Friday, October 20, 2006

Knowing the Enemy

Jeff Stein has a less than encouraging piece in the New York Times, dealing with the frightening lack of knowledge many in Washington have of Islam and Islamism:

FOR the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”

A “gotcha” question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don’t think it’s out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I’m not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who’s on what side today, and what does each want?


But so far, most American officials I’ve interviewed don’t have a clue. That includes not just intelligence and law enforcement officials, but also members of Congress who have important roles overseeing our spy agencies. How can they do their jobs without knowing the basics?

A very good question. Forget policymakers, in the post-9/11 world, every American citizen should know the basics about the Middle East.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the more discouraging facts in the article is that the FBI still is more than a mile away and a dollar short of training its agents to "know the enemy." The agents apparently rely on translators to supply them with what has either been written, published or said.

They still do not understand the 1400-year conflict between the Shiites and the Sunni, and cannot tell one faction from the other - - as if they really cared.

When an agent spends more time on the gun range than learning about the enemy, we're in trouble.

9:51 PM  

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