March 17, 2006

The Cold War with Radical Islam & Cyber-Privateering

Here is a link to a Powerpoint presentation saved by John Donovan that accompanied a lecture given by Rear Admiral Bill Sullivan, the Vice Director for Strategic Plans & Policy on The Joint Staff (the J5). The venue was the Executive Lecture Forum, Radvanyi Chair in International Security Studies, Mississippi State University, entitled “Fighting the Long War--Military Strategy for the War on Terrorism”.

Go check out John's take here.

My initial response is WOW. The military seem to actually get what is at stake in Iraq. Admiral Sullivan discusses the long-term goal of Salaafism as the restoration of the Caliphate and the al Qaeda strategy of turning Iraq into the central base of operations for the future Islamic empire.

The military also seems to get that two of the main tools used by terrorist networks are the media and internet. However, I see nothing in the presentation on how those two tools of the enemies can be removed.

My own personal view is that the internet jihad needs to be counterattacked. Up to now, there has been virtually no real effort made to treat the terror presence on the internet as a military matter.

Many law enforcement arrests have been made (not nearly enough), but if this is a war we are in then we must treat the internet as an instrument of war. You do not fight a war with indictments. It is precisely the fact that there is no due process in war that differentiates it from normal police work.

So, how does the military fight the internet jihad? It can't.

We must understand our enemies as non-hierarchically organized networks of like minded individuals. There are literally thousands of websites, chat rooms, and forums which spread the jihadi doctrine. Law enforcement cannot hope to close down all of these websites and the military is simply not designed to fight it. A centralized command structure cannot fight such a network since each cell is not connected to the others.

So, is there a way to fight the internet jihad? Yes, there is. Cyber-privateering.

Fight fire, with fire. The only way to win the cyber-war is by removing the propaganda outlets of the enemy. State actors, though, are limited in what they can get away with on this front. However, there are millions of hackers out there who do have the tools necessary to take down these websites. They could actually be more effective if a) government resources and programs were added to their arsenals b) like privateers of old they were shielded from the retribution of the laws of foreign countries.

Privateers of old were private citizens given free reign to wreak havoc on enemies. Unlike privateers on the high-seas, there is no financial gain to be had from shutting down an enemy website. That is why cyber-privateers ought to be given a bounty for each terrorist website they take down. In addition to bounties, cyber-privateers could be given immunity from prosecution both abroad and at home. Expect to hear more about cyber-privateering from me in the future.

Along with taking the long-war seriously, we must also take the cyber-war seriously. Winning both will require new ways of dealing with threats.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 03:34 PM | Comments |