Paris Attacks – 2015 after 2008 after 2001 – Not Contained & Getting Worse?


 “Not contained as President said, It’s getting worse“. That was the succinct verdict of Mike Rogers, ex-Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of US Congress, on Friday on CNN. He is right in a way and wrong in another. We prefer to look at yesterday’s horrific attack in Paris in reference to the attack in Mumbai in 2008 and to September 11, 2001 in New York.

In one way, the attacks are getting smaller. 2001 was on a massive scale. The 2008 Mumbai attack was nowhere near the scale or reach of 2001 but it was a horrific massacre of civilians in a commando operation managed by the military intelligence of NonPakistan. Yesterday’s attack in Paris  was smaller and more limited.

But it has the potential of being more debilitating. The 2001 attack pointed to the Taleban-run government in Afghanistan that had given sanctuary to Al-Qaeda & Osama Bin Laden. The Taleban were removed from power and the senior Al Qaeda leadership was decimated. So another 9/11 is highly unlikely unless America totally lowers its guard. The 2008 attack in Mumbai needed the resources of a military intelligence arm. That by itself puts some restrictions on NonPak to minimize the scope of terrorism they sponsor. 

The Paris attack is worse because it is repeatable. It is scarier because it shows how relatively easy it is for a group of men to unleash horrific slaughter of civilians. The Paris attack did not need, as far as we know now, a remote coordinator directing terrorists like the NonPak ISI commander did in 2008. All it needed was a group of well trained men who knew the city well and in which they could blend. Given the number of fighters returning from Syria to Europe, it is rapidly becoming impossible for Police or Counter terrorism forces to keep track of them. And if you can’t keep track of them, you can’t eliminate these attacks. That makes such attacks repeatable.

That is why an analyst said on Fox on Friday – “This is Baghdad 2005 in Paris 2015“. Al Qaeda in Iraq could not fight the US army on the battlefield. That weakness led to the horrific tactics of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. It took an entire task force led by General McCrystal to kill Zarqawi and to bring peace to Sunni sections of Iraq. That worked because the US had a massive military presence in Iraq and a determined President.

Smart adversaries adapt. And the successors of Zarqawi, Abu Bakr Al-Bagdadi & his team, are smarter and deadlier. They know they cannot face Western forces in open battle. They are already suffering serious reverses at the hands of US-backed Kurds & Russian-backed Syrians. So they have embarked on unleashing horrific attacks on civilians of countries & regimes that attack them. And their model is more distributed than Zarqawi’s and capable of bringing in more recruits with spectacular publicity-creating attacks like the one in Paris. It was far easier to stop such attacks in Iraq because US counter insurgency teams could declare open season on terrorists without caring much about collateral damage. It would be nearly impossible to run a McCrystal strategy in France or anywhere in Continental Europe. So what’s next? 

  • Friday – ian bremmer ?@ianbremmer Pressure on Europe, U.S. to expand military intervention in Syria will increase dramatically. But options equally bleak.

President Holland has already declared war on ISIS. But how? By launching more airstrikes on ISIS positions in Syria? Aren’t Russians already doing some of that? Will Holland co-operate with Russians and launch air strikes in a joint manner? Or will Holland go against Russian policy and launch strikes against Assad? More importantly, will the Obama Administration engage in tactical cooperation with Russians to launch a joint all-out attack against ISIS? US sources on TV scoff at that possibility. So it seems that the Obama Administration still considers Russian presence in Syria & the Assad regime as bigger problems than ISIS. So what is the strategy for a war against ISIS?

  • Friday – ian bremmer ?@ianbremmer – The Islamic State can–and will–be defeated. But there’s no strategy yet for destroying ISIS.

And Europe is now facing an existential problem due the scale of their refugee disaster. The dream of European integration is in danger of becoming obsolete even before being realized. Countries in Europe are re-establishing borders and restricting the movement of refugees. This is likely to have political consequences through out Europe including perhaps Considering Germany without Merkel as Stratfor put it earlier this week:

  • “The ongoing refugee crisis has overwhelmed Merkel. … But as the influx of people grew, many Germans started to worry that their government had failed to assess the true magnitude of the crisis. Suddenly, Merkel was no longer the infallible leader who could do no wrong but an impulsive head of government who had put her country in danger. Some began to see the chancellor’s famous statement about refugees — “we can manage” — as proof that Berlin had lost control of the immigration problem.” [emphasis ours]

Is this Europe capable of developing a joint strategy? We doubt it. What about President Obama? Peggy Noonan of WSJ perhaps summed up the conservative opinion on Saturday morning on Fox – “nobody looks to President Obama for wisdom or will in this …

The war emanating from the Middle East began in 1991 in the immediate aftermath of that victory of Saddam Hussein. That is when an old friend & critical ally named Osama Bin Laden turned against America. This war has been on for about 25 years already and we still don’t even have a strategy to fight it. 1993 was the first attack against the World Trade Center. Every 7-8 years since that first attack, there has been a horrifically spectacular attack by ISIS/Al-Qaeda Sunni Jihadis. And there is yet no global strategy to fight this so-called war. We wrote some time ago that this war will go on for another 25 years. Is there any reason to doubt that?   


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  1. The core problem is the Western intelligentsia’s schizophrenic perception of Islam. The Liberals are willing to give it any amount of plausible deniability, nay even get into advocacy of ‘moderate Islam’ & such mythical beings. The Conservatives see it too much as a mirror image (albeit grotesque) of the Christianity that still colors their attitudes & actions. Until the west gets over it’s schizophrenia, it will continue to lose the plot on terrorism.

  2. Except for your silly dismissal of Obama, I mostly agree with you. But would go further. The counter-reaction will be truly destructive, far more than the loss of life in terrorist attacks. Winter has come for civil liberties and civil rights. Freedoms will shrink, carry great costs, or disappear altogether. An economy built upon the free flow of people and goods will now stall or fall into depression as boundaries arise. And blustering bigots, bullies, and blowhards will gain credibility. One of the loony Republican candidates is now more likely to win in 2016, and we will deeply regret the loss of a wise and effective President, as Obama–despite his faults–has been.

  3. One of the measures that can and would help countering terrorism is a strong network of informers (also called mukhbirs) . It is believed that some countries heavily depend on such network . Even funds are allocated for that purpose.

    Also , this war has to be fought at the Global Level , without talking about good and bad terrorism (silly) , moderates or hard liners etc. The World opinion and perception have to be politically changed to this end . Killing or hurting any civilian is inhuman ; Period !

    Can there be a mechanism of some sort of background check of Refugees ? I donot know!!!

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