Wretchard's Fourth Conjecture

Friday, July 22, 2011
It appears that the bombing and attack on the teenagers on the island in Norway was done by a native Norwegian who belonged to the right side of the political spectrum. Extremists come in all stripes, and there is no point in doing anything other than condemning his heinous acts. My heart goes out to the Norwegians on this dark day.

As it become more obvious he is not an Islamic radical, and I'll confess to assuming it was an act of Islamic terror, I remembered an old post by Wretchard, a.k.a. Richard Fernandez, at his old fallback Belmont Club site. 

The post was The Fourth Conjecture. The beginning of it is excerpted below.
Item: a letter has been delivered to the Indonesian embassy in Canberra containing anthrax-related spores. The attack is believed motivated by outrage over the sentencing to 20 years imprisonment of Australian Schapelle Corby, widely believed innocent, in Indonesia on drug charges after Bali mastermind Abu Bakar Bashir was given 30 months for murdering nearly 100 Australians. The terrorist weapon was supposed to bring America to its knees, but as terrorist methods proliferate it is increasingly being used in internecine fighting throughout the Muslim world and by non-Muslims in retaliation.

Item: a blast ripped through a Shi'te mosque in Pakistan killing 4 persons. Al Qaeda is suspected of masterminding the Pakistani attack. Item: at least 20 people were killed by a suicide bomber in an Afghan mosque, killing a cleric who was a support of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The attack is suspected to be the work of Al Qaeda. Item: twenty two people were killed as a bomb ripped through an Indonesian market. Item: "The Jerusalem district court on Monday sentenced an Israeli man to eight years in prison for membership in an underground Jewish terrorist organization believed to be behind the killing of eight Palestinian civilians over the last four years."

Steve Coll, writing in the Washington Post asked his readers to imagine a scene in the near future.
Imagine the faculty lounge in the theoretical physics, metallurgy and advanced chemistry departments of an underfunded university in Islamabad or Rabat or Riyadh or Jakarta. The year is 2015. Into the room walk a group of colleagues -- seven or eight talented scientists, some religiously devout, all increasingly angry about events abroad. At night, between sporadic electricity outages, they watch satellite television and chat in cyberspace, absorbing an increasingly radical, even murderous outlook toward the United States. By day, as they sip coffee and smoke furtively in each other's company, these scientists spontaneously form a bond, and from that bond emerges a resolve to act -- by launching a nuclear or biological attack on American soil.
'Beware Islamic wrath', he seemed to say. A true but trite observation. The Belmont Club post All for One and One For All suggested that Coll was missing an equally obvious point.
the situation will be even more dangerous than Coll suggests. Long before a faculty lounge in Islamabad or Riyadh realizes it can build a bomb alone and secretly, the same thought will have occurred to individuals in Tel Aviv, New Delhi or Palo Alto. Any Islamic group that believes it can attack New York deniably should convince itself that no similar group can nuke Mecca at the height of the pilgrim season. In fact, the whole problem that Coll describes should be generalized. The only thing worse than discovering that New York has been destroyed by persons unknown is to find that Islamabad has been vaporized by a group we've never heard of.
Any environment capable of producing terrorism on a scale which could destroy America would be sufficiently powerful to destroy Islam -- and destroy it first many times over. Any weapon that AQ Khan can make can be bought by believers and infidels alike. The theorists of asymmetrical terrorist warfare forgot that its military effectiveness depends on the very restraints that it, itself, dissolves.

That terrorist violence would beget terrorist violence, and car bomb would be answered by car bomb, has always been a frightening possibility. I fear today is the first step in the further coarsening an already unbearably coarse conflict.