Hats off to Daniel Byman and Christine Fair, who write in The Atlantic about what nincompoops many of our terrorist enemies are. In a piece titled, "The Case for Calling them Nitwits," Byman and Fair note, "They blow each other up by mistake. They bungle even simple schemes. They get intimate with cows and donkeys. Our terrorist enemies trade on the perception that they’re well trained and religiously devout, but in fact, many are fools and perverts who are far less organized and sophisticated than we imagine. Can being more realistic about who our foes actually are help us stop the truly dangerous ones?"
Some highlights from the article:
- "Even in the aftermath of the botched Times Square bombing earlier this spring, the perception persists that our enemies are savvy and sophisticated killers."
- "But this view of the jihadist community is wildly off the mark. To be sure, some terrorists are steely and skilled—people like Mohamed Atta . . . but the quiet truth is that many of the deluded foot soldiers are foolish and untrained, perhaps even untrainable. Acknowledging this fact could help us tailor our counterterrorism priorities—and publicizing it could help us erode the powerful images of strength and piety that terrorists rely on for recruiting and funding."
- "Nowhere is the gap between sinister stereotype and ridiculous reality more apparent than in Afghanistan, where it’s fair to say that the Taliban employ the world’s worst suicide bombers: one in two manages to kill only himself. And this success rate hasn’t improved at all in the five years they’ve been using suicide bombers, despite the experience of hundreds of attacks—or attempted attacks."
- "If our terrorist enemies have been successful at cultivating a false notion of expertise, they’ve done an equally convincing job of casting themselves as pious warriors of God. The Taliban and al-Qaeda rely on sympathizers who consider them devoted Muslims fighting immoral Western occupiers. But intelligence picked up by Predator drones and other battlefield cameras challenges that idea—sometimes rather graphically."
- "One video, captured recently by the thermal-imagery technology housed in a sniper rifle, shows two Talibs in southern Afghanistan engaged in intimate relations with a donkey. Similar videos abound, including ground-surveillance footage that records a Talib fighter gratifying himself with a cow."
- "Tawdry though this predilection for porn may be, it is not necessarily trivial. There is, after all, potential propaganda value in this kind of jihadist behavior. Current US public diplomacy centers on selling America to the Muslim world, but we should also work to undermine some of the myths built up around our enemies by highlighting their incompetence, their moral failings, and their embarrassing antics. Beyond changing how the Muslim world perceives terrorists, we can help ourselves make smarter counterterrorism choices by being more realistic about the profile and aptitude of would-be attackers."
It's great to see this view hitting the mainstream. Arguing that we should be tearing apart the terrorist enemy by mocking him, ridiculing him and pointing out his hypocrisies, has been a bit lonely. Or as Kim Jong-il says in
Team America, "so ronery and sadry arone."
(OK, someone has dared me to refer to the infamous infrared US military gun camera of an Iraqi local - civilian or insurgent is unclear - having inappropriate relations with a farm animal. Our military people have captured a lot of video of insurgents and terrorists engaging in such behavior. I won't embed the actual video on this site, though I did post a still on the top left. For the morbidly curious - and you know who you are - click here for a tasteless, crass, narrated version of the video. A less tasteless, more humorous version, set to music, is available here, to Bloodhound Gang's "The Bad Touch," popularly known by the song's catchy refrain, "Let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.")
Images, top to bottom: (1) innocent donkey being victimized by Iraqi targets, as seen through US military infrared gun camera; (2) Christmas underwear bomber Abdulmutallab, with his malfunctioning explosive underwear; (3) Taliban with mismatched shoes, being ridiculed on Pakistani military website; (4) Islamic radical who mistakenly sets himself afire after torching the American flag; (5) Kim Jong-il, as seen in Team America; (6) the Saudi butt bomber who failed to kill Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism chief but blew himself up with a pound of plastic explosives and a cell phone detonator jammed up his bottom.