Sunday, June 03, 2007

Limits of Robbism

Contrary to what John Robb says, the supposed plot (no explosives, information from a sooper source, mystery men) to attack a jet fuel pipeline into New York (JFK) airport does not bear out his theories as anything distinct from good old-fashioned counterinsurgency.

Robbo is right that the pipeline was a good target, but I suspect he is far from right about the feasibility of destroying it with means available to terrorist espontaneos in New York. (Remember, AVTUR is heavy oil - it doesn't explode well without a lot of persuasion.) To do a good job you need plastique, not bathtub TATP or some such. That might not be so important, if a potential attacker followed Robb's preferred recipe of repeated partial disruption.

And here's the problem. That implies that you can do it and get away with it, and do it again, and again. That in turn implies that you're swimming in the people like a fish in water - that you have the sort of popular legitimacy and support Mao argued was vital to successful rebellion. What happened to the alleged plotters was quite the opposite - they got touted, which is what happens to guerrillas who don't have popular support.

In Iraq, let us recap, oil export revenues benefit the state in the first instance. This state was always a rentier state, but for large chunks of Iraq's population and essentially all its former military class, it's become a rentier state that serves the interests of religious/race enemies and foreign powers whilst failing to redistribute oil export earnings to them. Hence, the support required to practice Robbism, and to put up with the consequences of one's own side's successful systems disruption. This is an issue the Robbster has never, I think, confronted - trying to achieve a failed state as a strategy has the failing that it can very easily destroy the clandestine tactical and operational consent all guerrillas rely on. Instead, there's an airpower-theorist assumption that dehousing the working class..sorry..blowing up electricity pylons equals victory. If systems disruption is so great, why didn't it work for the bombers?

In the Niger Delta, another fave of J-Ro's, similar conditions obtain (is the Nigerian military anything else but an army of occupation in its own country?), just with more Marxism. Here are naturally-protected base areas for a protracted war, a history driven by the state's repression of nonviolent leftwing dissent, and a "country-selling" landlord elite getting rich off hard currency exports. It's the Mekong Delta with oil.

In New York, the chances of jihadis having a similar social status, legitimacy, and popularity are as good as zero - can you guess why? No doubt the anonymity of the city would permit a cell of nutters or two to go long as they didn't do anything. As a rule, the Big City offers a choice between anonymity and notoriety.


Anonymous said...

Doesn't sound like you read Brave New War.

Anonymous said...

The "plot" supports Robb's thesis "Brave New War" ergo he cites it without looking at the amateurish hamfisted approach of alledged culprits and giving Homeland Security raison de'tre for its existence.

Good post Alex. Will Robbo comment?

Gridlock said...

Sounds like another "Seas of David" style operation, to be honest - the perp worked at JFK and obviosuly got some far-fetched notion about blowing up the pipe whilst there. He believed that he could set off an explosion on the tarmac and have the whole pipe explode from end to end, including under Queens. In reality you'd have had a loud, wet bang and then a lot of foam sprayed about, I reckon.

Anonymous said...

Reports the Trinidad & Tobago Express:

Police intelligence in Trinidad and Tobago and the US say the group that planned to blow up fuel depots at JFK airport might be linked to radical Shia groups based in southern Iraq or Iran....

As if they weren't busy enough.. to take Caribean holidays when the Indian Ocean has great resorts. This is Monty Pythonesque

kostenloser Counter