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Friday, January 13, 20061137195300

Embracing Profiling

"The Taxonomic Obsession: Profiling as a 4GW Tactic," by Myke Cole, On Point, 13 January 2005, http://www.uscav.com/uscavonpoint/Feature.aspx?id=149.

Myke Cole, who is, by the way, awesome, criticizes "profiling" in our global war on terrorism. He does so in the context of 4th Generation Warfare military theory, which has previously been discussed here at tdaxp. Among other other criticisms, Myke Cole argues that profiling will be ineffective because

  • the enemy is too adaptable

  • that the enemy's network structure is not easily profiled anyway...

  • and that profiling is a unique Western "obsession."

The first two criticisms are besides the point, and the third is a reason to profile

Is the enemy too adaptable?

Our terrorist enemies have shown themselves to be media savvy and every bit as aware of current trends as we are. If we are considering narrowing our target scope to young Muslim-looking males and doing so in many public forums, then they know it. Salafi Muslims come in all shades and two genders. The notorious Azzam Al-Amriki (Azzam the American), who does not appear Middle-Eastern, is quoted on a purported Al-Qa’ida video saying “Allah willing, the streets of America will run red with blood, matching drop for drop the blood of America's victims." One of the most recent terrorist threats was delivered by a man largely believed to be a white Australian. 44% of Bosnia’s over four million citizens are Muslim, most of whom do not appear Middle-Eastern. This doesn’t even take into account the fact that citizens of the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, are of Asian ethnic stock.

No. Our enemies are not nine feet tall While we should assume our enemies are smart and resourceful, major al Qaeda leaders have shown an inability to adapt in very importance battlespaces. This even goes so far as alienating natural allies. We make mistakes. So do they. We have limited resources. So do they. They will not always adapt successfully.

When we force al Qaeda to adapt, we melt them with frictional heat. We deform them into an ocean of possibilities. We mutate them, and because most mutations are harmful, we hurt them.

Are our enemies' networks too difficult to profile?

The FTO list’s problems are manifold. First, it creates an illusion of corporate organization where none exists. Thus, the myth of Al-Qai’da as a physical group, when it is actually more of a movement, persists. Second, it fails to distinguish the manifold nature of organizations on the list, such as HAMAS or Hezbollah, both of which function as NGOs that serve their constituencies with food, medical care and a variety of community services. Many members of HAMAS and Hezbollah are doctors or political figures who do not engage in terrorist operations or material support of terrorist operations. Third, as a political tool, it lacks consistent application. Thus a currently active, highly violent group such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is not listed as an FTO, while the Kach movement is listed; even though it has done little more than organize protests and verbally harass its opponents.

No. We have much more to fear from organizations than movements Arguing that a movement is as effective as an organization falls into John Robb's fallacy of global guerrillaism. That sort of thing just does not work.

A mere collection of believers does not have the ability to plan massive, multi-continent operations, such as 9/11. It is easy to forget that the 9/11 Commission Report described meetings in East Asia, North America, and Europe. Organization is important, and a "movement" is not an organization. A movement has spirit, but no body: it is a ghost, not a monster.

Is profiling a Western, or American, "obsession"?

As in the profiling of individuals, the western obsession with taxonomy can disarm counter-terrorism investigators and analysts in their attempt to ascertain the nature of the real threat, by lulling them into a false sense of security that all terrorist groups in existence can be accounted for in a corporate manner by the FTO list. The FTO fails to take into account numerous NGOs that provide direct or indirect support to terrorist organizations, such as the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY)[16] or the Al-Haramain foundation. The very term “Foreign” sets an implication that ignores the fact that many of the most dangerous terrorist cells are operating within the borders of the US homeland. The July 7th London bombers weren’t foreign to Britain at all.

Yes. That's why we should run towards it. When I discussed the sex politics of Jesusism-Paulism, I observed what Paul noted as the unique weaknesses of men and women, and that "to a netstruggle strategist, it is a description of the warriors and an opportunity."

And in a review of Blueprint for Action I wrote:

that things that go against our core competencies are core incompetencies.

If Americans are natural taxonomers -- if we want to organize people into groups -- this is an opportunity. If we are not good at avoiding taxonomy, then avoiding categorization is a weakness we should avoid.

4GW theory teaches us, just as Sun Tzu and Mao said before, that we must flow away from things that are hard to things that are easy. If Americans want to categorize, it is not enough to call it an "obsession" and avoid it. Rather, strategies should be built that encourage us to categorize, and profile more effectively than ever.

Modern genetics promises to make profiling more effective than ever. Earlier on this blog I discussed lecture by geneticist-political-scientists Dr. Hibbing and Dr. Kurzban Just listening to these men allows all sorts of "profiling" ideas to emerge. For instance, if political attitudes and political behavior are both influenced by genetics but through different genes (as it appears), a powerful rule-set of a SysAdmin force would be

  • Enter a country, widely distributing food, money, or other goods at mobile stations
  • At every station collect a DNA sample (hair, skin, etc) from every recipient
  • Running this information through a computer, it should be easily to determine the 10,000 men aged 15-35 most likely to fight the initial stages of an insurgency
  • Protect those men in state facilities ("draft," "imprison" them) for 18 months, while taking steps to minimize resentment (pay a salary at the end of the term, etc)

We should not blindly or stupidly profile. But profiling will not be automatically overcome by al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations without significant difficulty and significant damage. Our desire to profile shows means that politically it is wise to employ. And new technologies will soon make profiling wiser than ever.

We must embrace victory. To do that, we should embrace profiling.

Update: Mark Safranski thinks deeper

17:35 Posted in al Qaeda, Doctrine | Permalink | Comments (5) | Tags: profiling


You want to embrace "profiling" as an abstract concept. How precisely do you suggest we "profile?" I assume Hibbing and Kurzban were just giving amoral examples- imprisoning innocent people based on genetics is the sort of program we should be fighting against rather than for.

Posted by: Adam | Friday, January 13, 2006

First I must defend the innocents -- the preemptive counter-insurgency example is mine. It seems a natural extension of Dr. Hibbing's work, but Dr. Hibbing carefully avoided any prescriptive statements. There is enough PC criticism of genetic research already, without him causing any more. While he did not state his political beliefs, he strongly implied that he is a liberal Democrat. I believe that Dr. Kurzban is too.

Special purpose drafts have an established history. America was preparing a call-up of women with nursing experience for the invasion of Japan, while Belgium conducted a peace-time draft of doctors to prevent them from moving to other countries following a shattered world war. If one grants the State the ability to do this, then it's hard to see why saving tens of thousands of causalties from a pre-empted counter-insurgency is somehow less "draft-worthy." And if one has a problem with the concept itself of a draft, then they have already abandoned the realm of meaningful security debate.

Of course, one can recognize the potential need of a draft while opposing it in a particular instance. I opposed Kerry's peace-time draft (which he dropped when it became opportunistic to criticize Bush for a non-existence potential war-time draft), for example.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Saturday, January 14, 2006

Hey Dan, thanks for the thoughtful response. I'll probably wind up citing it (with your kind permission) as I most likely will wind up delivering this piece as a paper at an upcoming conference.

I have to say though, much as I like seeing my name in print, I prefer your entry on Kajira. Nice to know I'm not the only one with a thing for Asian women out there ;-)

Posted by: Myke | Saturday, January 14, 2006

"If one grants the State the ability to do this, then it's hard to see why saving tens of thousands of causalties from a pre-empted counter-insurgency is somehow less "draft-worthy." And if one has a problem with the concept itself of a draft, then they have already abandoned the realm of meaningful security debate."

I sort of agree with your first statement, but if you're second is correct than I have abandoned the realm of meaningful security debate a long time ago. Forcing people to work is called "slavery." Belgium's imprisonment of people who developed skills goes against everything America and civilization is supposed to stand for. I don't see any point in defeating terrorists if the way to do so is by becoming a racist slave state.

Posted by: Adam | Saturday, January 14, 2006


Thanks for dropping by, and of course. This humble blog would be delighted by a citation the conference. (A conference that is suspiciously lacking in bloggers or students passes, I might add... ;) )

Regarding the daughters of Joktan [1], the fault must lie with The Economist. If that magazine has more full-frontal nudity than all others combined [2], as well as an affinity for orientals [3], what is tdaxp to do? Where the effortless British lead [4], rightist blogs follow...


I'm equally disgusted by Belgium's actions. They mark beyond the outer bounds of what's acceptable. Marking inbounds would have been the wartime draft of nurses, which would force work in dangerous conditions based on environmental (trained as nurse) and genetic (females) factors.

The theoretical counterinsurgency draft I outline is even tamer than this. No one would be put in a dangerous condition -- indeed, it would at worst be protective custody, because insurgency is dangerous! The internment would not be to force industrial production, but to prevent societal destruction.

Real criticisms can be leveled against mass, targeted preemptive protective custody. Charges of "racial slavery" are not among them.

[1] http://www.eifiles.cn/oo.htm
[2] http://www.ridingsun.com/posts/1107268415.shtml
[3] http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2005/01/31/ideal.html
[4] http://olimu.com/Journalism/Texts/Reviews/RightNation.htm

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Saturday, January 14, 2006