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— One of the handier tools in the combat arms officer's bag of tricks is a thought process called the Estimate of the Situation.

It's a comparison of potential courses of action in the light of the assigned mission. It's a simple, logical thought process, but it's also one that is frequently performed under almost unimaginable stress, after days without sleep, in a continuously evolving life-or-death situation.

I've used it before, lots of times, in the field with a company of troops, or in assessing the overall situation of a province under attack by regiments of guerrillas, and once for a tribe under attack by a hostile government. This is the first time I've used it to analyze an attack by terrorists on all of Western Civilization. Bear with me.

1. Mission: To eliminate the threat of terrorism.

2. Situation and Courses of Action:

a. Considerations affecting possible courses of action.

As with all wars, what is happening is a clash of cultures. In conventional war, the cultures usually share a universe of discourse. Here we are faced with a conflict between two extremely different ways of life. Our version of the good guys we can loosely define as Western Civilization. Who are the bad guys? They are terrorists who are hostile to our way of life, but who, precisely, are they?

They are Muslims, but not all Muslims. They are Arabs, but not all Arabs. And in some few cases they are neither Muslims nor Arabs. Nonetheless, about 99 and 44/100 percent of the terrorists opposing us are what are called "fundamentalist" Muslim Arabs.

For this analysis I am indebted to a couple of Lebanese Christians and to a Muslim in Florida. But my primary source is a book called The Crisis of Islam by Bernard Lewis. It's a short book but very insightful. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Lewis maintains that "fundamentalist" is a misnomer, one borrowed from Christian fundamentalism, and that "radical" Islam would be more accurate. So we can define our enemy as "Radical Muslim Arabs." Or, hey, let's do the GI thing and give them an acronym, "Radical Arab Muslims," or RAMs.

At some point we must consider that our most valuable allies are Muslims who are not radical, Arab or not. The threat to them is far greater than the threat to us. The RAM's long-range goal is not to eliminate Western Civilization but to drag all of Islam back from the modern world into a morass of superstition and clan feudalism.

In The Crisis of Islam, Lewis points out that the seminal thinker of Islamic radicalism was an Egyptian named Sayyid Qutb, executed for implication in a plot to assassinate Egyptian President Nassar in 1966.

Qutb came to America as a representative of the Egyptian Education Department in 1948 and stayed until 1950. While here he saw something so degraded, so reprehensible, so completely bloody awful, that he was turned completely against the U.S. and the civilization we represent. And, what was this ghastly event? It was a sock hop in a church basement. Here's his description. "The dance is inflamed by the notes of the gramophone. The dancehall becomes a whirl of heels and thighs, arms enfold, lips and breasts meet, and the air is full of lust." He was also pretty browned off by the Kinsey report. Obviously we weren't going to get on this joker's good side.

If any of you Christian Fundamentalists out there are tempted to agree that our society is decadent, let me point out that RAM find both homosexual pedophilia and clitorectomies perfectly normal behavior. My point would be that Muslim radicalism represents the decay of what, when Christianity was mired in the Dark Ages, was the highest example of civilization on this Earth.

It is not Islam we face, but a perversion of Islam.

At the core of Islam lies a book, the Koran, believed to have been dictated by God himself. The whole point of a book is that anyone can read it and interpret it for him or herself. There is nothing wrong with seeking the help of a scholar to understand it. But to attempt to enforce one's interpretation as the only one permitted is to usurp the prerogatives of God. It is, in fact, in Muslim terms, the sin of idolatry.

The Ayatollah Khomeini called us the "Great Satan," not because of economic exploitation, but because our way of life is attractive and posed a threat to the closed-off, hateful religion that is radical "Islam." They not only want to tell the rest of the world how to live their lives, they want to tell God how to run the universe. The word "Islam" translates as surrender to the will of God. This is the exact opposite of that.

b. Enemy Capabilities: It is axiomatic that you can run a suicide mission pretty much anywhere. Planning is difficult, and volunteers are hard to find, but it can be done. The RAM has the capability to destroy anything, but not the capability to destroy everything. Nor do they have the capability to destroy our way of life, if we keep our heads and persevere.

c. Own Courses of Action: Improved security is an obvious requirement. Retaliation is an obvious course of action. Since there have been no major terrorist attacks since 9/11, our improved security, in spite of some holes, seems to be working. In retaliation, our war in Afghanistan gets a B+, and the war in Iraq is essentially irrelevant, except as a morale factor. What is really necessary is to eliminate the enemy capability, at which we have been only marginally successful.

It must be recognized that the enemy's war against us has been financed with our own money. It would be nice if we found a means of powering automobiles with hydrogen or with fuel-cell technology. Then our enemies can resume the camel-riding and goat-herding activities for which they are so justifiably famous. I have every confidence that this will happen about 20 minutes after the power structure in this country can find a way to maintain its wealth, control, and privileges without Arab oil.

In the meantime, we might lean on the Saudis to quit using our oil money to finance the hate-filled madrasas and their equally hate-filled TV broadcasts. They have been double-dealing us from the beginning, and to pretend that 9/11 was not a result of that makes the U.S. truly the Queen of Denial.

In the near term, two things are absolute requirements. We must have a restored human-intelligence capability. When we quit using spies and depended entirely on satellite technology for intelligence, we left ourselves wide open for terrorism. Then we must have the capability to put a commando raid on the ground and get it back off again, anywhere on the planet. If we do these two things, we can raid their hideouts and we can raid their training camps. We can close off their funds and we can wipe them out.

3. Analysis of Opposing Courses of Action. Well, my premise seems to be falling apart here, because these aren't really opposing but complementary courses of action. Improved security, closing off the money, improved intelligence, and the ability to raid anywhere -- these are the things we need in the short term.

In the long term we need to bolster our relationship with the enlightened elements of Islam and hopefully help lead the Arab world out of the Dark Ages. In a sense, from a historical perspective, we'd be returning a favor. But in the end, it may be just as bloody as the favor they did us 500 years ago.

4. Comparison of our own Courses of Action: Maybe this format isn't the best one to form a plan for such a large and complex issue. Mostly it's designed to help a platoon or company or battalion commander decide whether to attack around to the left, around to the right, or hi-diddle-diddle, right down the middle. Aside from some good background, the only real contribution here is the emphasis on a renewed "Humint" (human intelligence) capability and an expanded commando capability. In the short term, though, that should be plenty.

5. Decision: Task the CIA to spare no effort or expense to get a capable corps of spies on the ground in the Mosques in the U.S. and into the Arab and Muslim worlds. This will be hard, because we haven't laid the groundwork. And those spies will be taking a terrible risk. But it must be done.

Then USSOCOM (U.S. Special Operations Command) must be tasked to develop the capability to stage a raid anywhere in the world. What that means is that we must have the capability to put a force of about 200 commandos on the ground and pick them up in about two hours. This will require advance bases, and/or aircraft that don't need runways, with greater range and cargo capability than anything currently in the inventory, and the political will to use them.

The heroes we already have.

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