The John Batchelor Show

Saturday 23 March 2013

Air Date: 
March 23, 2013

Photo, above: Five members of the People's Will were condemned for assassinating Tsar Alexander II and were executed April 1881.  See Max Boot's "Invisible Armies."


Hour One

Saturday  23 March   2013 / Hour 1, Block A: The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers... by Adam Lankford (1 of 4)

The dust had not yet settled after the 9/11 attacks when people began debating whether to call the hijackers cowards. Addressing the nation, President George W. Bush assigned cowardice to the 19 terrorists, articulating a worldview that equates courage with good. Others, including journalists Bill Maher and Susan Sontag, argued that the hijackers could not be cowards, no matter how despicable their methods, because it takes guts to die for a cause. No one, however, questioned the hijackers' dedication to their campaign, until now.  In The Myth of Martyrdom, author Lankford, a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama, rejects the prevailing view of suicide terrorists as radicalized individuals who will do anything for a cause. Rather, he asserts, they are merely unhappy, damaged individuals who want to die. Terrorist organizations recruit people who are in desperate straits for suicide missions and call them martyrs, and we have bought into their propaganda. --- Scientific American MIND Reviews: The Myth of Martyrdom by Nina Bai  [more]

Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 1, Block B:  The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers... by Adam Lankford  (2 of 4)   Overview: A startling look at the deepest, darkest secrets that terrorists pray you’ll never know   For decades, experts from the most powerful governments and prestigious universities around the world have told us that suicide bombers are psychologically normal men and women driven by a single-minded purpose: self-sacrifice. As it turns out, this claim originated with the terrorist leaders themselves, who insisted that they would never recruit mentally unstable people to carry out.  [more]

Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 1, Block C: . The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers... by Adam Lankford  (3 of 4)   The truth is that most suicide terrorists are like any other suicidal person—longing to escape from unbearable pain, be it depression, anxiety, marital strife, or professional failure. Their 'martyrdom' is essentially a cover for an underlying death wish. Drawing on an array of primary sources, including suicide notes, love letters, diary entries, and martyrdom videos, Lankford reveals the important parallels that exist between suicide bombers, airplane hijackers, cult members, and rampage shooters. The result is an astonishing account of rage and shame that will transform the way we think of terrorism forever. 

We can't hope to stop these deadly attacks, Lankford argues, until we understand what's really behind them. This timely and provocative book flips a decades-old argument on its head—and has huge implications for our future.

Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 1, Block D:  The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers... by Adam Lankford  (4 of 4) WHAT do Mir Aimal Kansi, Ali Abu Kamal, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet and Nidal Malik Hasan have in common with Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Seung-Hui Cho and Adam Lanza? The first four claimed to be fighting the American government’s unholy oppression of Muslims; they struck the C.I.A. headquarters, the Empire State Building, Los Angeles International Airport and the Army base at Fort Hood, Tex., respectively. The last four seemed to be driven by personal motives; they shot up a high school, a university and an elementary school.

For years, the conventional wisdom has been that suicide terrorists are rational political actors, while suicidal rampage shooters are mentally disturbed loners. But the two groups have far more in common than has been recognized.  [more]

Hour Two

Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 2, Block A:  . Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present by Max Boot  (1 of 4)  Since ancient times, individual radicals, disadvantaged groups, and angry populations under occupation have resorted to terrorism and guerrilla warfare as the only military means available when facing stronger conventional forces. Hiding in the shadows and emerging to attack where they are least expected, they seek to cause enough pain to persuade their enemies to give up. Boot’s coverage is remarkably comprehensive, taking in revolutionary movements and anticolonial resistance campaigns, special forces working behind enemy lines and large-scale counterinsurgency operations, the revolts of Bar Kokhba and Robert the Bruce, the political violence of John Brown and that of the Ku Klux Klan, and charismatic guerrillas such as T. E. Lawrence and Che Guevara. Boot sustains the reader’s interest with lively writing and sharp characterizations, including detailed riffs on the personal hygiene and sex lives of guerrillas. His conclusions confirm that although guerrillas, insurgents, and terrorists have had their successes, the strong normally prevail over the weak. Invisible armies work best when they are able to build up visible political support and link up with (or become) even more visible conventional forces. – Foreign Affairs 

Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 2, Block B:  . Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present by Max Boot  (2 of 4) Unconventional wars are our most pressing national security concern. They're also the most ancient form of war in the world. Max Boot on the lessons of insurgency we seem unable to learn.  --WSJ

Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 2, Block C:  . Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present by Max Boot  (3 of 4)   Max Boot is among those few who believe that Bush didn’t do enough to win Iraq and Afghanistan. The problem, he wrote on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, was that the Bush team didn’t do enough in those countries, as they “succumbed to their reflexive suspicion of nation-building and allowed events to spin out of control in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 2, Block D:  Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present by Max Boot  (4 of 4)

"Enormous, brilliant and important…. Terrific… Astute… Boot’s Invisible Armies should be required reading in the White House and Pentagon—the breadth of his knowledge, his first-hand experience, and his sensible point of view make this the best and most realistic book on the subject since that classic work Colonel C. E. Caldwell’s Small WarsTheir Principles and Practice, with the additional advantage that it is well-written, and as readable as a novel…. Lucid, enlightening, and highly readable.”  --Michael Korda, The Daily Beast

“A definitive survey of the long history of irregular warfare…. One of the most pleasing aspects of Invisible Armies is the superb character sketches that Mr. Boot provides of some of the most important individual actors in military history, insurgent leaders like Washington, T.E. Lawrence, Mao, Castro, Ho Chi Minh and Osama bin Laden…. Mr. Boot's impressive work of military history is destined to be the classic account of what may be the oldest as well as the hardest form of war.  --John Nagl, Wall Street Journal

"A sweeping panorama that ranges over a vast terrain…. Thoughtful, smart, fluent, with an eye for the good story."   --Mark Mazower, New York Times Sunday Book Review

As fitting for the twenty-first century as von Clausewitz's On War was in its own time, Invisible Armies is the only complete account that assesses the impact of guerrilla uprisings throughout world history. Beginning with the first insurgencies in the ancient world -- when Alexander the Great discovered that fleet nomads were harder to defeat than massive conventional armies -- bestselling author Max Boot masterfully guides us from the Jewish rebellion against the Roman Empire up through the horrors of the French-Indochina War and the shadowy, post-9/11 battlefields of today. Relying on a diverse cast of unforgettable characters – not only Mao, Che, and Castro but also the legendary heartthrob Giuseppe Garibaldi, the eccentric Zionist, Orde Wingate, and the “Quiet American,” Edward Lansdale -- Boot explodes everything we thought we knew about unconventional warfare. The result is a rollicking read that is also our most important work of non-traditional military history—and a new way to think about the threats of the future.

“Works rather well. Even when the author is rattling through fairly familiar territory, such as the failures of the French against the Vietminh, he usually finds something fresh or pithy to say . . . Counter-insurgency may be out of fashion again, but it remains necessary to know how to do it. Mr Boot offers a timely reminder to politicians and generals of the hard-earned lessons of history.”   --The Economist

Hour Three

Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 3, Block A:  The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran by David Crist  (1 of 4)    For the United States and Iran, the 1979 Iranian revolution — which replaced an American-allied monarchy with a virulently anti-American theocracy — has proved to be the geopolitical divorce from hell. For over three decades, as the two sides have engaged in an ugly battle for patronage over a volatile Middle East, Washington has hoped in vain that Tehran would change its ways. “The Twilight War,” David Crist’s painstakingly researched and elegantly written account of the United States-Iran cold war, is an earnest chronicle of this shadowy history. Mr. Crist’s position as a government historian and adviser to the United States Central Command, which oversees all American combat forces in the Middle East and which his father used to lead, has afforded him unique access to government officials and classified intelligence. Nonetheless he proves himself a dispassionate narrator. While no apologist for the Iranian regime, Mr. Crist pulls no punches in pointing out America’s strategic and sometimes moral failings in dealing with Iran.  [more]

Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 3, Block B:  . The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran by David Crist  (2 of 4)   Even a cursory examination of newspapers and television programs will show that U.S.-Iran relations have once more collapsed into mutual accusations and threats of conflict. Iran’s growing nuclear appetite, its attachment to terror as an instrument of statecraft and America’s persistent sanctions policy suggest a conflict that does not yield easily to diplomatic mediation. This most complicated of relationships is the subject of David Crist’s lucid and thoughtful new book, The Twilight WarCrist is entering well-traveled terrain, as U.S. policy toward Iran has been the subject of many scholarly and popular accounts. However, his attention to detail, engaging prose and extensive research should set his book above many of its counterparts.Amid the acrimony and tension, it is easy to miss the fact that every U.S. president since the inception of the Islamic republic in 1979 has reached out to the Iranian clergymen who hold power there in the hope of rekindling a lost alliance. As a close friend of the United States, the shah patrolled the Persian Gulf on behalf of his superpower patron and considered intimate relations with the United States a central pillar of his foreign policy. All this came to an end with an Islamist revolt that defamed the United States as the “great Satan.” Still, Ronald Reagan’s anti-communism and fear of Soviet encroachment led him to enter into a dialogue with Iran’s mullahs that culminated in the disastrous Iran-Contra affair. Both Bush presidencies, with their wars in the Middle East, engaged in tortuous and ultimately fruitless diplomacy with Tehran. Nor have the Democratic presidents been immune to the Iran bug, as Bill Clinton hoped to use an all-too brief reformist interlude to bring the recalcitrant theocracy back into the community of nations. And Barack Obama made engagement with adversaries an important principle of his first campaign for the presidency.  [more]

Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 3, Block C:  . The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran by David Crist  (3 of 4)

Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 3, Block D:   The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran by David Crist  (4 of 4)

Hour Four

Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 4, Block A:  The Syrian Rebellion by Fouad Ajami (1 of 2)   Freedom's Call and Its Cruel Price In The Syrian Rebellion, Fouad Ajami offers a detailed historical perspective on the current rebellion in Syria. Focusing on the similarities and the differences in skills between former dictator Hafez al-Assad and his successor son, Bashar, Ajami explains how an irresistible force clashed with an immovable object: the regime versus people who conquered fear to challenge a despot of unspeakable cruelty. Although the people at first hoped that Bashar would open up the prison that Syria had become under his father, it was not to be—and rebellion soon followed.   Ajami shows how, for four long decades, the Assad dynasty, the intelligence barons, and the brigade commanders had grown accustomed to a culture of quiescence and silence. But Syrians did not want to be ruled by Bashar's children the way they had been ruled by Bashar and their parents had been by Bashar's father. When the political hurricane known as the Arab Spring hit the region, Bashar al-Assad proclaimed his country's immunity to the troubles. He was wrong. This book tells how a proud people finally came to demand something more than a drab regime of dictatorship and plunder.

Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 4, Block B:  The Syrian Rebellion by Fouad Ajami  (2 of 2)


Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 4, Block C:  Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah's Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel by Nicholas Blanford  (1 of 2)


The latest bout of speculation over an Israeli or U.S.-led attack on Iran's nuclear facilities shows that the notion of another conflict between Hezbollah and Israel is never far away -- and both sides are aware that the next war promises to be of a magnitude that will dwarf the 2006 conflict. In the decade and a half that I have been following Hezbollah's military evolution, it was the secret underground bunkers built in southern Lebanon between 2000 and 2006 that underlined to me more than anything else the militant Lebanese Shiite group's single-minded dedication to pursuing its struggle against Israel. These bunkers -- some of which I discovered and explored a few months after the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel -- were far more sophisticated than I or anyone else had expected, and the skill and patience in constructing them deep inside the hills of south Lebanon without anyone noticing were remarkable.

The 2006 war ended inconclusively, and Hezbollah and Israel are preparing for another war that neither side seeks but both suspect is probably inevitable. Hezbollah military sources tell me that new underground facilities have been constructed in Lebanon's rugged mountains since 2006, larger than before and more elaborate. Recruitment and training continues in hidden camps in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley and in Iran. New battle plans have been drawn up and new weapons systems delivered.

For now, the anticipated level of destruction in both Lebanon and Israel has acted as a form of deterrence -- but none of the drivers that led to war in 2006 have been resolved, and the "balance of terror" between Hezbollah and Israel remains inherently unstable.  As Hezbollah Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said on Nov. 11, on the occasion of the party's Martyrs' Day: "Lebanon -- through its army, people and resistance -- has become strong, but that doesn't mean that we should not remain vigilant. This resistance has always been vigilant."  [more]

Saturday 23 March   2013 / Hour 4, Block D:   Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah's Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel by Nicholas Blanford  (2 of 2)

..  ..  ..


Hour 1:

Hour 2:

Hour 3:

Hour 4: