Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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The Law of Unintended Consequences
The Times of London today brings an interesting reminder of the law of unintended consequences, and the rise of radical Islam, through the first Bosnian conflict.

I and others have long argued the the Bosnian conflict provided the template for al Qaeda action in the years ahead. Fresh off driving the Soviet Union from Afghanistan and convinced Allah would deliver another major victory, thousands of _mujahadeen_rushed from Afghanistan and elsewhere to fight for Bosnian Muslims.

The recruitment, training, rapid radicalization and the the massive use of charities (the Third World Relief Agency-TWRA-in particular) came from the Afghan playbook and were honed in Bosnia.

How did this come to pass, that al Qaeda suddenly found an opening to recruit and fight in the West? The movement had its root in the campaign of Rodovan Karadzic and his allies, of ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the former Yugoslavia.

In the eyes of Serb propagandists, the Muslim population of Bosnia was doubly contemptible, both for their religion and because they were historically seen as renegade Serbs. Karadzic's deputy and then successor, Biljana Plavsic, has explained: "It was genetically deformed material [among the Serbs] that embraced Islam. And now, of course," she lamented, "with each successive generation, this gene simply becomes concentrated. It gets worse and worse..." But a well-crafted final solution was at hand, and 100,000 Muslims paid the price of such "deformity" with their lives.

The Muslims in Bosnia, traditionally unaffiliated with the _wahhabist_ and _jihadist_ theology of radical Islamism, turned to the Muslim world for aid, finding benefactors in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and elsewhere. THe unifying force that held these disparate donor groups together was the Muslim Brotherhood, operating through TWRA and linked to Sudan's primary MB leader, Hassan al Turabi. (For more on this, see my previous work here

The early 1990s were formative in the rise of global Islamic terrorism, including what would be al-Qaeda, and Bosnia was central to this. In despair, the largely Muslim Sarajevo Government turned for support to Islamic groups and countries. Money and arms poured in - from among others, it seems, Osama bin Laden. There also arrived several thousand mujahideen, initially from Iran and Afghanistan, later from North Africa and the Middle East.

Distinguished by their bloodthirsty tactics rather than their military effectiveness, these foreign recruits were employed first against the Serbs and then against the Croats of central Bosnia in 1993, after the two former allies fell out. Their numerous crimes are still coming to light.

I doubt Karadzic could or even tried to foresee the potential consequences of his genocidal campaign, which echo down to today.

But it is worth keeping in mind that actions bring reactions, and the best policies, particularly in dealing with foreign issues such as radical Islamism, should take into account the likely and long-lasting reactions to those policies.

The art of red teaming to work through possible scenarios in response to a given action has largely been lost in the intelligence community, as has the desire and capability to look far over the horizon to see what the world will look like decades from now, not just weeks or months.

As Karadzic and his ilk show, there is something to be said for the value of looking for unintended consequences.

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