The Next Lenin: On the Cusp of Truly Revolutionary Warfare

The Next Lenin: On the Cusp of Truly Revolutionary Warfare

Mini Teaser: Only an oppressive police state could assure total government control over novel tools for mass destruction.

by Author(s): Fred C. Ikle

Against aggressors who live in the country they are attacking, the
vaunted nuclear deterrent is impotent. And just because these
aggressors would be located within the country's borders, it cannot
be assumed that domestic police and security forces could render them
harmless. A competent organization of totalitarian revolutionaries
that employs covert tactics to cause death and destruction is
difficult to eliminate, especially with the means available to a
democratic government. For more than a quarter century the British
government has been struggling to put an end to IRA attacks in Ulster
and England. Imagine if the IRA changed its style of warfare one day
and started to use new biological weapons instead of dynamite,
Semtex, and other conventional explosives. What could the British
government then do that it is not doing already? This question is not
easily answered, especially since the British government possesses
some of the world's best intelligence services, equipped with the
most sophisticated technology, and unencumbered by anything
comparable to the U.S. Bill of Rights.

U.S. officials whose job it is to prevent domestic terrorism must
sometimes envy their counterparts in London and Belfast for the
permissive investigative powers with which British democracy is
comfortable. Last year, for example, the British parliament gave the
police the power to stop and frisk anybody in the streets, without
needing grounds for suspicion. The U.S. Congress, deliberating
anti-terrorist legislation at the time, balked at the
administration's proposed wiretap authority and at the authorization
of U.S. Army assistance even in the event of chemical weapons use
within the United States. Conservative Republican members of Congress
made common cause with members at the opposite end of the political
spectrum--and with the American Civil Liberties Union--to pull the
sharper teeth from the anti-terrorist legislation.

In the United States, police and other investigative forces must also
cope with the noble American tradition that demands special deference
to religious institutions. Abuse of this privilege by
pseudo-religious cults is not uncommon. By painting itself with a
religious veneer, a criminal organization can inhibit government
authorities from collecting intelligence on its activities and from
forestalling crimes it may be preparing. In the 1970s, for example, a
"Reverend" Jim Jones started a cult in California with leftist
tendencies. That cult had built some links to California politicians
but also engaged in weapons trafficking and coercion of its members.
By l978, the good Reverend, having moved his cult to Guyana, arranged
the mass suicide and murder of 911 people, including children and a
visiting congressman. The FBI had been leaning over backwards to
respect the civil rights of this Jones cult--indeed, a year before
the massacre the Justice Department had opened an investigation into
the FBI's possible harassment of the cult. During the Congressional
inquiry after the massacre, the FBI alluded to this tradition
concerning religious organizations to explain why it had not
infiltrated the Jones cult. The authorities in Japan--tutored in
religious freedom by the United States--exhibited the same inhibition
by failing to investigate several murders and other crimes that Aum
Shinrikyo had committed well before its gas attack in Tokyo's subway.

Civil liberties, freedom of association, tolerance for dissident
views peacefully expressed--all these benefits of a democratic
society give citizens faith and confidence in their political order
and thereby strengthen democratic government. But a skillful
totalitarian leader--for whom democratic government is the very
enemy--can transform these sources of strength into serious, perhaps
fatal, weaknesses. In control of a competent organization that has
mass destruction weapons in hand, such a leader would be capable of
inflicting unbearable stress on the targeted society. He could force
the incumbent government to abandon civil rights and constitutional
principles, one by one, thus compelling the government to dismantle
the foundation of its own legitimacy.

Between Hammer and Anvil

At the same time, a future Lenin could attack from the opposite
direction by adopting a Jekyll-and-Hyde strategy. To this end he
would split his own organization into two branches. One branch would
consist of clandestine cells manned by highly disciplined killers in
control of secret weapons, ready to inflict death and mass
destruction when ordered. This "Mr. Hyde" branch would appear to be
independent of the seemingly benign "Dr. Jekyll" branch, a political
movement operating in the open as a legitimate party or public
interest association, whose purpose would be to propagate
revolutionary ideas and a political program designed to mobilize
throngs of followers. Exploiting its ostensible legitimacy, this
movement would also seek to discredit and delegitimize the incumbent
government in every way possible. It would noisily assert that the
government's methods of tracking downthe hidden mass destruction
weapons discriminated against certain ethnic or racial groups. It
would stage mass demonstrations and launch law suits against alleged
or actual violations of civil liberties and constitutional rights. It
would encourage all sorts of disgruntled groups and alienated people
to join the nationwide melee, the better to handicap government
security forces looking for hidden mass destruction weapons. The two
branches, by cooperating in this manner, would seek to bring about
the collapse of the democratic government and impose their new order.

Such dual structures are already functioning effectively today
(although, of course, as yet without mass destruction weapons). They
play a key role, for example, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and
in the Irish-British conflict. Sinn Fein, a legal political party in
Northern Ireland, successfully plays the Dr. Jekyll part by posturing
as a benevolent political movement that just happens to endorse the
goals of the IRA, suitably presented in an idealistic and benign
light. The well known connections between the IRA and Sinn Fein
hardly seem to spoil this dual strategy. It is no secret in Ireland
or England (or for that matter in Washington) that Sinn Fein's
present leader, Gerry Adams, belonged to the IRA in the past and had
been in charge of the Belfast IRA operations at a time when its units
killed fourteen soldiers as well as civilians. To this date, Adams
keeps refusing to condemn IRA bombings that cause grievous casualties.

Yet, the fiction of Adams being the leader of an independent,
law-abiding party enables him to translate the politically unfocussed
staccato of terrorist acts into steady negotiating pressure designed
to lever the outcome in the desired direction. As if to reinforce
this fiction, in 1995 President Clinton invited Adams to the White
House. Should there be a settlement regarding Northern Ireland that
gives the IRA most of what it seeks, it will have been hewed into
shape between the hammer blows of the IRA's destructive attacks and
the anvil of Sinn Fein's unrelenting political demands.

One's mind recoils from visualizing the turmoil and anguish that
such a hammer and anvil strategy would cause should it lead to the
employment of weapons of mass destruction. The leader of such a
revolutionary campaign would be likely to make every effort to
conceal his role in instigating the use of these weapons, and might
well insinuate that his opponents were responsible for the havoc. In
1933 the Nazis blamed the communists for having burned down the
Reichstag in Berlin, a false accusation that greatly helped Hitler to
seize power. (The countercharge that the Nazis were the arsonists is
in doubt to this day.) The totalitarian leader could also encourage
speculation that the first attack might well be followed by others,
to inflame the panic and despair that fuel political chaos. The
societal fabric and the strands of legitimacy that hold democratic
government together could be torn asunder by the fear that the
nuclear destruction of half a city, or the killing of tens of
thousands of people with a new biological weapon, would soon be
followed by similar cataclysms in other cities. We can get an inkling
of such havoc by imagining the reaction in the United States had the
Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 been followed by another two such
disasters within a few weeks--with the FBI having as little success
in finding the perpetrators as it did after the pipe-bomb attack at
the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

To be sure, in nearly all instances in this century when democratic
governments were challenged by repeated, clandestinely executed
terrorist attacks, the resulting political changes--if any--were
minimal. These past experiences, though, do not speak to the
consequences of such attacks were they to be carried out with mass
destruction weapons. Every type of injury has a threshold where it
becomes lethal. Perhaps it is still possible to keep criminal,
revolutionary movements from acquiring and using the nuclear bombs
necessary to cross this threshold. Much will depend on prudent
management of the nuclear detritus in Russia. But nuclear fusion and
fission are not the only man-made phenomena on earth that can cause
mass destruction.

For the foreseeable future, mankind is fated to live with the
continuing dynamic that the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions
have unleashed over the last two hundred years. In l945, the atom
bomb project succeeded because nuclear physics had made great
advances before the Second World War. During the next half century
advances in biology and genetic engineering might well cause a more
radical transformation of society and of the world order than any
other field of science. Unfortunately, developments in these fields
are likely to create opportunities for producing mass destruction
weapons that rival the most powerful nuclear bombs.

Essay Types: Essay