Re: How to win the war on terror.
Bin Ladin is fighting an international guerilla war. His chief weapon is harvesting the anger and hatred that many people in the Middle East feel toward the United States. It is very difficult for us to find, let alone kill, all of the people who have chosen to become terrorists.
I believe this is a myth. They are a relatively small and finite group. We are not going to be able to kill all of them but we can kill enough of them. They are not the legendary hydra. When one dies, seven don't take his place. The recent events in Saudi Arabia will be instructive on this point. The Saudis have managed to kill the top leadership of al-Qaida in their country. If the acts of terrorism increase or do not markedly abate, then I will have to rethink my position.
This is ultimately a war of hearts and minds. There will always be a core of militant idiots (we have are own in the "christian" US). These militants are marginalized when the vast majority of people don't support them.
A small group of determined monsters with money and weapons do not need the support of the majority of their fellow citizens to wreck havoc and mayhem. Witness Timothy McVeigh. We are never going to win the hearts and minds of the hardcore Islamist terrorists and they don't need the people's support to continue their war against us.
We are giving the militants a voice with everything we do. The war Iraq was a gift for Bin Ladin. Abu Graib strengthens him immeasurably. Bombing houses, firing shells, Guantanamo-- The argument in the US about whether these actions are legitimate or legal are irrelevent to this discussion. The fact is that each of these actions gives a distinct advantage to the enemy.
We are giving some
militants a voice with some
of the things we are doing.
The war will only be a gift to bin Laden if we cut and run. If we succeed and democracy takes root in the Middle East, it will be an enormous blow against the terrorists. They know it and they are going to do everything to try and stop it, including indiscriminately killing their fellow muslims.
Abu Graib was a disaster, and I'm still waiting for someone responsible to be held accountable, but there are always going to be disasters in every war. No matter how we play it, we are going to make mistakes.
The argument as to whether or not the actions you cite are legal is only irrelevant if one accepts your premise that they have no value, or that their downside far outweighs their upside. If it was truly irrelevant, the implication would be that any action would be acceptable providing it doesn't give the enemy any sort of propaganda victory. I doubt you mean this though.
1) We need to realize that to win, we need to truly be on the side of the ordinary people in the Middle East-- both in rhetoric and in action.
This starts with respect. We need to understand that people in the Middle East, the Muslims and the Arabs, are every bit as caring, intelligent and decent as people here. They love their families and care about their religion. They feel the same anger seeing Abu Graib that we feel seeing Nick Berg. Most of them wouldn't have anything to do with either.
Respect is key. People in the Middle East are not going to support us, or even trust us if we keep treating them as monsters and animals. The terrorists understand this. Listen to what the terrorists are saying and understand that they are winning this battle.
First of all whom do you mean by "we?" The American People? Our political leaders? Our military?
Secondly, how have you come to the conclusion that "we" don't believe that Arabs are caring, intelligent and decent people?
Thirdly, are you arguing that Abu Graib is tantamount to treating all Arabs as monsters and animals, or do you have examples of widespread mistreatment of Arabs everywhere?
Finally, are you arguing that leaving Saddam in power and not establishing a democratic government in Iraq would have been more indicative of being on the side of the ordinary Iraqis, then ridding them of a dictator and giving their country back to them?
I do listen to the Terrorists. Do you?
Feb. 28, 1998 (Long before Afghanistan, Iraq and Abu Graib)
In the fatwa, bin Laden states: "To kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it..."
In a broadcast of new elements from the January interview, al-Jazeera shows bin Laden telling their interviewer that American civilians are prime targets because they support killing Muslims through their tax payments. The interview represents his broadest rationale for killing Americans. "Jihad now knows that with few weapons and people they destroyed the biggest war machine in Afghanistan. In our opinion, a superpower means nothing. The U.S. is much weaker than the Soviet Union was. We've learned from our Somali brothers how weak and cowardly American soldiers are. They lost only 80 people and they fled. "I look at the great men who attacked Khobar and Riyadh with great respect, those who made the explosions in Riyadh, Khobar, East Africa and young Palestinians who are giving the Israelis a lesson.
"We promise that we will not let you live safely and will not see anything else from us: just bombs, fires, destroying homes, cutting your heads."
"We must destroy Rome. The destruction must be carried out by the sword. Those who will destroy Rome are already preparing the swords. Rome will be conquered, not with the word but with the force of arms. Rome is a cross. The West is a cross and Romans are owners of the cross. Muslim' target is the West. We will split Rome open."
""the infidel (Paul Johnson) got his fair treatment. ... Let him taste something of what Muslims have long tasted from Apache helicopter fire and missiles."
2) We need to choose our battles. A good general doesn't ask his troops to stubbornly rush up the most heavily gaurded hillside and then complain about the enemies advantages when his men are slaughtered. A good general will choose battleground where he has the advantage.
The battleground in Iraq is perfect for Al Qaeda. We don't know who we are fighting. We can't tell between people we are protecting and people who are trying to kill us.Every militant we kill costs us dearly in ill will. Every American they murder makes them look stronger. We have also formed natural allies againt us, Al Qaeda, Sunnis and Shia are all fighting against us. We have united natural foes and put ourselves in the middle.
Afganistan was a good battle for the United States. We were able to do real damage to the terrorist infrastructure. It has been difficult but the terrorists have not had the propaganda coup in Afganistan since it was clearly linked to 9/11 in the eyes of the world. Most of the world, including the Middle East, supported our action there.
This is an incredibly simplistic description of the war in Iraq, and it is too early to measure its effectiveness.
3) We need to truly be on the side of Justice in the Middle East. Bush is trying to show that the US is on the side of good-- and he is correct that he must do this to win the "War on Terrorism". But look at things from a Middle Eastern point of view.
The Saudi government is very authoritarian and quite oppressive. It is not anything close to a democracy. Many average people would like to see it overthrown. However the US is a prime factor in keeping the government in place. So what do people do? They have a choice between the Saudi government (and the US) or the Islamic militants. This makes a person who wants to be on the side of justice a bit confused, doesn't it?
What is the US government doing to keep the Saudi royal family in power despite the wishes of the Saudi people?
What would you have the adminstration do?
You seem to forget Iran. The Shah was seen as a lapdog of the US and every bit as dictatorial as the Saudi royal family. His people rose up and overthrew him. Did we intervene and save his regime? Considering the international terrorism sponsored by the current rulers of Iraq, and the fact that they are every bit the dictators the Shah was, one might argue that we made a mistake by not intervening.
Perhaps if the Islamist terrorists were fighting the dictatorships of the Middle East it might be possible to see them as freedom fighters, but even when they rear their ugly heads in places like Saudi Arabia it is to kill Westerners not to overthrow their government.
This Islamist terrorist movement is not a liberation movement. If they are appealing to their so-called moderate brethren it is through killing Westerners, not their home grown Arab oppressors.
Don't underestimate the role of the Israel-Palestine conflict on the people of the Middle East. People feel that the US has been very unfair and dishonest to Arabs, especially recently. Most people are reasonable and would accept a real, fair negotiated two-state solution (e.g. the Geneva accords). The US policy has raised a lot of anger among ordinary people in the region.
Most of the anger among ordinary people living in the region predated this adminstration. They are not going to be satisfied unless and until the US abandons Israel. Where is their anger when Palestinian leaders scuttle peace efforts? Are they incapable of an objective viewpoint? Are the Israelis always wrong? It sure seems that way, and if that's the case there is no way that America will ever be perceived as a fair broker.
Even the war in Iraq is seen by many as an act of injustice.
And it is seen by many as the act of liberation it was. Their voices simply don't get as much media play.
So how will we win the war?
Military action where appropriate. It should be targeted very specifically on Al Qaeda.
We agree. On this point I think we only disagree that military action in Iraq was inappropriate.
If it can be clearly established that bin Laden and most of the remaining al-Qaida leadership are being given refuge in Iran (Which some experts believe), and Iran refused to turn them over, would you support military action directed solely at their conclaves, but engaging any elements of the Iranian armed forces that interfered (as we all know they would)?
Reasonable foreign policy in the Middle East that shows respect to the ordinary people living there. This will include acting as a real impatial broker in Israel.
A basically facile statement.You need to provide a lot more detail here.
An end to brutish violent confrontations and "Bring it own" macho posturing. We should replace this with the message that we will defend ourselves if attacked but want peace and justice over all.
This is more a matter of personal sensibilities than strategic value. As bin Laden himself said "A man naturally is attracted to a strong horse, while he shys away from a weak one." The Arab culture is extremely macho, by our standards. 9/11 happened, in part, because they thought we were weak, and that having dealt us such a severe blow we would fold up our tents and run.
To win the war, we need to show the people in the region that we are on the side of peace and justice.
Right now I fear we are being beaten.
We're not, but it's a long war being waged on numerous and varied fronts.