Downgrading the Global War on Terrorism to a
counterterrorism war hasn’t worked. That
should be self evident to any studious following of the news and the trends in
brutal killing and mass murder. Targeted
killings with Drones and special forces units still manage to kill enough
innocent people to inflame Muslim opinions and boost ISIS, Al Qaeda or other global
(or even domestic) fringe groups recruitment efforts.
Today, US Special Forces operations are being conducted in
133 nations (70% of the world’s sovereign states) sometimes without that states
permission. These would be acts of war
if done on US soil but many Americans still believe such hits are justified to
‘fight them over there, so we don’t have to fight them here’.
Problem is, ‘them over there’ know we are here. And with each passing day, more are recruited
(there and here) than we can kill or affordably/effectively locate.
We have three fundamental paths ahead to chose from.
Surge back into full war mode getting even more
war like. Some hawks believe mass
bombings or even the use of WMD to bring our enemies to their knees as we did
against the Axis powers is the only path to victory.
Back out completely. Remove all US forces from the Middle East and
let them fertilize their sand with their own blood while exhausting their own
treasures to resolve their differences.
Halt any war like actions and adopt a new
strategy that allows the use of force to preserve civilization but does not
accept the loss of any innocent life. Essentially, global police work.
Most Americans say they don't want Americans to be the world's policeman. But without such police, chaos, mass murders (genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity) tend to spread.
A fair amount of debate exists on the first two
I believe the strongest argument for avoiding the first
option is calculating the short, medium and long term economic and moral costs to our
nation. In the medium to long term the costs to our nation in blood and treasure here at home will be catastrophic.
The US isn’t the only entity with the capacity to inflict mass
casualties. Every day the power of dual
use technology is putting unprecedented killing capacity affordably into the hands
of individuals. Almost any post grad
student in biology can create biological toxins or weapons capable of inciting
fear or mass casualties. Globally, Cyber skills can also create weapons of mass
disruption and destruction. The know-how
to use widely available chemical compounds (like fuel oil, fertilizer or
pesticides) for making poisons or explosives can be found on-line
globally. Without creating a Nazi like
police state enormously limiting the movement of individuals, essential
products and personal privacy, there would be no possibility for lasting
security over there or here. Worse yet, this hawkish
mindset could eventually lead to genocidal engagements. Even short of that, this path is a dead end
road for our freedoms, our values and maybe even our civilized existence.
The second path, isolationism, also contains the seeds of
its own destruction. Our borders and
shores cannot be closed to commerce and travelers without crippling our economy
and our capacity to fund our standard of life of abundant food, energy, and other resources for infrastructure and national security. Unfortunately, the
momentum of hate that our continued violence in both covert and overt interventions
have generated over the decades will not be forgotten overnight. Vengeful and determined minds and bodies
cannot be easily stopped at our borders, or in our cities where they may
already be making plans. Our nation’s
increasing dependence on vulnerable technologies and systems provides too many
easy targets to affordably and successfully guard. And, I'm pretty sure a
heavily armed US civilian militia taking security into their own
hands will inevitably end badly.
Osama Bin Laden had two fundamental goals. An Islamic State was not one of them according
to documents captured at his killing. He
knew his forces were to puny to win against the US and our combined allies. He took
another path. He understood at least
two of our greatest weaknesses. Our
love affair with our military and it’s unmatched fire power. And, our increasingly
inflexible national political differences.
He set two goals. Breaking us
economically and dividing us politically.
We didn’t really need help with either. But his plans certainly nourished both
weaknesses, He cleverly or instinctively
understood that most Americans would want revenge for the 9-11 attacks. His previous declaration of war against
America were virtually ignored. He had
to provoke us. He did. And then we gifted him with our invasion of
Iraq. Since then American blood and treasure has
been gushing and our domestic political discourse grown increasingly uncivil.
I’m wondering if he was also wise enough about our American
dogmas to know that we would continue to ignore the only rational path capable
of defeating his ideology. To move away
from war, away from national pride and away from our mythical ideal of independence. Independence, our fantasy ideal increasing American’s division
from one another and from other nations. It seems only when the needs are immediate and clear we can come together. OBL saw that we only ‘walked our talk’ regarding human rights and our most
cherished phrase ‘the rule of law’ when it was in our special short term interests to do
Our nation’s history of saying one thing about human rights at
the UN and defending the international law system that we helped create (and keep frozen
in place) post World War II, and then doing the opposite at will, is no secret
globally. To many Americans are oblivious to this wide gap between we say and stand for at the UN. And how the UN is structured to make it impossible for us to walk our talk, or it's talk.
As is, the UN legitimizes every states right to do as it pleases within it’s
own borders. To act in it’s governments
own short term interests with little or no concern for its population or it's impact on the world. And, on
the Security Council, a few nations put there by history without accountability, do as they want independent of all others,
or veto the majority vote of any UN proposal that might differ from any of their individual interests.
War, war crimes, genocide, pandemics,
destructive sanctions, international economic instability, WMD proliferation --
all persist virtually unabated.
Arguably nuclear weapons had more to do with averting World War III than
the UN. There is even more reason to
believe the UN is a failed system. The
great news is that it is a system that could be transformed. Transformed into a functioning body for
making enforceable world laws. Just laws
where the protection of human rights would be firmly placed above the system of
international law that now permits nation states to do whatever they want --
particularly if they are nuclear states - giving increasing incentive for other
states to go nuclear.
It’s rather ironic that the nation created by the federation
of 13 independent states over 200 years ago, is now the one most resistant to
federating the 200 current nation states to defeat lawlessness of terrorism.. E. Pluribus Unum. We must turn the many different approaches to combating terrorism (or fighting disease, genocide or WMD proliferation) into
one. One path the greater majority of
the world’s people would gladly take.
Law over war. Their rights over
the rights of nations and corporations.
Woody Allen once said ‘humanity stand at cross road. One road leads to utter hopelessness and
despair. The other to complete
annihilation. He hoped we had the wisdom
to choose the right path. It appears we
have taken the path of defending our flawed Constitution. A suicidal document that ignores the founding
document that lead to it’s original creation, the Declaration of
Independence. A document based on a
global idealism of “self-evident” truths “that all men are created equal” and
“are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”.
Until we live up to those ideals in the world, our freedoms
and our security will be endangered.
Terrorism is a tactic that cannot be defeated by war because both
terrorism and war are a violation of human rights. World law dedicated to protecting those
rights won’t make a perfect world, but it’s our only real weapon against mass