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Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Few Good Moles

This is Rough Rider’s last day subbing for the eminent Moose, who is due back online tomorrow. So the RR is in a musing mood.

NO BRAINER: Rough Rider muses about why an Arab intelligence agency hasn’t yet penetrated al Qaeda, especially al Qaeda in Iraq, and taken out lovely guys like Abu Musab al-Zaqarwi. It seems a no-brainer. After all, the terrorists, like the Marines, are looking for a few good (bad) men. They’re recruiting. We read that they are recruiting not just in and through Syria, but from as far away as Europe. How hard would it be to put well-trained Arab sleepers in place who attend the right mosques, mouth the right slogans, build a plausible biography of disenchantment with Western culture and appeasement Islam—along with crusader-hatred and a growing desire for jihad? Properly managed, you would think Arab infiltrators could move up the leadership chain—just as the East Germans placed a mole right next to West German Chancellor Willy Brandt in the 1970s. That could give the good Arab intell services penetration and, eventually, targets—maybe even the top ones. Ultimately, fighting Islamist extremism should become an Arab fight; it’s one the good guys could win.

That’s why it was comforting to read on Wednesday David Ignatius’s report on his visit to the Jordanian intelligence headquarters in Amman. What’s held the Arabs back, he notes, is their ambivalence about suicide bombings. Killing Jews and Westerners, OK. Killing Arabs, not good. And after last week’s Amman bombings, the Jordanians are fully incentivized (an ugly but useful Washington word) to go after the bad guys. Based on Ignatius’s conversations with the intell people as well as with King Abdullah, Rough Rider looks for the Jordanians to do what needs to be done.

BLOGGERS UNMASKED: Is Rough Rider the last person to discover the droll but stimulating video blogging dialogue between Mickey Kaus and Robert Wright? It’s called bloggingheads.tv and it takes blogging to a new level. Nobody has to leave his basement. Addicts can imbibe a blog with their ears now while fixing dinner (Rough Rider did it last night). Kaus and Wright, two of the smartest guys around, are an accidental comedy act, even when they are making fun of themselves as a comedy act (“I’m a nuanced robot,” claims Wright, rebutting a report that he comes across like robot). The blogging heads seem to be staring straight into their computer screens, even as viewers stare into theirs—a peculiar but pleasing cyberintimacy. Rough Rider doesn’t know if this can last, but for the moment these dueling bloggers are sort of the Car Talk of politics. They give good sound bites on good topics, but the show (yes, it’s a show) is about twice as long as it should be.

This undertaking proves definitively that you don’t have to be just another pretty face to get on TV. But it does put a real face over the imagined one you’ve associated with a certain voice, even a written one. This can be disappointing. Suppose, for example, the host of this blog went live on streaming video and the world discovered that the Moose has no antlers!

It’s been fun.
              ---Rough Rider
-- Posted at 9:36 AM | Link to this post | Email this post