total of half a million minutes watching the videos they collected, with the most effective videos getting as much as 8 minutes and 20 seconds average viewing time.

But Could It Work?

Jigsaw’s program is far from a comprehensive solution to ISIS’s online recruitment, says Humera Khan, the executive director of the Islamic deradicalization group Muflehun. She points out that both Google and Facebook have trained anti-extremism non-profits in the past on how to use their keyword advertising, though perhaps without the deep involvement in targeting, curating and promoting video Jigsaw is trying. More importantly, she argues, attracting ISIS sympathizers to a video playlist is only the first step. “If they can hook people in, can they keep them coming back with new and relevant content? That’ll be important,” says Khan. Eventually, any successful deradicalization effort also needs human interaction, too, and a supportive community backing up the person’s decision to turn away from extremism. “This sounds like a good piece of the solution. But it’s not all of it.”

From a national security perspective, Jigsaw’s work raises another glaring question: Why not target would-be ISIS recruits for surveillance and even arrest instead? After all, intercepting ISIS sympathizers could not only rescue those recruits themselves, but the future victims of their violence in terrorist attacks or genocidal massacres in ISIS’s bloody sphere of influence. On that question, Jigsaw’s Green answers carefully that “social media platforms including YouTube have a responsibility to cooperate [with] the governments’ lawful requests, and there are processes in place to do that.” Translation? Google likely already helps get some of these people arrested. The company, after all, handed over some data in 64 percent of the more than 40,000 government requests for its users’ data in the second half of last year.

But Green says that the Redirect Method, beyond guiding ISIS admirers to its videos, doesn’t seek to track them further or identify them, and isn’t designed to lead to arrests or surveillance, so much as education.  “These are people making decisions based on partial, bad information,” says Green. “We can affect the problem of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State by arming individuals with more and better information.” She describes the campaign’s work as a kind of extension of Google’s core mission “to make the world’s information accessible and useful.”

Google’s Clever Plan to Stop Aspiring ISIS Recruits

 

 

Homeland Security Must Manage Risk – Not Events

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“THE HILL”

“The department’s mitigation programs, relationships with states and localities, and emerging analytic capability make it the ideal hub for a risk management mission.

The DHS isn’t doing its job because it doesn’t know what its job is.

Rather than combating terrorism, the department should refocus its mission around combating risks of all kinds.

It was created as a mishmash of 22 disparate agencies in the rush to respond to the Sept. 11 attacks. Congress and the president created the department with the explicit mission of preventing terrorism, but they included unrelated agencies that needed a home, while other important terrorism- or disaster-related agencies were left out.

Today, the department’s management spends much of its precious time responding to the headline of the day across multiple missions of protecting the border, preparing for natural disasters, and managing airport screeners. Its frontline employees don’t fare any better — the agency routinely tops the list of worst places to work in government. Fortunately, the department can do better. Public administration scholars have found that one of the best ways to improve job satisfaction is to make missions and goals more clear and less ambiguous.

Fixing the department requires jettisoning the holding company model and leaving the job of curbing terrorist threats to the Department of Justice, which houses the FBI. Without terrorism at the center, the agency can refocus on assessing and reducing an array of risks for natural and technological disasters. For any particular threat, such as terrorism or hurricanes, risk is a function of the probability of the threat multiplied by the potential consequences.  That sounds simple enough, but if done correctly it could transform how we prepare for disasters and make the country safer.

Right now, the DHS manages siloed programs to prepare for many different kinds of threats. But it is difficult to prioritize investments across different threats over time. A reformed department would compare the risks posed by hurricanes, forest fires, tornadoes, radiological “dirty bombs,” and cyber attack. Some defenses, such as concrete barriers, can reduce the damage caused by both floods and terrorism. The department could also assess risks over time. Investing in mitigation, or reducing the damage caused by disasters before they happen, is cheaper than coming to the rescue after a disaster. A report from the Multihazard Mitigation Council found that mitigation saves society an average of $4 saved for every $1 spent. It is difficult to convince politicians and department leaders to spend  money on mitigation, however, because they cannot easily take credit for helping to prevent a disaster that never happened, or that might not happen on their watch.

The DHS’ disaster management arm, FEMA, already offers grants to states and localities to build mitigation programs. But these programs are modest, and FEMA employees make up less than two percent of the department. Extending the mission of FEMA’s modest mitigation directorate would reorient the department around illustrating what risks society faces and what investments would reduce them. There is much work to be done. Convincing cash-strapped jurisdictions to spend money on mitigation requires evidence that the cost is worth it.

Some department officials say that they are already doing risk management. When compared with the careful forecasts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the exhaustive reports of the General Accountability Office, however, DHS products come up short. Building on analytic capacity from other agencies and the privacy sector could make the DHS the government face for information about risk.

For all the complaints that cities make about the department, the DHS has closer ties to cities and states than do most of the expert science agencies in the federal government. DHS border agents work closely with state and local police, and FEMA operates grant programs with every state and many counties. The department’s connections to the street level could be significantly enhanced with a sharper focus on risk management that leverages these existing relationships.

A reinvigorated DHS would leave chasing terrorists to better equipped agencies, jettisoning the ostensible reason for the department’s creation. Its new and expanded mission of assessing, illustrating, and reducing risks of disasters of all kinds is better suited for the 21st century. The world may not be more dangerous than it was in the last century, but it is more complex.”

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/homeland-security/294132-a-new-mission-for-homeland-security-managing-risk?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EBB%2009.02.16&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief

U.S. Designates Cyber Attack Lead Agency

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“DEFENSE ONE”

“For years there has been confusion about who does what when hackers hit the homeland. Not anymore.

Justice Department is squarely in charge of responding to cyberthreats against the United States, under a presidential directive issued Tuesday.

At the same time, the Homeland Security Department will immediately help agencies and companies, if requested, stanch the bleeding from a hacker assault on networks, or “assets,” President Barack Obama said.

Justice will take the lead in “threat response” or investigating a system attack on site, identifying the perpetrator and breaking up attack operations because foreign adversaries often are involved.

In view of the fact that significant cyberincidents will often involve at least the possibility of a nation-state actor or have some other national security nexus, the Department of Justice, acting through the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, shall be the federal lead agency for threat response activities,” the directive states.

The latest data breach pinned on a foreign country, this time Russia, leaked Democratic National Committee emails in what some foreign policy experts say was a ploy to influence the presidential elections or the next administration’s policies.

This presidential policy directive sets forth principles governing the federal government’s response to any cyber incident, whether involving government or private sector entities,” Obama says in the rules signed July 26.

In a Tuesday statement, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson acknowledged: ”I am often asked ‘who’s responsible within the federal government for cybersecurity? Who in the government do I contact in the event of a cyberincident?’”

Now, the so-called U.S. Cyber Incident Coordination presidential directive “clarifies the answer to these questions,” Johnson added.

DHS’ role is providing technological help and figuring out what other organizations might be at risk, among other things.

Johnson explained asset response “involves helping the victim find the bad actor on its system, repair its system, patching the vulnerability, reducing the risks of future incidents, and preventing the incident from spreading to others.”

In addition, DHS and Justice will produce “a fact sheet” with instructions on how private individuals and organizations can contact relevant agencies about a hack attack.

The director of national intelligence’s job will be to assist in aggregating analysis of threat trends, along with helping “to degrade or mitigate adversary threat capabilities.”

The military will be responsible for dealing with threats against its own Department of Defense Information Network. Likewise, theDNI will handle incidents that impact the intelligence communityIT environment.

First Things First

Whichever federal agency first learns of a cyberincident “will rapidly notify other relevant federal agencies in order to facilitate a unified federal response and ensure that the right combination of agencies responds to a particular incident,” the directive says.

Obama expects DHS to write, within the first month of the next administration, what he is calling a “National Cyber Incident Response Plan” that addresses attacks against private-sector networks.”

http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2016/07/obama-finally-decides-whos-charge-if-or-when-america-comes-under-cyberattack/130257/?oref=defenseone_today_nl

The U.S. ISIS Mission is Combat Not Training

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“MILITARY TIMES”

“The U.S. now has 300 troops in Syria, where the fight against ISIS is intensifying.

The Pentagon  is sending more troops to Iraq, boosting the total number there to more than 4,000.  Calling it a training mission is cold comfort to the parents, spouses and children of the deployed troops.

When U.S. and allied troops are on Islamic State turf with the mission of wiping it from existence, they are on a combat mission.  Calling it anything else is wrong.

Where those fights are being waged, American forces are targets from the moment they arrive. That they are tasked to train local forces to defeat ISIS and other enemies makes U.S. forces all the more vulnerable.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter had his chairman’s back, also telling lawmakers the U.S. troops were killed in combat.

“Why,” Sullivan asked during the back and forth, “can’t we level with the American people” and say that U.S. troops in harm’s way in the Middle East are in combat?

Why indeed.

Tragically, the danger facing American personnel in Iraq and Syria were made clear again on Tuesday, when Navy SEAL Charlie Keating was killed on a quick-reaction mission to aid U.S. military advisers under attack by large, coordinated ISIS force.

Carter has tried to defend the administration’s position on troops deployed in the fight against ISIS, saying that although troops have been killed in combat, the mission was to train and equip local forces so they can repel the terrorist group without U.S. support.

That’s a valid if extremely challenging strategy, one driven by numerous realities. Not the least of those is the American public’s weariness with sending its men and women into combat after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, which remain volatile despite great sacrifices of life and treasure.

But the administration is trying to have it both ways and appear to be keeping the U.S. out of war while steadily building up forces in the region, increasing the number of troops deployed to combat zones, dropping bombs on enemy forces and, when necessary, engaging them in direct action.

The Pentagon has even created an Operation Inherent Resolve campaign medal for troops who have deployed as part of the mission to crush ISIS.

Where those fights are being waged, American forces are targets from the moment they arrive. That they are tasked to train local forces to defeat ISIS and other enemies makes U.S. forces all the more vulnerable.

The more the White House insists these troops are not part of a combat mission, the more distrust it breeds in the ranks and among the public. It’s viewed as the sort of condescending semantics Washington plays to deny the obvious. That can serve only to erode support for the mission.”

http://www.militarytimes.com/story/opinion/2016/05/05/military-times-editorial-islamic-state-combat-mission-iraq-syria/83992554/

 

 

Feds Unlock Phones Chasing Drugs Not Terrorism

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“WIRED”

“As of last count, fully 89 percent of wiretap orders in the US were used in drug cases.

Of the total of 41 cases in which the ACLU could determine the crime that caused the Department of Justice to demand access to a device, 17 were related to drugs, compared to just one known case of terrorism: the San Bernardino case.

Until the FBI  backed down from its battle with Apple over accessing the iPhone 5c of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, it seemed the agency had chosen a near-perfect case on which to make its stand against encryption. By refusing to write software to help law enforcement crack Farook’s phone, Apple was made to look like it was defending an indefensible terrorist.

But as the public learns more about the other investigations in which the feds have demanded Apple or Google help crack their phones’ security, it now looks like the government has made those decryption demands far more often while fighting a more pedestrian sort of crime: drugs.

On Tuesday the ACLU released the results of its digging through court records, seeking information about any cases in which the feds had used the All Writs Act to ask that Apple or Google assist in accessing data on locked phones or tablets. It found that since 2008, there have been at least 63 of those cases across the country, showing that Apple’s standoff with the FBI was about more than “one iPhone,” as FBI director Jim Comey had argued.

And in the two-thirds of those cases in which the ACLU could determine the crime being investigated, the group tells WIRED that 41 percent were related to drugs, far more than any other category of crime. “The narrative was that they would only do this in cases where the crimes were particularly severe and a serious threat to national security, and that seems to be disproven,” says Ezekiel Edwards, the director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “I’m certainly displeased to find that so many of these cases in which the government has forced companies to unlock phones have been drug cases. But I’m not surprised.”

In fact, those 17 cases by far outnumbered the 10 financial crime cases, eight child pornography cases, and three counterfeiting cases, the next most common crimes on the ACLU’s list. (The ACLU explains that in the third of cases where the ACLU couldn’t identify the crime being investigated, the government hadn’t revealed the docket number of the related court filing that reveals the charges, or because the cases were sealed.)

It’s not yet clear how Apple and Google responded to those 63 demands to help law enforcement agencies access device data. Apple didn’t reply to WIRED’s request for comment on the ACLU’s release. Google wrote in a statement only that it has “never received an All Writs Act order like the one Apple recently fought that demands we build new tools that actively compromise our products’ security,” and that it would “strongly object to such an order.” A Department spokesperson responded to ACLU’s release with its own statement: “The fact that federal law enforcement uses court process to obtain critical evidence in criminal investigations should not be surprising nor newsworthy,” it reads. “The government has made clear on multiple occasions in court that judges across the country have issued prior All Writs Act orders to Apple, and counsel for Apple has noted in court that it received All Writs Act orders with frequency.”

The ACLU’s numbers contrast slightly withstatistics released by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in March, which showed that of 205 locked iPhones the Manhattan DA’s lab had attempted and failed to access without Apple’s assistance, 25 percent were related to drug cases. It lumped larceny, cybercrime, forgery, and ID theft into another category of cases that accounted for 35 percent of the locked iPhones.

Even so, it should come as little surprise that drug cases would outnumber all others in federal investigations that sought to access locked devices’ data. As of last count, fully89 percent of wiretap orders in the US were used in drug cases. That percentage has climbed dramatically since 1989, when only 62 percent of wiretaps were focused on drugs.

The ACLU’s Edwards argues that Apple’s encryption battle with the FBI is just another instance of the government asking for surveillance powers in the name of national security, but then applying those powers to the Drug War. He points to the “sneak and peek” searches that were made legal under the Patriot Act in 2001. Drug cases now account for 84 percent of the cases in which those searches are used, Edwards says. “These technologies [and techniques] are often sold by the government as essential tools to protect national security that will be used in careful, discriminating ways,” he says. “Over and over again, that’s been untrue.”

In fact, federal law enforcement has been so focused on drug cases for the last 30 years that they’ve often been the first domestic cases used to pioneer new surveillance techniques, from thermal imaging cameras to GPS tracking to drones. Even the NSA’s bulk metadata collection that scandalized the public when it was revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden was first used by the Drug Enforcement Administration. And in 2014 the FBI went so far as to subpoena security researchers at Carnegie Mellon for a technique that could crack the anonymity software Tor’s protections for hidden websites, which was then used to take down the Silk Road 2 drug market and dozens of other dark web sites.

That growing use of domestic surveillance for drug investigations, argues the ACLU’s Edwards, is simply a reflection of law enforcement’s resources, which have increasingly been devoted to the War on Drugs. “All of these technologies are inherently wrapped up in the types of activities [law enforcement] is focused on,” he says. “That’s fighting drugs, not terrorism…as part of a law enforcement effort that has been an utter, trillion-dollar failure.”

http://www.wired.com/2016/03/feds-usually-try-unlock-phones-drugs-not-terrorism/

When National Security and Nativism Collide

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“DEFENSE ONE”

“Three months ago, a photo of a drowned Syrian refugee toddler sobered the world.

Now even Donald Trump’s Muslims ban hardly shocks it. How did we get here?

When the photo of 3-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi was published on Sept. 3, it prompted a worldwide outcry. In an instant, it put a face to the 4.4 million refugees who had left Syria since its civil war began in 2011, the largest displacement of people since WWII.

It also shamed the U.S., once a leader in helping the world’s displaced peoples, but which has resettled just over 2,200 Syrians, less than one-tenth of the applicants referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. One week after Aylan’s photo was published, the Obama administration announced the U.S. would take 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. Soon afterward, it said the U.S. would raise its annual cap on global refugees to 100,000 by 2017. Democratic and even some Republican presidential candidates urged Obama to do more.

But administration officials said “national security concerns” constrained its response. Security agency chiefs told Congress that they were worried about intelligence gaps on war-torn Syria. “If someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria,” FBI Director James Comey said on Oct. 21, “We can query our database until the cows come home but … there will be nothing.”

Still, they could produce no evidence that Syrian refugees posed a threat. (Of the 784,000 refugees the U.S. has resettled since 9/11, only three have been arrested for terrorism — none of them Syrians.) And they confirmed that that the refugee screening process had tightened in recent years. Over five years, U.S. officials have denied admission to about 30 individuals flagged in databases, and to several hundred more after required in-person interviews. Last year, they added a screening layer for Syrians “to ensure potential gaps are covered.”

Ultimately, both parties’ leaders expressed confidence in the strict measures for refugees. Eighty-four lawmakers even wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, suggesting that various redundancies in the screening process were slowing things down unnecessarily.

Then Paris happened [and San Bernardino]

Welcome to 2016.”

http://www.defenseone.com/feature/when-national-security-and-nativism-collide/

The Unintended Consequences of Containing ISIS

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DEFENSE ONE”

“Restraint may be the better course of action.

American attempts to reorganize the politics of other countries by the sword have foundered on nationalist resistance to outsiders, unreliable local allies, deeply embedded cultural practices, and the inherent crudeness of the military instrument.

ISIS’s attack in Paris has prompted calls for a reassessment of the strategy the United States and its allies have pursued in the past 14 months to, in Obama’s words, “degrade and ultimately destroy” this vicious group. If that strategy is succeeding, how could such an attack occur? GOP presidential candidates have hastened to recommend alternatives, including an escalated air campaign with higher tolerance for civilian casualties, or even the deployment of thousands of ground troops to Iraq and Syria.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught Americans to think twice about the understandable but impulsive pursuit of quick and decisive victories in response to murderous outrages.

These chronic problems commend the more restrained strategy that the president has employed, which is essentially a containment strategy. Americans might like to be told that they are taking direct action that will eliminate threats once and for all. Containment is a tougher sell, because it requires patience and resilience, and does not promise a quick and easy victory. Hillary Clinton took the politically easy path when she declared at the Democratic debate on Saturday that ISIS “cannot be contained; it must be defeated.”

But no strategy bears a likelier chance of long-term success than containment, even if the exact mechanisms must be reconsidered in the wake of the Paris attacks. It is, for example, hard to see how Western ground forces can liberate the areas of Iraq and Syria currently held by ISIS, and sit on that territory for as long as it takes to ensure that ISIS is no more and that yet another terrorist organization does not rise from its ashes, with fewer numbers and less bloodshed than the original invasion and subsequent counterinsurgency in Iraq entailed. And there is no guarantee that it would work. The seeds of ISISwere planted in Iraq when its parent organization, al-Qaeda in Iraq, though battered, survived “the surge” of U.S. ground forces into the country beginning in 2007—the final and tactically most successful phase of the counterinsurgency campaign, which at its peak involved some 170,000 U.S.troops. Al-Qaeda in Iraq itself was born from the American occupation; a new occupation would produce the same kind of resistance, which ISIS or some other group could exploit.

Meanwhile, there’s evidence that containment is already working. In the military campaign against ISIS, the chief purpose of containment has been to prevent the group from gaining more territory, while weakening its hold over the territory it has seized and reducing its ability to extract resources. This has meant helping those on ISIS’s frontiers—including Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, the Iraqi central government, and Jordan—to better defend themselves. Perhaps because this strategy has been effective, ISIS now seems intent on conducting brutal and theatrical attacks abroad, and those in its gun sights must respond to the shift. The next task is to build or reinforce barriers between ISIS and its targets. American and European intelligence organizations must intensify surveillance at home and abroad; the United States and its Western allies must press regional powers bordering the territories controlled by ISIS to do more to interdict the transit of volunteers and resources and to counter the poisonous ideology that brings new followers to the ISIS banner.

Check out the separate Defense One commentary series on Containment, here.

At the outset of its bloody history, ISIS seemed more committed to organizing a state in the Middle East than it did to conducting terrorism abroad. A strategy that focused on military containment was a necessary antidote to its early successes. Of late, ISIS has been thwarted in its efforts to expand, and has even suffered reverses in northern Iraq and northeastern Syria, where it has tried to establish itself among non-Arab, namely Kurdish, populations. In central Iraq, Shiite militias have curbedISIS attempts to gain a foothold in predominantly Shiite areas. When ISIS tries to fight as a conventional military, it now fails more often than it succeeds. Targeting ISIS’s oil business, an effort the United States has stepped up in the wake of the Paris attacks, has not yet dried up this source of money, but one suspects that ISIS’s revenues will suffer more over time.

The anti-ISIS coalition has clearly been less successful in two other dimensions of the strategy:  putting intelligence and surveillance barriers between ISIS’s territorial holdings and civilian targets abroad, and undercutting ISIS’s ideological appeal. These are harder problems than military containment. The free movement of people and information is a defining feature of globalization. It does not take many people to conduct an attack of the kind that occurred in Paris. Those people do have to be highly motivated, however, and reducing the political commitment that comes from the spread of very poisonous ideas to small numbers of young men is a hard problem.

The United States has been quite energetic on the intelligence and surveillance front, but others closer to the fight have not done enough. Coverage of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015 revealed that the French security services simply had inadequate resources to track possible threats. This kind of shortfall probably exists across much of Europe. Moreover, the problem confronted by European security and intelligence organizations is greater than that confronted by the United States. European countries are closer to the Middle East; it is simply easier for ISIS terrorists to get there. There are large, sometimes poorly integrated Arab communities in Europe that, through no fault of their own, can provide a kind of camouflage for small numbers of conspirators. Sadly, some disgruntled members of these communities are susceptible to radical appeals, and sign up or offer succor.

Finally, Europe suffers from a simple tension: Europeans have organized their social and economic life as if the European Union were one country, but European states’ political and security life is organized as if each was still a separate, sovereign country. Terrorists (and criminals) can wander at will across a vast expanse of land and people; as they do so they move from the purview of one national-security organization to the next. European security organizations do cooperate, but there will inevitably be gaps that clever bad guys can exploit. There is no obvious answer to these three problems. That said, more resources would help, and the Europeans must invest more in the internal security aspect of the fight. And, unfortunately, the European Union may have to take a step backwards on social and economic integration, and a step forward on security integration, working more strenuously for cooperation among national police and intelligence organizations.

Turkey poses a delicate political-military problem in the fight against ISIS. It has been a consistent refrain that Turkey has not done everything that it could to monitor, much less control the transit of, volunteers to and from the Syrian Civil War—many of whom are Europeans of Arab descent. These volunteers are traveling to join any one of the many groups fighting the Assad regime, some of which Turkey supports. But, judging from published figures, thousands have joined ISIS, and some of them have subsequently returned to their home countries, trained and ready to participate in terrorist actions. The U.S. air effort against ISIS has profited from the recent opening of Turkish air bases, which facilitate strikes against the group’s holdings in northeastern Syria. So it is a delicate diplomatic matter to criticize Turkish surveillance policy. Nevertheless, without more Turkish cooperation to control the transit of potential terrorists, Western Europe will remain vulnerable, and ISIS will replenish its ranks with foreign volunteers. This issue must be confronted forthrightly.

The most intractable problem facing the anti-ISIS effort is countering its insidious ideology, which brings it new followers.ISIS styles itself an orthodox Islamist group. It is also a cult of violence. The combination draws significant numbers of people to its banner. Western secular governments cannot conceivably rebutISIS’s religious message, since they have no religious credibility themselves. Independent Muslim theologians, regardless of their eloquence, are unlikely to be an effective counter toISIS’s concentrated, persistent, and hateful online preaching. But one Arab state has enormous influence on the interpretation of Islam worldwide: Saudi Arabia. The country spends vast sums supporting the building of mosques and Islamic educational institutions around the world. These institutions spread an orthodox version of Islam that scholars have observed is not very far removed from the version that ISIS claims for itself. In disputes in the Middle East today, Saudi Arabia seems much more interested in attacking any trace of Iranian political influence than it is in counteringISIS. It is past time to shine a light on Saudi Arabia’s deficiency as an ally and pressure the country to use its considerable clout and resources to counter ISIS’s poisonous message. This matter should become a regular feature of public and private diplomacy.

The ISIS brand also attracts other terrorist organizations in the region to recast themselves as franchises, and to cooperate with its machinations. It’s important to remember, however, that most of these organizations predate ISIS, and owe their origins to local disputes. The greater Middle East is a riven and unsettled region; ISIS creates some of its own energy, but not all. The ISIS franchise in Egypt, which claimed credit for the downing of a Russian jetliner over the Sinai peninsula in late October, is a group that fought the Egyptian government prior to pledging its allegiance to the Islamic State, and owes its recent recruitment success in part to the ruthless repression of Islamist political organizations, militant or not, organized by the current authoritarian regime, led by President (and former general) Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. (Note that this kind of mass repression is not the same as the kind of effective, targeted internal security procedures needed to counter the group without facilitating its recruitment.) The ISISfranchise in Libya seems to have arisen from the anarchy introduced in that country by NATO’s destruction of the Qaddafi regime and the utter failure to plan for its replacement. Because these and similar groups are so deeply embedded in local struggles, destruction of ISIS “central”—that is, the pseudo-state led by the self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi that currently governs parts of Syria and Iraq—cannot eliminate them. The reverse might be helpful, however. For example, if President Sisi were to pursue more moderate policies in Egypt, he might create a less supportive political environment for ISIS.

These responses can yield only incremental improvements. The slow and steady accretion of defensive measures and offensive successes will weaken ISIS’s capabilities and can limit its appeal. At some point, the scales will tip, and ISIS will find itself more and more vulnerable to its local enemies. This strategy takes patience and resilience in the face of the occasional, but shocking, successes that ISIS may enjoy along the way. Democratic polities prefer quick and definitive solutions to security problems. ISIS’s bloody theatricals seem tailor-made to incite Western escalation. We should not oblige them.”

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2015/11/unintended-consequences-containing-isis/123898/?oref=defenseone_today_nl