Warfare's New, Financial Face; America's Enemies Intend to Subvert the Marketplace

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American capitalism - led by and caricatured as the financial industry centered on Wall Street - is predicated on the notion that the market is driven by fundamentally economic motives. To its admirers, that means its dynamics are dictated by profit motivation. Wall Street's critics call it greed.

The rules and regulations that govern our stock transactions largely reflect this assumption. We discourage undesirable behavior primarily by levying fines and otherwise making it costly to engage in it.

Forgive the obviousness of this question but, what if actors who are interested in affecting our stock market and economy more generally are motivated not by making money but by some larger strategic interest? In that case, financial disincentives are likely to prove completely ineffectual.

For example, would our present Maginot Line of financial defenses - much of them constructed by legislators bearing names such as Christopher Dodd, Barney Frank, Paul Sarbanes and Michael Oxley - protect us if avowed enemies of this country sought to inflict a major, and possibly decisive, blow against us and didn't care if they lost money in the process?

This proposition is explored in a riveting book that will be published this month by one of my colleagues, Kevin D. Freeman, a senior fellow of the Center for Security Policy. In fact, as the title of Secret Weapon: How Economic Terrorism Brought Down the U.S. Stock Market and Why It Can Happen Again suggests, Mr. Freeman's thesis is that it already has occurred, with devastating effect, and that worse may be in the offing.

By training a certified financial analyst who worked for a decade with one of the giants of modern finance, investment maven Sir John Templeton, the author knows his stuff. Among other things, Mr. Freeman reminds us that U.S. enemies - potential and actual - have served notice repeatedly that they understand our market's vulnerabilities to attack.

For instance, in 1999, two senior Chinese colonels wrote an officially sanctioned book titled Unrestricted Warfare. It identified bear raids on stocks to trigger a market collapse as the first in a long list of unconventional weapons that could devastate America.

Another threat of financial warfare was issued by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who boasted that his jihadists were as aware of the cracks in the Western financial system as they are aware of the lines in their own hands. That from a man who selected the World Trade Center as a target for the Sept. 11 attacks so as to do massive economic harm to the United States. It was not lost on bin Laden - or America's other enemies - that when the U.S. economy declines, calls intensify for cutting back spending on America's defenses.

No less troubling should be the fact that a very-much-alive spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has described the use of proceeds from Shariah-compliant finance as jihad with money. …