Thomas X. Hammes is a retired Marine colonel and the author of a well-regarded work on modern war: The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century. He is also a fellow participant in an online discussion forum on military affairs called the Warlord Loop. I was so taken with one of his recent postings on how to battle jihadists on the Internet (a major venue for Islamist organizing and proselytizing) that I asked him if he would adapt it for contentions readers. He kindly agreed. Here it is:
For the last few years, individuals and private organizations that are pro-Israeli have been in a daily fight to shut down or deface anti-Israeli web sites. Unofficial and informal, this Internet Hagana has had considerable success. They cannot shut down all hostile sites because they keep popping up, but at least they have not completely ceded the field to the Internet jihadists.
While we have a few Americans who take similar action against mufsidoon (evildoers) web sites, why don’t we encourage Americans/western “geeks” to go after these websites? Exploit them, disrupt them, shut them down, post false information, and create distrust. This will not be a government controlled or directed effort. Essentially, I am suggesting a leaderless effort that allows Americans to use their creativity, technological skills, and the rabid dedication some people will apply to such a project. The mufsidoon are coming after all American citizens; this is a way some Americans can fight back.
Some will object that such actions will simply encourage Islamists to attack American sites. But our sites—government and private—are already subject to tens of thousands of attacks per day.
Obviously, such action won’t solve the overall strategic issues but it will insure the terrorists no longer have a sanctuary on the Internet.
Like all great ideas, this one sounds blindingly obvious: use a network against a network, pit our computer geeks against theirs. But while there are some private groups (such as the SITE Institute) that monitor jihadist activity on the Internet, I haven’t heard of any that actually attack jihadist web sites. Maybe it’s already being done on a small scale, but much more could be done to target the thousands of Islamist web sites. Hackers, take it away . . .