One type of terrorism usually ignored in threat analysis is the armed assault on soft targets such as schools by paramilitary terrorist operatives. Beslan is a good case study of how such an assault could succeed. This month’s Homeland Security Affairs Journal has a rather frightening article by Bill Tallen outlining how such an scenario could play out.

The crux of the problem is one of time. The usual procedure in an active shooter event is to seal off the  perimeter, gather intelligence, negotiate, and then mass for assault. Most local law enforcement are also going to want to wait for a Tier-1 team like the Delta Force or the FBI’s HRT unit to deploy. But when faced with adversaries whose sole goal is to die in a spectacular fashion and take as many hostages as possible down with them, waiting only provokes disaster.

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I’ve been following Kosovo’s furtive efforts to achieve independence and battles with internal ethnic division. The spectacle of NATO jets fighting a wily ethnic militias and the later struggle of international stabilization forces to pacify a country stratified along ethnic/religious lines was a harbinger of later struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the public memory, Kosovo is largely seen as a bloodless success. But the reality is far more complex. And we can learn valuable lessons from Kosovo’s eventual outcome about the ultimate feasibility of nation-building. If UN and the European Union cannot reconstruct a state within the Core, we may have to rethink the feasibility of the whole enterprise.

A UN/EU protectorate, Kosovo is struggling to build administration, infrastructure, and a viable economy. Most important, the Serbian minority has never accepted the legitimacy of Kosovo’s government nor does it feel comfortable as small minority within a largely Muslim ethnic Albanian society. Kosovo’s Serbs see themselves as closer to Serbia’s Slavic Orthodox Christians, and have resisted government authority.

Today, the AFP reports that Kosovo’s Serbs have formed their own parliament. This assembly claims the right to pass laws for the “Republic of Serbia.” On its face, this is not surprising–the Serbs have been constructing parallel institutions for some time. Most ominous is the refusal of Serbian policemen and other internal security personnel to take orders from the government.

Anyone who has read William S. Lind, Martin Van Creveld, or Samuel Huntingon has a good idea of where things could go from here. Thankfully, European internal security forces are deploying to the region. But the problem is rooted in the Kosovo Serbs’ own primary loyalties, the Kosovar government’s legitimacy problems and Serbia proper’s desire to regain control of the region. It also should be noted that Russia will use this as an opportunity to roll back NATO influence. These are long-standing problems that must be addressed in order for some form of Balkan stability to emerge.


Great post by Andrew Sullivan. It's very important that we recognize that 1938 was a singular moment in world history. There has never been another Munich. On the other hand, we have witnessed numerous cases of a large, heavily armored conventional power haphazardly engaging in a "small war"–and often losing. Perhaps pundits and politicians might deign it necessary to internalize the lessons of Algiers, Saigon, and Baghdad, rather than Munich. 


Zenpundit details his new purchases. I myself am coming off a long (and very serious) illness, so I have been behind on the book-buying. However, a quick trip to a neighborhood bookseller got me back into the game. I picked up Joanna Burke's Fear: A Cultural History, Jacques Ellul's Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes, and Alan D. Schrift's edited compilation Modernity and the Problem of Evil. However, that is going to have to wait until I finish two books I have in the review pipeline, Thomas K. Adams' The Army After Next: The First Postindustrial Army and Thomas R. Mockaitis' The "New" Terrorism: Myths and Realities. All in all, a good haul. 


Amitai Etzioni, author of Security First, argues here that Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is more akin to a "mental patient" than a rational ruler. This may be true, but is largely irrelevant. Ultimate authority in Iran rests with unelected clerics, most prominent being the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khameini. Commentary on Iran's intentions usually precedes from the false assumption that Ahmadinejad is the one with the finger on the big red button–when for all intents and purposes he is a figurehead. 

This interview in The Forward is a wonderful look into the internal dynamics of the Iranian state. As one defector explains, the Revolutionary Guard–the sword of revolution–has devolved into a kind of siloviki mafia. The clerics and government structure, while pushing for regional hegemony are wedded above all else to their power. The surest way to lose it would be to launch a nuclear strike on Israel or the United States.