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The War Nerd October 17, 2002
The War-Se, The Better
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email

It was a week for do-it-yourselfers in the war world. A little lesson for us all, that you don't need a lot of hardware to make war. All you need is the old standbys: hunting rifles, blasting caps, and trucks full of fertilizer. There was some guy in a white van driving around DC shooting all the wrong people; there was that bomb in Bali that wiped out half the surfers in Australia; and there was the sad case of a Finnish looneytune who decided to blow up a mall in Helsinki.

The nicest part about the Helsinki episode was the fact that the bombmaker saved the taxpayer some money -- blew himself up while planting the bomb. No messy trial to worry about. Messy floor, yes. Messy trial, no. The Brits used to have a name for that kind of fumble, when some IRA bomb-delivery boy would trip over the cat on his way to drop off the payload and blow himself up. The Brits used to call it an "own goal," which is what those soccer fags call it when you boot the ball into your own net. Like Bill Hudson says in Aliens, "Game over, man!"

That DC sniper -- now there's a waste of a good idea. If anyplace ever needed weeding it's DC. If you saw a headline, "DC Sniper," you'd want to cheer, right? It's like the title of some inspirational movie, with the sniper blowing out politicians' brains and just generally improving the air quality for everybody. He'd be like a Santa Claus: "Dear Sniper, Please kill [name of politician here] for me." "Dear Sniper, here's a list of all the timber company lobbyists operating in DC. Please kill as many of them as you can." "Dear Sniper, please make some more vacancies on the Supreme Court so I can smoke my dope in peace for once."

All those targets, and who does this bozo shoot? Harmless little citizens filling their tanks or sipping their coffee. What good is that? Call that sport, do you, Sniper-man? That's about as sporting as shooting dogs in the park. You want to prove what a great sniper you are? Then kill somebody famous. Somebody important. Somebody with Secret Service protection.

The whole sniper thing is just another lesson in how powerful small units can be in irregular warfare. This is a group consisting of one or two guys (one driver and one sniper). And it's got millions of people terrorized. A dozen snipers around the country and the whole US would grind to a halt. So you can bet that Al Qaeda is watching the sniper, scratching their beards saying, "Akbar, make a note! Buy hunting rifles!"

And that brings us to this week's big bang: the bombs that killed 200 or so Aussie hippies partying in Bali. I've heard so much misinformation about this bombing that it's hard to know where to start. Basically, everything you've probably heard was wrong.

Like that it's "senseless." Bullshit. It's sick, it's horrible, but it's not senseless. The first thing they teach you in Terrorism 101 is the old proverb, "The worse, the better." Meaning: the terrorist's whole goal is to polarize and impoverish Indonesia. These guys destroyed the whole Indonesian tourist industry in a few seconds. Billions up in smoke. For them, that's good news. It means a few million young Javanese Muslim guys grow up without jobs, without fact, without much of anything but Allah. Allah fer breakfast, Allah fer lunch, Allah all day long. Guys like that make great recruits. Blowing yourself up looks like a great career move when you don't have a lot of other options.

The terrorist wants to provoke a big reaction. These guys want Bush to send the gunboats. It's an even better recruiting device when you can point to the US ships off Jakarta and say, "Infidels off our shores!" or point to the F-15s flying over Java -- "Infidels humiliating us!"

All that for the price of a few hundred dead surfer kids? For Al Qaeda, that's no price at all. Of course, the First World papers and networks will call them savages, but that's not who they're trying to reach. They're trying to reach the lower-middle-class Javanese, who already feel angry when they see blond Aussie girls having fun on their own, driving cars, revealing their faces to somebody's struck a blow for Allah and modest attire. The Javanese won't say so outright, but they'll be pleased. And if the US tries to punish them, it plays right into Al Qaeda's hands.

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Gary Brecher
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