To Defeat Al Qaeda, You Have to End the “War” on Terror

How Terrorist Groups End

According to How Terrorist Groups End, a paper put out by a certain group, military force is unlikely to stop Al Qaeda. “Which group?” you might ask, “Cindy Sheehan’s fan club? International Socialists? The League of Overeducated Underemployed Grad Students Who Hate Freedom?”

Nope. It’s the RAND Corporation. That’s RAND as in Research ANd Development, the global policy think tank first formed to offer research and analysis to the U.S.’ armed forces and now does thinking on social, economic, international and security policy. Their 2005 annual report says that about half their research covers issues of national security.

How Terrorists Groups End (which you can download for free and in full here) has this to say about the reasons terrorist groups end:

Pie chart showing the various reasons how terrorist groups end: Politicization (43%), policing (40%), victory (10%), military force (7%)

Terrorist groups end for two major reasons:

  1. Members decide to adopt nonviolent tactics and join the political process (43 percent), or
  2. Local law-enforcement agencies arrest or kill key members of the group (40 percent).

Military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups (7 percent), and few groups since 1968 have achieved victory (10 percent).

“Sarcasm Tongs”

By the way, those sneering quotes (a.k.a. “sarcasm tongs”) around the word “war” in the phrase “War” on Terror? Those aren’t mine, they’re the RAND Corporation’s. The final chapter in their paper is titled Ending the “War” on Terrorism.

The Conclusion

I’ll close with the final section of How Terrorists Groups End:

The good news about countering al Qa’ida is that its probability of success in actually overthrowing any governments is close to zero. While bin Laden enjoys some popular support in much of the Muslim world, this support does not translate into the mass support that such organizations as Hizballah enjoys in Lebanon. This is not surprising, since there are few al Qa’ida social-welfare services, hospitals, or clinics. In 2005, Ayman al-Zawahiri urged Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to prepare for the U.S. withdrawal from the country by not making the same mistakes as the Taliban, which had alienated the masses in Afghanistan: “We don’t want to repeat the mistake of the Taliban, who restricted participation in governance to the students and the people of Qandahar alone. They did not have any representation for the Afghan people in their ruling regime, so the result was that the Afghan people disengaged themselves from them.” In addition, al Qa’ida continues to expand its list of enemies. It now includes virtually all Middle Eastern governments, Muslims (include Sunni and Shi’a) who do not share its views, Western governments, Asian governments (including Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan), the United Nations, and international nongovernmental organizations. Making a world of enemies is never a winning strategy.

But the bad news is that U.S. efforts against al Qa’ida have not been successful. They have now lasted longer than U.S. involvement in World War II. Despite some successes against al Qa’ida, the United States has not significantly undermined its capabilities. Al Qa’ida has been involved in more attacks in a wider geographical area since September 11, 2001, including in such European capitals as London and Madrid, than it was before that date. Its organizational structure has also evolved, making it a dangerous enemy. This means that the U.S. strategy in dealing with al Qa’ida must change. A strategy based on military force has not been effective. Based on al Qa’ida’s organizational structure and modus operandi, only a strategy based on careful police and intelligence work is likely to be effective.

“Police and Intelligence Work.” Where Have I Heard That Before?

If it sounds familiar, it might be because that’s the formula proposed by computer security expert Bruce Schneier, who’s been saying for a while that old-fashioned police work, not “security theatre” costing billions of dollars, is the key to countering terrorism.

It’s also what Noam Chomsky said:

Actually the fact that the terrorist act succeeded in September 11th did not alter the risk analysis. In 1993, similar groups, US trained Jihadi’s came very close to blowing up the World Trade Center, with better planning, they probably would have killed tens of thousands of people. Since then it was known that this is very likely. In fact right through the 90’s there was technical literature predicting it, and we know what to do. What you do is police work. Police work is the way to stop terrorist acts and it succeeded.

When the RAND Corporation and Chomsky agree on security policy, something’s going on.


The Daily Puppy

Keeper, the golden retriever/vizsla mix as a puppy
“Keeper” is a golden retriever/vizsla mutt who was a stray puppy found by her owner.
Click the picture to see her photos.

If you need a daily fix of cute animal pictures and are getting tired of all those cats, The Daily Puppy has got what you need.



Photocollage of people in Dickipedia

I’m surprised this didn’t come into existence much sooner: Dickipedia, a Wikipedia-like wiki for people unpleasant enough to be categorized as dicks.


The Weirdest Update from the L.A. Earthquake (or: “Did the Earth Move for You Too?”)

I hereby declare MissRFTC’s tweet (that’s a message on Twitter) about the L.A. Earthquake an “overshare“:

L.A. Earthquake Tweet: \" Loader  I am totally serious. My Ob/Gyn was IN my vagina and an earthquake started rattling the room!\"


They Know Their Market

Here’s a photo from a t-shirt stall at the San Diego Comic-Con, which took place this past weekend:

T-shirt sizes at San Diego ComicCon: XXL and XXXL


How Many A’s in “Khaaaaaaaan”?

Remember that scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan where William Shatner yells out “Khaaaaaaaan!”? Someone took the effort of charting the number of a’s that appear in “Khaaaaaaaan!” on web pages everywhere according to Google:

Graph charting number of Google results for varying numbers of a\'s in \"Khaaaaaaan!\"

Recommended “Khaaaaaaaan!” Reading

Here’s the “Khaaaaaaaan!” scene from The Wrath of Khan.

If you haven’t got the patience to watch the whole scene and just want the “Khaaaaaaaan!”, has got what you want.

What’s New, Khaaaaaaaan!: Tom Jones and William Shatner, together at last!


Meanwhile, Over at Global Nerdy…

\"Meanwhile, on Global Nerdy...\": Paul Allen and Bill Gates among a sea of late \'70s/early \'80s computers

Here are the latest articles posted to my technical/programmer blog, Global Nerdy:

Enumerating Enumerable

Enumerating Enumerable

Enumerating Enumerable is my series of articles in which I attempt to do a better job of writing up Ruby’s Enumerable module that the folks at did. Here are the methods I’ve covered so far:

  1. all?
  2. any?
  3. collect / map
  4. count
  5. cycle
  6. detect / find
  7. drop
  8. drop_while
  9. each_cons

Notes from RubyFringe

RubyFringe logo

The weekend before last, I attended the edgy Ruby programming conference RubyFringe, which I may have to declare “the best programming conference I’ve ever attended”. I took copious notes, the links for which are listed below:

Damian Conway’s Presentation

Book covers for \"Rod Logic\", from Damian Conway\'s presentation
A slide from Damian Conway’s presentation.

I also attended Damian Conway’s presentation, titled Temporally Quaquaversal Virtual Nanomachine Programming in Multiple Topologically Connected Quantum-Relativistic Parallel Timespaces…Made Easy. He managed to connect the space-time continuum, relativistic effects as you approach the speed of light, carbon nanotubes and Perl programming in a lengthy (2 hours!) but interesting lecture. Again, I took notes, and you can see them here.

Tucows (Re)Introduces OpenSRS

Tucows\' new OpenSRS graphics

And finally, my old employer, Tucows, has rebranded OpenSRS to encompass all their reseller services: domain names, ssl certificates, email and “personal names”. Better yet, they called on local superstar illustrator and designer John “Robot Johnny” Martz to make the lovely retro-graphics for the brand. Well done!