Why Bush's "War Against Terrorism" Cannot Be Won
[Editor's Note: Jim Fetzer, a former commissioned officer in the Marine Corps,
believes that the policies we are adopting reflect outmoded patterns of response
that might have been appropriate during the Cold War but cannot possibly
succeed today. We may or may not be up to coping with 21st century terrorism.
But our present plans are sure to fail. This column originally appeared in the
READER WEEKLY (20 September 2001), p.19.]
An article entitled, "Bush's audacious plan: Eradicate terrorism", THE DULUTH-NEWS
TRIBUNE (15 September 2001), p. 6A, outlines our President's approach to conducting
a "war against terrorism". Counter-terrorism official, L. Paul Bremer, is quoted saying,
"It's going to be a long war and there's going to be a lot of casualities". He admits that
we have lost "the first battle", but he neglects to add that most of these casualities are
going to be American and that "Bush's audacious plan" cannot possibly be won. On
its face, in fact, it appears to be a blueprint for disaster.
It cannot be a conventional "war" and parallels with Pearl Harbor are flawed. That attack
was upon a military target by a sovereign nation. These attacks are on civilian targets
by shadowy terrorist groups. Their members are distributed across nations and divided
into cells. There is no obvious "nation" on which to declare war! Simply identifying and
locating those who were responsible is a difficult and non-trivial task at which we have
not proven adept in the past. Why should we think the future will be any different? But
President Bush has a plan....
War on Terror: Another War America Can't Win
"Wars" on things like poverty, drug abuse and terrorism, however, are destined to fail. The very idea that war can be waged against a social problem is an oxymoron. War is a social problem. Social problems cannot be solved by simply declaring war and pouring money into fighting that war. Increasingly, America is discovering that even more conventional wars, like Vietnam and Iraq, cannot be won by simply investing cash and sacrificing young Americans to the cause.
Lashing back at today's terrorists without examining the root causes of terrorism will not solve the problem. More disenchanted, impoverished people who feel they have been victimized by America will take the place of today's terrorists.
The "with us or against us" stance of the most warlike of all recent U.S. administrations only ensures that a growing number of people around the world will choose not to side with a nation that puts its own national interests ahead of the interests of humanity. Killing Saddam, Osama, Udai, Qusay or any number of enemies will not win an unwinnable 'war'.
Winning the hearts and minds of both average Iraqis and would-be terrorists is possible. It cannot be done, though, by destroying what little amenities these people have and then spending a disproportionate amount of money and efforts on bombs and bullets while letting the vanquished populace live in sweltering heat without electricity or clean drinking water.
This time last year, supporters of George Bush's war on terror were in euphoric mood. As one Taliban stronghold after another fell to the US-backed Northern Alliance, they hailed the advance as a decisive blow to the authors of the September 11 atrocities. The critics and doom-mongers had been confounded, cheerleaders crowed. Kites were flying again, music was playing and women were throwing off their burkas with joyful abandon.
As the US president demanded Osama bin Laden "dead or alive", government officials on both sides of the Atlantic whispered that they were less than 48 hours from laying hands on the al-Qaida leader. By destroying the terrorist network's Afghan bases and its Taliban sponsors, supporters of the war argued, the Americans and their friends had ripped the heart out of the beast. Washington would now begin to address Muslim and Arab grievances by fast-tracking the establishment of a Palestinian state. Downing Street even published a rollcall of shame of journalists they claimed had been proved wrong by a hundred days of triumph. And in parliament, Jack Straw ridiculed Labour MPs for suggesting that the US and Britain might still be fighting in Afghanistan 12 months down the line.Posted by tstubbs at December 04, 2003 02:14 PM