We have always lived in a world in which "asymmetric" warfare was a common place event. The classic example for the current times is Vietnam. There was never any question that in a straight fight between the American military and the North Vietnamese and their agents in the Vietcong, the US military would have devastated the enemy. Of course, we were constrained from a full scale war by fear of Chinese and/or Russian nuclear intervention.
The North Vietnamese learned early on that their best hope of winning lay in convincing the American public that victory would be too costly in lives and materiel and that they would never sue for peace. The Communists had defeated the French in exactly this way. Despite the evidence we have learned since the war that the North thought they were losing, that the Tet offensive, which Walter Cronkite famously saw as a great defeat for America, was a disaster for the North, many Americans still do not fully appreciate how the defeat in the information war led to our defeat on the battlefield.
Today, we are involved in the quintessential asymmetric warfare between Western civilization and various forms of radical Islamic fascism who use techniques of terrorism as their primary weapon.
This war is being fought on many different fronts, including, especially, on the front pages of our newspapers. The commonality that links the uproar over the "Cartoon War" and the Iranian race to gain a nuclear weapon is the inherent logic of escalation that is built into the enemy's guiding political philosophy.
Terrorism works best when it works as theater.
What I mean by that is that terrorism without an audience is essentially no different from banditry or piracy. Without an audience a kidnapped Westerner is merely a very unfortunate victim of evil people. With a world wide audience, it is a means to (attempt to) enforce one's will on the opponent while increasing recruitment to what looks like a strong cause. While the Media tends to travel in packs and will breathlessly report on the anything relating to the most recent al Qaeda propaganda film, they also tend, like hyperactive children, to lose interest in a situation when the excitement dies. Since our nervous systems are designed to become inured to repetitive stimuli, after a short time spent reporting on car bombings and suicide bombings, the stories begin to lose their impact. The exception occurs when the Media has their own stake in the battle. Iraq stayed in the news for as long as it could be used to support the idea that we were losing, stuck in a Vietnam like quagmire; now that the Iraqis are forming their own government, car bombings are no longer quite so interesting; the numbers of dead are mentioned somewhere late in the international round-up and then on to the next story. For a car bomb in Iraq to now get onto the front pages requires at least high double digit, better yet, triple digit, dead. With only 5 or 10 deaths, it is an item, not a story. Terrorism requires either a sustained war of attrition which can only take place on the terrorists home turf, or increasingly spectacular events to trigger a Western media feeding frenzy.
For the Islamic fascists, the "Cartoon War" represents an escalation of the fight. The goal is to force the Europeans to back down and cede to the most radical of Islamists the ability to censor European newspapers. The weapon, aimed at Western Media, is the demonstration of Islamic rage, as exemplified by burning Danish flags, hooded and cloaked warriors brandishing weapons, signs threatening death to all who insult Islam. As usual, Michelle Malkin has the best summary of the state of THE "INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ANGER" with several more recent updates, including images of the demonstration today in England, IN THEIR OWN WORDS.
In my previous post about the cartoons, The Clock is Ticking, I pointed out that traditional Islamic societies are shame based cultures :
The Shame culture of Islam is compounded by their intensely dysfunctional narcissistic vulnerability. The Narcissist is characterized by an acute hyper-sensitivity to criticism (which is why there is so little humor in the Muslim world; humor always involves some disguised aggression and such expressions are intolerable to the Narcissist) and an extraordinary insensitivity to the feelings of others.
The most shameful thing in such a culture is to be seen as being weak. This is one reason there has traditionally been so little opposition to Arab strongmen; they are strong and that is admirable.
At this point the most radical, who are too often seen as the most pious, are controlling events in the "Cartoon War. " The "moderate" Muslim governments have no interest in standing up for free speech; they don't tolerate it in their own countries and supporting the West would put their (pseudo) Islamic legitimacy in question. For the Islamists to back down and be seen as backing down is to show fatal weakness.
The most interesting question concerns how this ends. Will the Muslims settle for a non-apology apology that is the specialty of those schooled in the PC world? ("I am deeply sorry if my cartoon has offended anybody's feelings.") Or, will they continue to demand full obeisance to their skewed perception of what free speech involves?
If the Islamists feel that they are not yet ready to openly confront the Europeans on their home turf in Europe, prominent Imams will accept the proffered apology, the crowds will dissipate, and things will quiet down.
If the Islamists feel strong enough to confront and cow the West, the protests will escalate. If this occurs, I would suspect that the hands of al Qaeda and Iran will be found to be involved in increasing the agitation. And that would suggest that Iran indeed has the makings of a bomb. Ahmadinejad's increasingly violent rhetoric suggest he feels either desperate or powerful (and thus far he has not sounded like a desperate man); either way, the danger of a spark triggering widespread chaos in the setting of continuing Arabic rage, is all too real.