Do The Freakin Math

Liberals and conservatives alike frequently rely on limited evidence, personal experience, religious beliefs or gut emotions to determine solutions for complex problems. From immigration to global warming - taxes to terrorism - or health care to free trade - analytical study is rare. Science based policy making isn’t the way of Washington. And the consequences are catastrophic. Change is urgently needed. Just do the freakin’ math.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

War against terrorism has failed.

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. 
1)      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.     
2)      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.
3)      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 options. 
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 so.  
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 murder.


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