Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ephemeral Enemy

In his loaf of lechem-sized novel of the CIA, “Harlot’s Ghost”, Norman Mailer traces the undercover upbringing of his young cold warrior and recruit Harry Hubbard through the spy vs. spy world of espionage. In one memorable section, while learning the ways of subterfuge and duplicity, Harry must associate colors with numbers. When he sees a red wall, behind a gray table with an orange lamp, it represents 586.

For anyone else, the colors and furniture arrangement would mean nothing. But to a spy, it could be the code to any number of potentially ominous outcomes.

What appears as nothing particularly significant to an ordinary person, actually has incredible stakes to code-breakers, CIA and Mossad.

Fast forward sixty-years and the same Cold War concept applies to today as the very essence of modern terrorism is to cloak evil behind a mask, whether Islam, Palestine or some warped version of a universal ideal like freedom. In reality, those notions are only ephemeral shrouds to cravenly hide the deeper-seeded hatred toward Jews and the west.

Striking at its cultural heart, known for its populous Jewish citizenry, where the lights of western commercial marquees emblazon the sightlines of Broadway, the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad came within a hair’s breadth of a show stopper, stabbing right through it.

Young Faisal is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan. But his bomb-making training reveals his affiliation with Pakistan’s Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The latter is the same group that attacked a Jewish Center in Mumbai. Meanwhile, the former plotted to attack the Danish Newspaper in Copenhagen for running the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad

While running around the cross-streets of 45th and Broadway in an Islamic Jihad get-up would’ve surely tipped off the street vendors, Shahzad’s disquise was an Americanized persona - the perfect veil. How cunning.

The modus operendi of this cowardly ilk is “hiding”. Now train your camera telescopically. When and if Iran actually attempts a nuclear attack on Israel, it won’t be from a missile launched from within their borders. They are far too spineless. They’ll hide behind one of their proxies such as Hezbollah. It won’t be a rocket for all of the world to see and trace its vapor cloud, but via a tunnel underground.

Iran is the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism. Why would their successful precedent change? Were Iran to acquire a nuclear device, their means of delivery targeted upon Israel would remain the same.

Why would Iran claim responsibility and risk immense retaliation and utter obliteration, instead of igniting their lethal device through some third or fourth party?

When the US Marine barracks in Lebanon were bombed in 1983 and 241 US servicemen were killed Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. It’s suspected that actually Hezbollah, who in turn received help from the Islamic Republic of Iran, were responsible.

But I ask you, whom did we attack in response?

Likewise since then, Iran has transferred sophisticated short-range rockets to both Hezbollah and Hamas. Both terrorist groups have used them to kill Israeli civilians in past wars.

Due to the very nature of these and other craven acts, the enemy hides cowering behind a cloak of anonymity knowing that Israel and the United States won’t risk an all out international war to exact revenge. Their modus operendi is too ephemeral and more often than not, ghostlike, they slip away.

Mailer captured the Cold War not with an epic about massive warheads pointed across oceans, but revealed it through the hidden world of the CIA.

Finding Faisal’s Pathfinder was fortunate. Capturing him was shrewd. But taken on a larger scale, today’s counter-terrorism efforts should look for what’s concealed right in front of them. Appearance and reality are by definition, paradoxically in conflict.