A must read from Barry Rubin
- From: moshes@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 7 Jun 2010 05:51:16 +0000 (UTC)
If They Don't Fool You They Can't Defeat You
Note: Several readers urged me to publish this article which I
originally wrote in March 2008. It does seem to apply rather well
to the current situation without a single change.
Especially relevant is the third point which was, among other
things, also used effectively to turn much of Western opinion
against sanctions on Saddam Hussein's Iraq whose regime, we now
know, was using money meant for humanitarian purposes in order to
buy military equipment.
By Barry Rubin
Radical forces in the Middle East have rewritten the international
rulebook in a way designed so "they can't lose." That is, there's no
easy response to their behavior and strategies.
What's even more worrisome is the widespread failure in the West even
to realize this is happening. Hamas and Hizballah fire from among
civilians and use civilian homes for military purposes; Syria or
Iran deploy disinformation, radical regimes pretend moderation, and
there are plenty of suckers to take the bait.
Extremism makes many believe that kind words and concessions can
transform them; intransigence produces a response that if they won't
give up we must do so.
Here are some new rules in which "we" represents such disparate forces
as Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, Iraqi insurgents, al-Qaida, Syria, the
Taliban, and others including radical Arab nationalists. These forces
are not all alike or allied but do often follow a parallel set of
rules quite different from how international affairs have generally
--We'll never give up. No matter what you do, we will continue
fighting. No matter what you offer we will keep attacking you.
Since you can't win you should give up.
--We're indifferent to pressure you put on us. We will turn this
pressure against you. Against us, deterrence does not exist; diplomacy
does not convince. Neither does the carrot buy us off, nor does the
stick make us yield. There are no solutions that can end the conflict.
You cannot win militarily nor make peace through diplomacy.
--If you set economic sanctions we'll say you are starving our people
in an act of "collective punishment." Moreover, sanctions will cost
you money and generate opposition among those who lose profits.
--In response to military operations we'll attack your civilians.
Casualties will undermine your internal support. We will try to force
you to kill civilians accidentally. We won't care but will use this to
persuade many that you are evil. Thus, we will simultaneously murder
your civilians and get you condemned as human rights' violators.
--If you try to isolate us we will use your own media and
intellectuals against you. At times, we'll hint at moderation and
make promises of change. We won't do so enough to alienate our own
followers but enough to subvert yours. They will demand you engage
us, which means you making concessions for nothing real in exchange.
--Talking to our own people, we foment hatred and demonize you.
Speaking to the West, we will accuse you of fomenting hatred. We will
hypocritically turn against you all the concepts you developed:
racism, imperialism, failure to understand the "other," and so on.
These, of course, are our ideas but your feelings of guilt,
ignorance about us, and indifference to ideology will make you not
notice that fact.
--We will claim to be victims and "underdogs." Because you are the
stronger and more "advanced" that means you are the villains. We're
not held responsible for our deeds or expected to live up to the same
standards. There is no shortage of, to quote Lenin, "useful idiots"
who will echo our propaganda.
--Since our societies are weak, undemocratic, and have few real
moderates, you will have to make deals with phoney moderates and
dictatorial regimes weakened by corruption and incompetence.
--Even the less radical regimes, often our immediate adversaries,
partly play into our hands. Due to popular pressure--plus their desire
to mobilize support and distract attention from their own shortcomings
--they trumpet Arab and Islamic solidarity. They denounce the West,
blame all problems on Israel, and revile America, even as they accept
your aid. They glorify interpretations of Islam not too far from ours.
They cheer Iraqi insurgents, Hizballah, and Hamas. They don't struggle
against Iran getting nuclear weapons. They lay the basis for our mass
support and recruits, as Lenin said selling us the rope to hang them
as well as you.
--There's no diplomatic solution for you, though you yearn to find
one. There's no military solution for you, whether you try that or
not. You love life, we love death; you are divided, we are united;
you want to get back to material satisfaction, we are dedicated
revolutionaries. We will outlast you.
--Finally, our greatest weapon is that you truly don't understand all
the points made above. You are taught, informed, and often led by
people who simply don't comprehend what an alternative, highly
ideological, revolutionary worldview means. In effect, we will try,
and often succeed, toturn your "best and brightest" into the worst and
dimmest who think you can persuade us, blame you for the conflicts, or
expect that we will alter our course, and we will use those mistakes
The above analysis seems pessimistic but actually is the opposite.
Most of this strategy's power is based on spreading illusions,
depending on gullibility. Much of the rest relies on their enemies'
In a sustained conflict, the radicals' technological and
organizational weaknesses, along with their mistaken assessments and
unrealistic ideology, will bring inevitable defeat. They will lose
even if they never surrender.
They can kill people but not overcome societies determined to grow,
prosper, and survive. The keys to a successful response are
steadfastness and understanding. To paraphrase Francis Bacon and
Franklin Roosevelt, there is nothing to fear but fear--and
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International
Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of
International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The
Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom:
The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and
The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books
include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist
Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; The West and
the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read
and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or
subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.
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