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Posts Tagged ‘war on terror’

I was very distressed the other day to hear President Obama continuing the use of the term, “War on Terror.”  Probably nothing hampers our ability to deal with the Middle East and the rise of Neo-Islamist extremists more than talking about it as a “war.”  Are we at war?  Against “terror?”  Terror is just a tactical or strategic decision about using a weapon in a certain way.  Was Hitler at war with “strategic daylight bombing?”  No, he was at war with most of the rest of the world.  If we’re going to be at war against terror, we might as well be at war against howitzers.  Neither concept makes much sense.

Whatever it’s against, are we in fact “at war?”  I’m sure as  a paean to the (mainly) Republican saber-rattlers in Congress, Obama stated “we are surely at war . . . ”  But a war should be against some tangible objective, over a limited amount of time, and it should require the mobilization of massive resources and the will of the population to persecute it.  In this case, we are (by the Bush Administration’s calculus) really at war with Islamic populations world-wide.  Do we mean to do this?  Do we want to, if we can help it?

No, I submit we are NOT at war, not in any meaningful sense of the word.  We are not out to defeat Islam, or Pakistan, or whatever.  What would our objective be, then, defeat Osama bin Laden?  That’s pretty pathetic, and probably pretty unlikely, too.  It may sound stirring, I guess, to talk about being “at war,” but thinking that this business will resolve itself the way World War II did, with the utter defeat of the enemies, is just delusional.  Remember, the Japanese populations were eating the bark off of trees to live near the end of that war.  Are we willing to do this to the Islamic population of Pakistan?  Or Indonesia?  Are we really?  If we are, believe me our current strategies won’t take us there, not by a long shot.

No, I think we’re really trying to deal with mainly extra-governmental entities (think: al Qaeda) who are religious fanatics with an agenda against the West, and specifically the US as a proxy for the whole West.  They infest places with weak or minimal governments, and reach out to strike at their presumed enemies.  They are going to be plotting against us for a long time and we’re going to have to devise ways to restrict their actions and blunt their blows, but they’re always, like cells waiting to become cancerous, sitting there looking for an opening.  And unless we’re willing to utterly destroy the countries that harbor them, really destroy them and much of their civilian populations, military action is the wrong tool.

I don’t have a perfect solution to this, but I do know that stopping maniacs from carrying out terroristic actions will require something much more like police work than anything military.  It will require tracking people and their behavior, using little clues to home in on individuals before they make it to the airport with their bomb or their gun.  This isn’t as glamorous as sending in the Marines, but it will be, in the long run, much more effective against these guys.

And of course we could figure out what we’re doing to create all these Islamic terrorists and stop doing that at least for a while.

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