A few things should be common knowledge by now, but to summarize the West’s interaction with Islam and violent extremists who use Islam as a justification to be violent, over the last 10 years:
-Fought the Taliban in Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban government
-Fought the Iraqi Army and overthrew Saddam Hussein
-Drafted and approved legislation that gives the government new and easy ways to collect intelligence within our own territories
-Dealt with high-impact media events, such as waterboarding, detainee and prison torture, Marines urinating on dead Taliban, new focus on suicide and sexual-related crimes within the U.S. military
-Developed, abandoned, and revised doctrine to encompass the spectrum of warfare to,include the new missions of counterinsurgency and stability operations.
Fast forward to late 2010: the Arab Spring erupts in the Middle East. Governments in a few countries have been overthrown by their own people; Egypt was the most widely documented. The United States and NATO allies supported the Libyan rebels with air strikes. Conflict rages across Syria, with the Syrian government accused of murdering citizens and families within towns that do not support the current government.
September 2012: massive protests begin against the West, mainly against America. At the American Embassy in Libya, the American Ambassador and 3 American staff members were killed presumably by protesters.
What caused this “death to America” wave of violence? Not as clear cut as one would think. There is a video in circulation right now that mocks the Muslim prophet Mohammed. Islamic texts and doctrine forbid the depiction of the prophet in any way. All around the world, Muslims rioted when a Dutch journalist published a cartoon of the prophet. Back to the video: is that really the cause of violence in the Middle East? Highly doubtful; consider it a motivating factor, but not what really drives the movement.
The Arab revival of the early 1900’s occurred, starting in Egypt, when the government started to become secular. The new “freedom” angered many hardline conservatives within Islam, and so the Muslim Brotherhood was born. Not a whole lot happened between the early 1900’s and the 1970’s, other than World Wars, one of which resulted in the partitioning of some land between Africa and Eurasia called “Israel”. This angered the Muslim world, because id displaced thousands of Palestinians.
Moving on to the 1970’s, followers of Ayatollah Khomeini took control of Iran and started a religiously based government there, ruled by a council.
When we invaded Afghanistan, we “won” the physical war; only one or two countries in the world can compete with the U.S. military in a conventional war. We lost the information war, horribly. The violent extremist propaganda machine did not have to do much, the U.S. supplied much of the propaganda: the previously mentioned media disasters. Also included is the infamous black hole for high-value “terrorist” targets: Guantanamo Bay. The violent extremist groups event went as far as murdering their own people and blaming it on the U.S. military or coalition partners.
At least some of the current embassy sieges in the Middle East were coordinated, they just happened to occur on the day that Islamic violent extremists proved to the world that the United States is not the invincible giant that it appears to be; it can be made to bleed. When the U.S. was drawn into the Middle East the first time, it liberated a country from an invading country (Gulf War). The second time we entered, we were committing to staying, in force and in control, for at least a few years. This created a situation described by David Kilcullen in his book The Accidental Guerrilla. We created as many enemies just by being there, as we already had. Not to mention that we armed the Taliban when they were fighting the Soviets during the Cold War. Many of the “insurgents” I encountered in the Fallujah area, 2006, were not international terrorists; they were local and were just trying to defend their home area from something they viewed, or were told, as evil (U.S. forces). Our doctrine and training had not quite caught up yet and we were trying to fight an unconventional war using a conventional military with conventional tactics. For example: we kill an insurgent who lays IEDs. His death at our hand angers everybody he knows, and everybody that they know. Why? Because most of them are unaware that he was even placing IED’s. In the local population’s eyes, we ARE evil. We just murdered a man from their town/village/Mosque. This sometimes caused rioting of the people of the local area. The actual conduct of their protests and possibly subsequent riots was an interesting thing to observe.
The actual protests themselves are not that dissimilar to protests that occur everywhere else: they erect banners supporting the protest message, they shout, chant, sing, dance, and in general disrupt the lives of anyone not out with them. When we consider the psychology of one person, a person is generally not prone to get violent over something that angers them. Put all of those people in a crowd and the possibility that violence will occur raises. The crowd needs to maintain the energy that brought them together in the first place in order for this to happen. Enter the Professional Agitators. They are present only to influence the energy level of the crowd. They incite the violence. In a protest in Fallujah, they may be a random person who shows up to the protest when it reaches a U.S. location, and fires a single pistol shot into the air. That REALLY starts some stuff, because people start running in every direction and it appears as if the U.S. fired first, at the crowd.
So the protests show up to the embassies, go over the walls and burn the national standard. The Ambassador and some staff members were killed, massive damage to all of the embassies in the area. What impact does this have on Americans living at home?
You are more likely to feel the impact of this current wave of violence in your head and your wallet. Many people fear being in large cities, around federal buildings, or symbols of America’s greatness because they are all major symbolic, or functional targets. Hitting a federal building with a large bomb is likely to cause significant disruption to federal function and local emergency response units. Now that information technology has advanced, it is easier than ever to deliver pictures and video at near-real time to anybody with internet access all over the world.
Economically, the instability will hit the economy and influence oil prices. After all, a fifth of the world’s oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz, and tensions between Israel and Iran are approaching a boiling point over Iran’s alleged nuclear arms program. Additionally, the resources associated with evacuating an Embassy are very, very large.
Past 2 will be posted tomorrow, and focus in on some of the more specific grievances Islam has against the West, and how terrorism fits into the violent extremist’s goals.
“I am the Master of my fate; I am the Captain of my soul.”