Saturday, July 29, 2006

Strategies and Tactics

The difference between tactics and strategies is like those between the battle and the war. At least, that's the operational definition I'm establishing lest all the political scientists scream about their own definitions or preferences, which may include terms like "will". I further state that the higher up the command chain you are, the more likely you are to be moving out of the tactical and into the strategic, as a leader. This is a normal business model, too, where bosses worry about bigger issues as their window space grows. In my opinion, they need fewer windows so they are less distracted and can concentrate better on sweeping decisions, but I'll leave that for another day.
If you look at the foot soldiers of Islam, you'll see tactics galore. These guys do everything from marching with huge (and costly, I guess) pictures of their favorite sheikhs, to throwing stones and tear gas canisters that were originally lobbed in the other direction. They also blow themselves up on the way to the mall, or when they get there, and do some interesting things with plastique and cars. In the end, though, it's a single person or small group doing the thinking, and they generally repeat what's been done already. Strictly tactical.
By contrast, look at the Usama-level operators. Flight school, not a bottle of gas and a torn t-shirt! It's not only that they're organized, but they're organized, too. What I mean is that they have an organization, and the organization does things in an organized way. Strategies are turned into tactics and carried out. This is the general staff of the Islamic Holy Army. What we have to do is become educated to view the Middle East issues as either foot soldier background noise or general staff activity. I'm not talking about the government or the military, but the public. Being able to distinguish between roadside bombs and embassy bombings will enable us to be alert to the right things. It will also help us understand the difference between the war on terrorism, as expressed in Afghanistan, and the war on Iraq, as expressed by the neocons. The failure to discern between tactics and strategies is also a failure to discern between something more real and something that is nothing more than ideology.
Islamicist movements have the Middle East in such a conservative hold that many societies don't even hear the sound of a dissenting voice. It's not that there aren't reformers or dissenters, it's that they have soft voices. Muslims are not entirely happy in a social environment that tells them that there's a Muslim way to tie their shoes. That's what totalitarian regimes, like Iran's, are like. Muslims are like you and me (no, this isn't the Sesame Street blog). They like their food, they deal with their temptations, they play with their kids, and they like their tunes. The bearded brethren of the bereft aren't the people we see fleeing or talking to reporters about the bomb that went off next door, on the telly. No, we don't see the ones who pull even the smallest strings unless they stage something to show us. We see the average Alis who are perpetually on the run from the (fill in the blank) Israeli Army; Hizbollah rockets; American troops; Syrian Army; people they owe money to; angry wife #1; or some mujahid who heard they supported some other faction. Life's pretty edgy in places where bombs go off every day.
I was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia a couple of years ago. I happened to be working in the Ministry of Defense when the nuts tried to blow up a radio station (not a Top-40 operation, but a government-controlled operation like all media in Saudi Arabia). This was a big'un, boy! Like Stevie Ray Vaughan said, "when the joint is a-rockin' don't bother knockin'." It didn't seem to faze the military types, so I figured the blast was attached to some ever-present construction going on nearby. Only later did I learn it was far more. Well, the Saudis hunted those poor bastards down and forgave the ones they didn't kill. But how can it be that this happened in Saudi Arabia? Strategy equals acting on Usama's Fatwah (see my previous posting for the text of this document), and it says the Americans are working with a corrupt Saudi royal family. This was bringing the war to the battlefield it must inevitably be waged on. That act was worth noting, but how many of you did. Keep away from the tactical! It's the chips and salsa of the Middle East's political diet, and you know you shouldn't eat that stuff all the time or you'll get intellectually fat and soon turn diabetic.


Post a Comment

<< Home