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We're losing the war on terror.
June 19, 2006 9:42 AM   Subscribe

We're losing the war on terror. Just in case you couldn't gather that on your own, people who ought to know were surveyed (MS Word file).
posted by js003 (103 comments total)

 
Better to bring on the next attack.
William M. Arkin on National and Homeland Security

BACK TO THE BUNKER

By William M. Arkin
Sunday, June 4, 2006; B01

On Monday, June 19, about 4,000 government workers representing more than 50 federal agencies from the State Department to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will say goodbye to their families and set off for dozens of classified emergency facilities stretching from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs to the foothills of the Alleghenies. They will take to the bunkers in an "evacuation" that my sources describe as the largest "continuity of government" exercise ever conducted, a drill intended to prepare the U.S. government for an event even more catastrophic than the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
posted by Unregistered User at 9:47 AM on June 19, 2006


It appears from the article that the question is "is the United States winning the war on terror." You're post suggests that the article is saying we are losing the war on terror.

Seems to me that "not winning" is different than "losing."
posted by dios at 9:48 AM on June 19, 2006


Osama Dethroned?
posted by caddis at 9:50 AM on June 19, 2006


No, this means nothing. Clearly the word of a foreign policy or counterterrorism expert is of no greater value than that of the average news reporter. To this nation, a post on Michelle Malkin's god awful blog is as legitimate a source of information as an expert's well researched treatise.

It's not about who is right, it's about who talks louder.
posted by weinbot at 9:52 AM on June 19, 2006


Seems to me that "not winning" is different than "losing."

Yes, in the same way that "nitpicking" is different than "trolling".
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:54 AM on June 19, 2006


Speak for yourself Honkus. I straight won the war on terror last week, I no longer fear anything and now I'm off to win the war on this fucking Reuben I made for lunch. Hoo-rah!



Update:

I just called in Willy-Pete on this extra-garlic dill pickle, we've turned the corner here folks. Stay the course.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:54 AM on June 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


It appears from the article that the question is "is the United States winning the war on terror." You're (sic) post suggests that the article is saying we are losing the war on terror. Seems to me that "not winning" is different than "losing."

You failed to read the article; for example:

“We are losing the war on terror because we are treating the symptoms and not the cause,” says index participant Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. “[O]ur insistence that Islamic fundamentalist ideology has replaced communist ideology as the chief enemy of our time ... feeds al Qaeda’s vision of the world.”
posted by Mr. Six at 9:55 AM on June 19, 2006


Seems to me that "not winning" is different than "losing."
posted by dios


If you're looking at it it from the point of the 350,000 voters in Ohio you are absolutely correct that "not winning" is waaaay different than "losing."
posted by leftcoastbob at 9:57 AM on June 19, 2006


Otto: You know your problem? You don't like winners.
Archie: Winners?
Otto: Yeah. Winners.
Archie: Winners, like North Vietnam?
Otto: Shut up. We didn't lose Vietnam. It was a tie.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:57 AM on June 19, 2006


Armitage: there is an important distinction between the two. If you won't want to cogitate on it, then don't. But don't shit up the thread by suggesting I am trolling for point that out.

Mr. Six: I read the article. You picked the one quote out of the article where someone expressed their opinion in that regard. The rest of the article, including the polling question, is framed on whether the US is winning. To say the conclusion of the group based on the poll is that the US is losing is misleading and wrong. To make the distinction obvious: there could be multiple answers to the question:
(a) we are winning; someone else is losing.
(b) we are losing; someone else is winning.
(c) we are not doing enough or the right things to win; we are not losing to anyone either; the status of the effort doesn't fit into the "win/lose" metric.

If we are losing, who is winning? If you say "the terrorists", then what are they winning? When the United States has lost, does that mean that UBL will be the political head of the United States?
posted by dios at 10:01 AM on June 19, 2006


I am not sure what "winnin g the war" means--like winning the war on drugs? We win wars (traditionally) when the other side surrenders and calls it quits. If we cut back on terror attacks b ut one a year kills a thousand people, can we say we are winning because there are fewer attacks than the year before?
posted by Postroad at 10:02 AM on June 19, 2006


I don't know about the war on terror but as for the Iraq war, here is a good link, the National Priorities Project cost of war counter...
posted by nervousfritz at 10:07 AM on June 19, 2006


When the United States has lost, does that mean that UBL will be the political head of the United States?

Yes. There will be a big signing ceremony in a railroad car in rural Virgina and all the opposing generals will be standing soberly beside each other as UBL and George Bush co-sign the documents of surrender. That is how wars end, right?
posted by three blind mice at 10:09 AM on June 19, 2006


If we are not winning and not losing, what are we doing?

Oh yeah, I forgot. We're staying the course.*

* - Which, of course, doesn't mean what everyone thinks it means.
posted by grabbingsand at 10:10 AM on June 19, 2006


Postroad's post is interesting. We win wars (traditionally) when the other side surrenders and calls it quits. I agree with that, personally.

So does that mean that all of the people that want us to withdraw want the US to lose the war against terrorism?

I think it does.
posted by tadellin at 10:10 AM on June 19, 2006


Yeeeap. When ya declare war on abstract nouns, the winner... is confusion!

Total chaos... MASS CONFUSION!
posted by furiousthought at 10:13 AM on June 19, 2006


What Postroad said: by what metric, exactly, do these folks differentiate between "not winning" and "winning?"

If their metric is no acts of terrorism ever again by any group, then they are setting an impossibly high bar.
posted by moonbiter at 10:14 AM on June 19, 2006


@ George_Spiggott

Damn, that was the first thing that popped into my head as well. I'm tellin' ya, they whipped your hide REAL GOOD.
posted by Ickster at 10:14 AM on June 19, 2006


Oops, I meant, I agree with what Postroad said.
posted by moonbiter at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2006


I read the article.

Apparently not; as another example:

Eighty-six percent of the index’s experts see a world today that is growing more dangerous for Americans. (emph. mine)

Most rational people understand that the rhetorical sleight-of-hand between "losing" and "not winning" is not the main thrust of the article, but rather that non-partisan foreign policy experts are in agreement that US policy is making an unstable global situation worse. Most rational people would agree that assessment seems in line with the meaning of the word "losing".

The rest of your "question" therefore seems to be rhetorical hairsplitting meant to show your disregard for the content of the post, if not the poster.

Again: Please read the article before commenting, and come back when you're ready to discuss its subject matter like an adult.
posted by Mr. Six at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2006


Of course, now I realize that I should've followed your IMDB link, as my memory apparently holds a mangled version of that line . . .
posted by Ickster at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2006


If we are losing, who is winning?

The insurgency and terrorist groups in Iraq.

If you say "the terrorists", then what are they winning?

Terror. Insurgency. Killing. Basically, keeping the country in chaos and without stable foundation. That's their goal - and thus far, they're succeeding in that goal.

When the United States has lost, does that mean that UBL will be the political head of the United States?

Don't be silly. We're not at war with a country - we're at war with an ideology. A decentralized commitment. Sowing this chaos and disorder and death was one of the goals of UBL. Thus far, he has accomplished much. Being able to see this helps one understand just how bad a situation exists in Iraq and Afghanistan.
posted by NationalKato at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2006


Reality has a well-known liberal bias, to quite Stephen Colbert, and so this will all be further ignored.
posted by petrilli at 10:17 AM on June 19, 2006


If their metric is no acts of terrorism ever again by any group, then they are setting an impossibly high bar.

That's the beauty of it, of course: there is no metric other than actively fighting that 'war.' We can win the 'war' on terror only by fighting it, which means doing anything else is, by definition, losing the 'war.' See tadellin's comment, for example: Withdrawing troops meanings losing the 'war' on terror. Never mind that the war in Iraq has little to do with global terrorism. Never mind that keeping troops in Iraq probably means increasing hatred for U.S. forces in the Middle East. This is precisely the kind of thinking about the 'war' on terror that will prolong the real war, the war in Iraq.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:20 AM on June 19, 2006


If we are losing, who is winning? If you say "the terrorists", then what are they winning?

The adjective 'terror' is winning. We are losing a war against a concept. Which is staggering...

When the United States has lost, does that mean that UBL will be the political head of the United States?

Yeah, that's what it means. Tool.
posted by Cycloptichorn at 10:21 AM on June 19, 2006


I'm just shuddering thinking that, in case of a massive WMD attack on our country, the people left to carry on our wonderful country will be 4000 members of the federal government, plus several hundred wingnut militiamen/survivalists.


/me considers updating his Y2K survival cache by adding lots of antidepressants.
posted by darkstar at 10:24 AM on June 19, 2006


darkstar - you might want to make that valium.
posted by isopraxis at 10:28 AM on June 19, 2006


Does anyone else believe that pretty much everything we're told about Al Qaeda, the War on Terror, bin Laden, 9/11 and people like Zarqawi is so completely laden with bullshit that it's impossible to even have a meaningful conversation about it? To discuss something you need facts, not half-baked mythology, spin and propaganda whose principal source doesn't even agree with itself at least half the time.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:29 AM on June 19, 2006


Postroad's post is interesting. We win wars (traditionally) when the other side surrenders and calls it quits. I agree with that, personally.

So does that mean that all of the people that want us to withdraw want the US to lose the war against terrorism? I think it does.


Yeah, that's when you're at war with a country. Will we win when terrorism surrenders? When you're at war with an ideology, it cannot surrender. The only way it ends is for you to stop fighting.

You think that means the US loses? How can you lose if you don't surrender and no one takes anything from you? If you just go home and nothing else happens, in what way is that losing? And does someone else's idea necessarily win if you don't take up arms against it?

These are word games that don't make any sense, because we don't have a specific enemy that we can beat.
posted by adzuki at 10:30 AM on June 19, 2006


Sowing this chaos and disorder and death was one of the goals of UBL. Thus far, he has accomplished much.

Don't forget that the FBI doesn't list the attack of 9/11 as one of the things he's wanted for, or that one of UBL's goals was the US bases out of Saudi Arabia.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:33 AM on June 19, 2006


Speaking of bunkers , a heads up to those whom still watch tv:

PBS FRONTLINE: THE DARK SIDE

Looks like a tivo/torrent event.
posted by Unregistered User at 10:43 AM on June 19, 2006


If we are losing, who is winning? If you say "the terrorists", then what are they winning? When the United States has lost, does that mean that UBL will be the political head of the United States?

Playing willfully dense does not exactly bolster your case for not being a troll.

Has global terrorism decreased? No. It's increased. Has democracy spread to the Middle East? No. Iraq is breaking out into civil war. Have American deaths to terrorism decreased since the war started? No. We're losing Americans by the hundreds thanks to the utter failure in Iraq. Has the image of the U.S. as a beacon of freedom and prosperity increased in the world? Don't make me laugh.

State what you think are the objectives in the war on terror. Because I just listed them and you know, when an attempt at an objective not only fails to occur but in fact causes a net negative result, seems to me that's what most people with above a third-grade education like to refer to as "losing."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:45 AM on June 19, 2006


These are word games that don't make any sense, because we don't have a specific enemy that we can beat.

The real problem is a lot of people are mistaking these words for reality, choosing to believe the words over what their own eyes and reason tell them.

This is a tendency I used to identify with the most knee-jerk sort of liberals, who thought it was always better to do something than nothing, never considering that doing something without fully considering the consequences can be a net negative. Thus we get things like social programs that do no more than put a fig leaf over the wound (to mix a metaphor) at high cost to the taxpayer and to the overall detriment of society.

What is new in our political climate is the rapid and widespread adoption of this symbol-over-fact misprioritization as actual policy by the far right. These people have always been big on symbols, but never have previously been nearly so organized, so networked, and so highly reactionary.

Suddenly every other big-government hating conservative in the country has decided that the real solutions to all our problems are a) unbridled, unaccounted-for spending, b) bombing the hell out of the impoverished and c) ever-increasing government power. Since these negative trends are couched in magic language, otherwise smart people take leave of their critical thinking.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:46 AM on June 19, 2006


Tadellin,
There are lots of ways to lose a war. Traditionally, you lost a war either through unfavorable armistice or total destruction of leadership. "The total destruction of leadership" option includes genocide, because once you've lost your people, you've lost your status as a leader.

Traditional war fighting was all about killing the men, slaughtering the boys, looting the cities, raping the women and the girls, and burning down anything you couldn't use or take with you. Then you salted the earth.

Thankfully, aside from Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, and Rush Limbaugh, people generally don't support that kind of war.

The problem with our current War on Terror and our War with Iraq is They're Not Wars. All quibbling about force authorization aside, there's no victory condition in common between our current military actions and war. We can't achieve an armistice because there's no one to negotiate with. Our technological superiority has killed anyone we could have negotiated with.

Further, if this was a war, killing the leaders should have ended it. The as much as Bush is maligned for saying "Mission Accomplished" he was, to some degree right. If our invasion of Iraq was ever a war, we won it hands down. Our country is without equal in fighting and winning wars. We knocked over Iraq's government in several weeks. The fact that we have yet to win in Iraq is only further evidence that we are not fighting a war, but some other sort of struggle.

To summarize,
1) You equate our fight in Iraq with our fight against terrorists and global terrorism. This is a false equation.

2) We already won the war against Iraq, and we very nearly won the war against Afghanistan. Or at least, we have pursued our victory in those wars to their ethical limits (and in the case of Fallujah, and many other places, past those limits).

3) The fights that yet remain may be won or lost, but they are not wars (if they ever were), and to continue to fight them as if they are wars guarantees our defeat.

I answer your question, "So does that mean that all of the people that want us to withdraw want the US to lose the war against terrorism?"

No. It means all of the people that want us to withdraw want the US to realize the war is over. We can debate if we won or if we lost, but all that remains to the warriors is hell and heartbreak. We must find a better way to fight, and that starts be recognizing this is a new problem that can not be solved by "staying the course". The methods that caused this problem will not be the methods useful in solving it.
posted by Richard Daly at 10:47 AM on June 19, 2006


If we are losing, who is winning?

Halliburton, for one.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:49 AM on June 19, 2006


It's weird to me how people who claim that "the war on terror" is the most important, critical thing going on in the world right now won't go and fight it themselves (if they're over the age of 42, they should get their kids to go fight it).

That said, if you're going to fight a war on an abstraction, you can at least do certain things right. It was Saudis who knocked down the WTC towers. So let's invade--Iraq?

With logic like this, no amount of military effort will achieve anything.
posted by bardic at 10:51 AM on June 19, 2006


The only way to win is not to play.
posted by sfts2 at 10:54 AM on June 19, 2006


Cut 'n' Run vs. Stay 'n' Pay
posted by afx114 at 10:55 AM on June 19, 2006


Suck 'n' Blow?
posted by Mr. Six at 10:58 AM on June 19, 2006


We're seeing the result of the purposeful confusion in the use of two terms.

Terrorism: is it a strategy or is it Osama?

If the former then no, you can never eradicate an idea, a strategy. There will always be people willing to kill civilians to advance whatever cause. If the second then yes, sooner or later, one way or another, Osama will stop killing by proxy.

9/11: was it Pearl Harbor or a criminal act?

Mr Bushs' 9/11 reaction was to think war rather than international law enforcement. There will always be those willing to kill civilians in order to take over the world. They're called criminals until they win in which case of course they become heros of the revolution. Until that happens dealing with them as anything other than criminals only empowers them and helps enoble their causes. As a result of calling it a war we now have an absurdity, the situation has been defined as the United States Military being 'At War' with a guy living in a goat cave in Afganistan.
posted by scheptech at 10:59 AM on June 19, 2006


When trying to get to the bottom of a puzzle with conflicting and unreliable information, one of the most useful tools is the question "cui bono?" Who benefits?

On the face of it the war on terror, in common with the more literal war now going on, produces no objective benefits in terms of its stated aims. However, being at war for the purpose of being at war has overwhelmingly clear beneficiaries, politicallly and monetarily. Viewed from this perspective, the war already has clear winners, and those winners are also among the principal actors in this situation. The other actors (al Qaeda) are not well understood, and most of our information about those actors come from the same beneficiaries.

And by the way, in case you were wondering, the tooth fairy is your mom and dad.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:07 AM on June 19, 2006


Mommy and Daddy have a lot of explaining to do, with regards to why they left ammunition and explosive manuals under my pillow instead of a dollar.

Cui Bono?

Why We Fight.
About as political as a brick, but also a very good mapping of the who, what, why, and where of America's War Industry.

I hate all of you.
posted by daq at 11:25 AM on June 19, 2006


The whole winning the war/losing the war thing is 100% ridiculous. IT'S NOT A FREAKING WAR.
posted by reklaw at 11:30 AM on June 19, 2006


I support the terror on warism.
posted by isopraxis at 11:37 AM on June 19, 2006


Participants include people who have served as secretary of state, national security advisor, retired top commanders from the U.S. military, seasoned members of the intelligence community, and distinguished academics and journalists. Nearly 80 percent of the index participants have worked in the U.S. government—of these more than half were in the executive branch, one third in the military, and 17 percent in the intelligence community.

Why would they survey the people who are most responsible for the disastrous foreign policy, military misadventures, and intelligence failures of the last 5 years? If we aren't winning this struggle it's because of the very people surveyed.

And now 87% of these individuals think that the Iraq invasion and occupation has a negative impact on protecting the American people from terrorist attacks. What were they doing 3 years ago when they could have done something to avoid this carnage? For that matter where are they now?
posted by euphorb at 11:40 AM on June 19, 2006


I didn't see that anyone else had bothered to look at the source of this document. In the Word doc, the Author is listed as Paul Sevigny of 7e Consulting. His website is paul7e.com and does not convey exactly what I would call professional confidence.
posted by Revvy at 11:41 AM on June 19, 2006


Lots well said here.

I’d only address a minor detail - I disagree with the “loose nuke” idea. Unless any of the former Soviet states has made a change in recent years there aren’t any. The idea of one of their nukes getting sold off or whatnot scared the hell out of us (with good reason) enough so that we did something about it. But that’s the “loose” I’m addressing.
Certainly there is the possibility of a rogue nuke - something done for other than money alone - or a nuke from, say, China or North Korea (who seem to be testing delivery systems).
And that threat is such that I’d agree with predictions that the odds are slightly better than 50/50 that one will go off within the U.S. inside a decade.
But that’s given we don’t go back to the humint and soft speaking/big stick policies that - manifestly - worked after the collapse of the Soviet Union and keep jumping on everything with both feet.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:46 AM on June 19, 2006


His band, A.R.E. Weapons, sucks too
posted by Flashman at 11:46 AM on June 19, 2006


Terrorism: is it a strategy or is it Osama?

Not to be pedantic, but terrorism is a tactic not a strategy. Tactics are the means by which you carry out your strategy, so terrorism is no more a strategy than indirect artillery fire or saturation bombing.

Clausewitz for Beginners.

posted by SweetJesus at 11:51 AM on June 19, 2006


His website is paul7e.com and does not convey exactly what I would call professional confidence.

I have looked into the MySpace profile of your soul, and it was filled with kitties.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:02 PM on June 19, 2006


Iraq isn't a war on terror!!!!! It was first called Operation Iraqi Liberation... O.I.L., someone has a dry sense of humor. Here's a
BBC
article laying out what the war's about, explains why we're paying 3.50$ at the pump too.
posted by andywolf at 12:04 PM on June 19, 2006


Time to declare victory and go home people!
posted by Artw at 12:16 PM on June 19, 2006


The Washington Post has obtained copies of two recent cables [PDF and transcription of second cable] from the American Embassy in Iraq to the State Department that indicate things aren't going so well.

According to the May 6 cable (direct quotes, my emphasis):
  • Crime in Iraq is rated by the U.S. State Department as critical and will continue to get worse for the foreseeable future
  • Crime, terrorism, and warfare are a significant threat in all parts of Iraq. Active military operations are ongoing
  • Attacks against military and civilian targets continue throughout the country, including inside the international zone.
  • Overall security in Iraq is worsening
  • Armed militia, loyal to various non-governmental entities, have limited to extensive control of parts of Baghdad and some cities in Iraq
According to the June 6 cable, which concerns Iraqis who work at the embassy:
  • Working at the embassy "is a death sentence if overheard by the wrong people"
  • "we have begun shredding documents printed out that show local staff surnames. In March. A few staff members approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate."
  • "Iraqi colleagues called after hours often speak Arabic as an indication they cannot speak openly in English...We cannot call employees in on weekends or holidays without blowing their cover"
  • "Harassment over proper dress and habits has been increasingly pervasive" by Islamist milita groups throughout Baghdad. "It is now dangerous for men to wear shorts in public" and "people who wear jeans in public have come under attack."
  • "An Arab newspaper editor" said ethnic cleansing "is taking place in almost every Iraqi province"
posted by kirkaracha at 12:17 PM on June 19, 2006




This article
actually spells out the cost of gas more clearly,sorry 'bout that.





posted by andywolf at 12:18 PM on June 19, 2006


As I have said over and over, we're using the wrong tool for the job. We need police to capture terrorists, not armies.

Fighting terrorism by invading countries is like trying to fight fire ants with soldier's boots. You can do a lot of stomping, and kill a lot of ants, but it just makes the rest angry.

What we needed to do, and where we completely failed, was to convince the Iraqi people that ours was the best way. If they were really sure we were right, they would turn in the terrorists... weeping, I'm sure, but knowing that they were doing the right thing for their country.

But then we had Abu Ghraib, and we demonstrated that we aren't really much better than Saddam. Some of the things we do are probably worse, in their eyes, than anything Saddam ever did. Abu Ghraib was where we lost the war.

If you were Joe or Jane Iraqi on the street, and you knew that turning someone in would get them a fair trial and the best possible treatment under the circumstances, you might just drop a dime on crazy cousin Abdul who wants to blow up Americans.

But if you know he's going to be treated that way, you'd never turn him in... crazy or not, terrorist or not, nobody deserves to be treated that way. And so, cousin Abdul is still on the street, and he's blowing our young men and women into bloody bits.

We needed to demonstrate to the Iraqis that we were better than the old regime by actually being better. Instead, we showed them just how cruel and small we really are.

They are going to kick our asses out of the Middle East, so hard we bounce all the way home. They'll NEVER accept a government we impose.

The war is lost, and it was lost at Abu Ghraib. All we do now is spend billions, fill body bags, and make the situation worse.
posted by Malor at 12:29 PM on June 19, 2006


Considering the "war on terrorism" is something other then propaganda to push through policies or scare people into voting republican at elections. It's the same as the "war on gay marriage". It's just a string of words to create an image that manipulates emotion. nothing else.
posted by andywolf at 12:35 PM on June 19, 2006


Some of those sidebars are interesting:

“If U.S. policymakers don’t take this vulnerability seriously, terrorists do. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s No. 2, has labeled the global energy infrastructure a key strategic target for terrorists. In February, Saudi Arabia’s government foiled an al Qaeda plot to attack the Abqaiq oil facility, the country’s largest. Some 30,000 security forces are now guarding the country’s oil fields. Global oil markets are so tight that even the threat of a supply disruption can cause a spike in price.”
posted by Smedleyman at 12:46 PM on June 19, 2006


I am not sure what "winnin g the war" means--like winning the war on drugs? We win wars (traditionally) when the other side surrenders and calls it quits. If we cut back on terror attacks b ut one a year kills a thousand people, can we say we are winning because there are fewer attacks than the year before?

Not to get cute here, but it also depends on what "we" means. Because are we, as Americans, responsible for whatever lax security or lack of intelligence may have allowed the London and Madrid bombings to happen? Are we measuring success only by the number of direct attacks on American soil and interests, or does success or failure hinge on terrorist attacks worldwide?

If it's the latter (and the article makes it seem like it is), how do you really measure that when some of the countries being attacked either half-ass counter-terror efforts or don't participate at all? For example, do U.S. anti-terror efforts have any preventive effect at all on potential bombings in Indonesia?

Regardless, academic deans and people like Francis Fukuyama are only "experts" because reporters refer to them that way. They're still disconnected folks pushing words and ideas around, and very few of them have any sense of what's going on in real time on the ground. Presenting this survey as somehow more authoritative because these are "people who ought to know" is kind of...condescending.
posted by Alexandros at 12:47 PM on June 19, 2006


George Spiggot said: Does anyone else believe that pretty much everything we're told about Al Qaeda, the War on Terror, bin Laden, 9/11 and people like Zarqawi is so completely laden with bullshit that it's impossible to even have a meaningful conversation about it? To discuss something you need facts, not half-baked mythology, spin and propaganda whose principal source doesn't even agree with itself at least half the time.

This bears repeating.
posted by muckster at 12:49 PM on June 19, 2006


So the smart people, when asked how the idiots are doing in a war against a war strategy, say neocon profiteers are making a mess of things. Imagine that. I suppose the chaos is really just part of the money making plan.

That war-cost site nervousfritz posted sure brings it all home. Even if one conveniently forgets all the senseless Iraqi death and mayhem, that gas-pump-like money tally ticking away really illuminates the cost of Bush’s bog.

And in what Swiss bank accounts could we follow that money to?

Comparing the riches squandered in Iraq to how it could go toward building a better world should make even Republicans taste vomit.

Do you suppose making a better society is not really the neocon plan?

In fact, I think I see where staying on Bush’s course is taking us. At this rate, the people of the United States will soon be drug into a third-world living standard. Then, we’ll all be willing to do whatever our Dear Neocon Leaders demand.

Please sir, might I have a little more food, water and safety?
posted by BillyElmore at 1:31 PM on June 19, 2006




Comparing the riches squandered in Iraq to how it could go toward building a better world should make even Republicans taste vomit.

Yes, yes, it should. Considering how much they rail against, say, social security, you'd think the costs, both financial and human, of this invasion might make some Republicans wonder if it's still their party.

WHY doesn't it?
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:39 PM on June 19, 2006


WHY doesn't it?

It does. Just not the ones in power.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:48 PM on June 19, 2006


So... the Republican base is actually pretty spineless?
posted by Artw at 1:56 PM on June 19, 2006


dios: If we are losing, who is winning? If you say "the terrorists", then what are they winning? When the United States has lost, does that mean that UBL will be the political head of the United States?

Ho Chi Minh didn't become ruler of the United States, but the US still lost the Vietnam War.

Whenever you fight a war--whether an all-out war like World War II, a more limited war like the Vietnam War, or a drawn-out conflict like the Cold War or the current war on terror--you have certain objectives ("war aims") in mind. In the case of World War II, the aim was to destroy Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, as states. In the case of the Vietnam War, the aim was to prevent a Communist takeover of South Vietnam. In the case of the Cold War, the aim was to prevent Soviet expansion.

In Vietnam, the North Vietnamese aim was to take over South Vietnam. They succeeded, and the US failed. Hence it's fair to say that the US lost the war.

What are the aims of the war on terror? In the words of David Frum, the former White House speechwriter who played a major role in crafting Bush's 2002 "axis of evil" speech:
... should the United States take President Bush's words literally and continue the war on terror until terrorism was entirely uprooted from Middle Eastern and Muslim politics? If the United States overthrew Saddam Hussein next, it could create a reliable American ally in the potential superpower of the Arab world. With American troops so close, the Iranian people would be emboldened to rise against the mullahs. And as Iran and Iraq built moderate, representative, pro-Western regimes, the pressure on the Saudis and the other Arab states to liberalize and modernize would intensify. It was quite a gamble--but also quite a prize.
Is the US succeeding in meeting these objectives?

Or is it increasing the hatred of the US in the Muslim world, and in Muslim communities in the West, and thereby increasing the attractiveness of al-Qaeda's ideology and the likelihood of future attacks? And in Iraq, is it creating a testing ground for al-Qaeda and its affiliates to experiment with new tactics, and likely providing a future base for al-Qaeda once the US withdraws (as Afghanistan was after the Soviet withdrawal)?

I would suggest that what the US needs is a less grandiose and utopian set of war aims. See Benjamin and Simon's The Next Attack.
posted by russilwvong at 1:58 PM on June 19, 2006


Richard Daly: Well said.

This "War on X" thing is really starting to bother me. Has no one noticed that every time we start a 'war' on an abstract we tend to make it worse? Drugs, Poverty (ok, not worse but certainly not all better either), Terror.

I've said it before and so have many others in this thread and elsewhere, this is a police problem. Not to denigrate in any way the sacrifices that our troops on the ground have made, but they're being used poorly. We don't need the USMC, we need the NYPD. This is a war of ideas, and we need to make absolutely sure that, given the choice between the Good, Moral Americans and the Evil Islamists who Kill Children that anyone sane will only have one choice. On that front we're losing badly.
posted by Skorgu at 2:16 PM on June 19, 2006


Russil, thanks for your response. I'll kindly reply to someone who makes a polite response to me and is actually interested in an substantive discussion.

Your points are well taken with regards to war aims. I would say that war aims in the current matter were spelled out in that Bush speech that Frum authored. Bush plainly stated that we were going to attempt to dismantle terrorist groups that threaten the United States and regimes that harbor/sponsor them. In the context of his speech, the terrorist groups referred to was al Qaeda and its affiliates. In that regard, the US was successful in dismantling the regime in Afghanistan that habored/sponsored al Qaeda. Whether in the long run that will be true, who knows. But there was an immediate accomplishment of removing that regime. There was also disruption to al Qaeda finances and operations. Again, not a complete, final success as of yet, but some indications of some progress. That is, al Qaeda is certainly not better off than before. They lost their client state and ability to operate openly. With regards to Afghanistan and al Qaeda, the United States has made some progress towards the goal articulated by Bush, but certainly hasn't firmly and completely accomplished the goal in perpetuity.

Iraq presents another issue. To many, it is distinct from the "war" that Bush announced in that Frum speech. In that regards, you have to ask what were the war aims there? According to Bush, it apparently was to remove Saddam in order to ensure there were no WMDs. The US accomplished that war aim, if that was it. The question is whether stability and a functioning democracy was ever a war aim, or if it is an assumed duty. Obviously that has not been successful, but it hasn't necessarily been the firm and irrevocable failure that so many argue it is. It still could go either way. But if it is viewed as part of the initial war, then it could be a success as it removed a sponsor/harborer of organized terrorism. Assuming a terror-sponsoring government doesn't form in Iraq, then the US did successfully complete the task of removing a regime that sponsors/harbors terrorism.

These things have to be analyzed in the universe defined by Bush. He set the rules and the goals, and he should be judged by them. I do not think the goal was ever a complete war against all terrorism no matter where it is located so that the idea doesn't exist; to the extent that such has been suggested, it was poor rhetoric to argue that it was. So the question of whether the idea of terrorism still exists is a red herring. In the defined world of analyzing this conflict, it is not a metric defined for success. In the universe of this "war," the end game is going to be whether there are states/regimes which harbor and sponsor multinational terrorist organizations which are interested in attacking the United States. As long as there still are, the US hasn't won. But again, not winning/won yet, doesn't mean that it is a full and complete loss in this universe (it would be a loss if it was said that this would all be done in 6 months or for X amount of dollars... conditions which were never placed on the conflict).
___________
Bush certainly has don't a great job at accomplishing his foreign policy goals. He has certainly done things that frustrate his purposes. He has certainly made mistakes. He has made bad decisions. He has presented his views and argued them in confusing ways. But the question is whether the US is winning in spite of all of that, where "winning" is defined as achieving incremental successes on the way to completely the goal.

This requires a micro, long term view and a rigid definition of what conflict to which the question is referring. The danger in analyzing the topic of war aims of the administration is that people tend to be unable to judge the situation on its own merits and on its own terms. You can see that throughout this thread. Irrelevant points are thrown in (costs, Hallibuton, oil, conspiracy theories, etc.) None of these things reflect on the ultimate issue of whether Military Action X is actually accomplishing its goals. Whether is a great idea in the long run or whether it could have been handled differently are questions that are irrelevant to whether the policy actually instituted was successfully accomplished. I could decide to dig a hole to the core of the Earth, and all of the complaints about the stupidity, costs, theories, etc. do not reflect on whether I am reaching my goal or not. People who are so wedded to their view on whether it is ultimately a good idea or not, that they measure the actual progress through that viewpoint.
posted by dios at 2:44 PM on June 19, 2006


You can see that throughout this thread. Irrelevant points are thrown in (costs, Hallibuton, oil, conspiracy theories, etc.) None of these things reflect on the ultimate issue of whether Military Action X is actually accomplishing its goals.

That assumes, of course, that oil is not one of those goals.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:48 PM on June 19, 2006


This seems to be an "ivory tower" survey, in which subjective criteria are placed on a par with objective information and statistics.

1) How is this jihadist rebellion in comparison to the other jihadist rebellions which preceded it?

2) In retrospect, at the start of the WoT, how many jihadists did we think we were fighting, how many it is estimated we actually did fight, and what is their attrition?

3) In Moslem populations that produce jihadists, only a small percentage of those who were angry enough to fight were able or willing to leave their home country to fight. If when that number has been eliminated, are there replacements who are both willing and able to take their place?

4) Given the tiny expenditure of coalition lives and a cost less than the S&L bailout, no defeat of even a platoon-sized unit in the field, no major counterattack to the US, and the capture of two countries, by no objective standard is the US losing in the WoT.

This is the bottom line: the enemy has won *nothing*, so what is considered by the academics is a theoretical potential for the enemy to win *something*. But that is not the same as actually winning. Theoretically, any of us could win the lottery jackpot.
posted by kablam at 3:01 PM on June 19, 2006


dios, the fact is, after all this time, we don't know what the goal is and we never did.

That should tell you that either the goal was never clear, or it WAS clear but they didn't want to tell us what it was. They have made numerous and varied claims about what we're doing, but their actions have achieved none of them. (no WMDs, people in Iraq aren't better off, oil isn't flowing, Iraq occupation will never in a thousand years pay for itself, etc.) There were never terrorists in Iraq to begin with. We've seeded a whole bunch of new ones, and given them a good training ground to learn to fight against our best. NOW it's a war against terrorists, but it didn't have to be. There wasn't any meaningful terrorist presence there until we created it.

20-30 people a day die violently in Baghdad alone; we've recently had to redeploy troops massively just to try to hold that one city. (presumably weakening our forces elsewhere in the country substantially.) The most powerful army in the world can't secure a six mile stretch of road to the airport.

We haven't accomplished anything except spending 300 billion dollars, getting 2500 troops killed, and about another 8000 wounded bad enough they couldn't return to duty. And we've pissed off the entire Middle East, and created hundreds, possibly thousands of new terrorists that can now learn their trade from the comfort of their own homes. They don't even have to leave... we'll break right in!

How is this not losing?
posted by Malor at 3:28 PM on June 19, 2006


Skorgu - I’d slightly disagree. Certainly defensively it’s a policing operation. But there are military units well trained in counter terrorism. And I would argue that mobility and familiarity are key in dealing with terrorists, as opposed to a static or even a dynamic, but tied within boarders defense.
But that’s special ops, not infantry, and either way, I’d agree we need a lighter foot.

Part of the dilemma there is: who is in control?
Other countries have dedicated special forces counter-terrorism units (the German GSG9 comes to mind, or the SAS or Sayeret Matkal to a degree).
Which are military or para-military units that aid the civillian government(s) - in the U.S. the Posse Comitatus Act prevents the Dept. of Defense getting involved in civilian affairs (typically).

So right now you have a wide array of SWAT units, homeland security, the FBI, etc. etc. etc. not to mention the state level operations -(and the U.S. doesn’t want to get more into Interpol or the U.N.) all vying for control over the counter-terrorism dollar.
And these various ‘task forces’ and such are great or lousy, but the thing they don’t have is mobility and the first hand familiarity that comes with being a military unit able to operate outside the country, gather their own intelligence, like Delta or DEVGRU (old SEAL six) can. But those groups can’t operate within the country - nor should they in their current incarnations.
The last thing you want (and a lot of folks on Mefi miss this) is the military to have any degree of power in domestic affairs. The military should always be subordinate to civilian authority.

But at the same time, you have tactical level operations conducted by the above patchwork trying to enforce various laws and doing more harm than good - e.g. the ATF tries to take some terrorist in, but as it turns out he’s a drug guy not a gun guy - but screw it - he’s a terrorist - kinda thing.

Which is why Gitmo exists as the fuckup it is - beyond the human rights issues of course.

And you have these quick fix wannabe gestapo agencies like Homeland Security which does nothing the FBI couldn’t do except syphon off funds to a different ideological law enforcement perspective.

So the question becomes do you want a ‘police’ unit that can operate outside the U.S. or a SF unit that can operate inside the U.S.

I’d go with the former - have an operation something like the DEA without the corruption of course.
Best way to prevent that is to give your federal counter-terrorist “Unit-Bad-Ass” or whatever we call them - tactical authority on operations only by request of the state government. So no real rank or authority inside the U.S beyond the positional (as tactical command) or temporary, or advisory of course.

But this way Unit Bad Ass members can go to Fuckeupistan, gather intel on Jamal Ahmad (Joe) Blow, if he shows up in the U.S. there are people who know him, have seen or talked to people around him, know how he operates - etc. - instead of just having read the reports or following game plan “X.” And, most importantly, if Blow skips the country - they can follow him instead of handing that off to someone else’s department.

The objective - winning - in the face of terrorism is to go on living your life and not let the threat deter the government from a course of action or an alteration of principles.

On that front we have been losing very badly. If only because fear has been so useful to this administration politically.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:32 PM on June 19, 2006


Oh, and by the way... the Afghanistan war was probably a good idea. If we'd just stuck with that one, and really focused, we could have completely destroyed the Taliban, which IS Al Qaeda, for all practical intents and purposes

Instead, we diverted most of our resources and went off on a suicidal invasion into a third country that was completely unrelated to terrorism, and in fact was entirely hostile to Al Qaeda.

So now, instead of winning one war decisively, we're losing both.

The war in Iraq was not about terrorism, that's just what they painted it with.
posted by Malor at 3:34 PM on June 19, 2006


russilwvong writes "[Frum said]: 'With American troops so close, the Iranian people would be emboldened to rise against the mullahs.'"

It amazes me that they were thinking this way; it betrays a pretty deep ignorance of history and human nature, I think. Events have borne out the real impact on Iranian politics of American troops on the ground next door: xenophobia, rising nationalism, and a swing towards hard-line militaristic populism. This outcome should have been evident from the beginning. Why the hell would a foreign force on the verge of invading make the Iranian people anything other than more nationalistic and isolated?
posted by mr_roboto at 3:40 PM on June 19, 2006


If we hadn't dropped the ball in Afghanistan, we could have built a moderate, representative, pro-Western regime there, where we already had American troops close to Iran. Instead we have a predictable resurgence of the Taliban that President Bush said was "no longer is in existence."

Vice President Cheney says, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees the level of violence that we have encountered" in Iraq and the insurgency is still in its last throes.

Iraq presents another issue. To many, it is distinct from the 'war' that Bush announced in that Frum speech.

Bush named Iraq, along with Iran and North Korea, in the Axis of Evil speech. How can it be a separate issue?

According to Bush, it apparently was to remove Saddam in order to ensure there were no WMDs.

No, it was to disarm Iraq of the weapons that we claimed to know for a fact they had.

The question is whether stability and a functioning democracy was ever a war aim, or if it is an assumed duty.

In his announcement of the invasion, President Bush said one of our goals was "helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country." He's also said "the establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution," and that "America's task in Iraq is not only to defeat an enemy," but "...a free, representative government."

it could be a success as it removed a sponsor/harborer of organized terrorism

A minor one, maybe. Iraq wasn't up to much in the State Department's 2003 Overview of State-Sponsored Terrorism except contingency plans and "several hundred al-Qaida operatives" in the no-fly zone. However, "The US State Department's annual report on global terrorism says that the number of reported terrorist incidents and deaths has increased exponentially in the years since the US invaded Iraq, largely because of Iraq itself." Terrorist attacks have gone up every year since we invaded Iraq. The vast majority of foreign fighters in Iraq were radicalized by the invasion and weren't terrorists before we invaded, and the London bombers were motivated by the invasion.

it would be a loss if it was said that this would all be done in 6 months or for X amount of dollars... conditions which were never placed on the conflict

Yes they were. Rumsfeld said, "I doubt six months." Cheney said, "weeks rather than months." OMB Director Mitch Daniels said the war would cost $50 billion to $60 billion.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:42 PM on June 19, 2006



If the US is winning/losing the global war on terrorism, what is the score and what inning are we in?

Apologies to those who are not familiar with baseball.
posted by jaronson at 3:42 PM on June 19, 2006


So... the Republican base is actually pretty spineless?
posted by Artw at 1:56 PM PST


Yup. Look at how many are posting their missives from Iraq.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:53 PM on June 19, 2006


If we'd just stuck with that one, and really focused, we could have completely destroyed the Taliban,

VS having meatings with them in Houston.

Actually rebuilding Afganistan would have been "the right thing" to do. Instead, its an occupation.


Review histroy and how many nations end up NOT going bankrupt with wars of aggression. Now, exactly HOW is the US not going to end up bankrupt like other nations have?
posted by rough ashlar at 4:05 PM on June 19, 2006


dios: Russil, thanks for your response. I'll kindly reply to someone who makes a polite response to me and is actually interested in an substantive discussion.

Thanks, dios.

Bush plainly stated that we were going to attempt to dismantle terrorist groups that threaten the United States and regimes that harbor/sponsor them.

Correct. He was referring to Iraq and Iran in particular. (The Taliban had already been overthrown at the time he gave his speech, in 2002.)

The question is whether stability and a functioning democracy was ever a war aim, or if it is an assumed duty.

It was a war aim. After all, if the US couldn't set up a stable government in Iraq, there'd be no guarantee you wouldn't eventually get a new regime that would be equally hostile, or even more so (e.g. an Islamist regime).

Bush's plan was to overthrow Saddam Hussein and establish a friendly government in Iraq, and to do the same in Iran. The assumption was that the root cause of terrorism and anti-American hostility in the Middle East was the lack of democracy. Once the Iraqi and Iranian governments were overthrown, new, US-friendly governments could establish themselves, as in Eastern Europe. Given the prominence of Iraq and Iran in the Middle East, the overall effect would be to make the Middle East into a US sphere of influence, as happened (more or less) in Eastern Europe following the end of the Cold War.

Wolfowitz: "an Iraq not merely purged of cataclysmic weaponry, not merely a threat disarmed, but an Iraq that becomes a democratic cornerstone of an altogether new Middle East."

I've commented previously that this isn't strategy, it's fantasizing. E. H. Carr: Much that was said and written about international politics between 1919 and 1939 merited the stricture applied in another context by the economist Marshall, who compares "the nervous irresponsibility which conceives hasty utopian schemes" to the "bold facility of the weak player who will speedily solve the most difficult chess problem by taking on himself to move the black men as well as the white."

dios: Obviously [establishing a stable and democratic government in Iraq] has not been successful, but it hasn't necessarily been the firm and irrevocable failure that so many argue it is. It still could go either way.

I suppose. A precondition for establishing a stable government is that it must be regarded as legitimate by almost the entire population. At present, I would suggest that nearly the entire Sunni Arab population of Iraq regards the US-backed Iraqi government as illegitimate. I really don't see how this is going to change. Previous post on the evolution of the Iraqi insurgency.

Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but IMHO, going into Iraq without a postwar plan was an act of truly staggering folly.

At the Pentagon, the director of the Joint Staff, Army Gen. George Casey, repeatedly pressed Gen. Tommy Franks, the head of the Central Command, for a "Phase 4," or postwar, plan, the senior defense official said.

"Casey was screaming, 'Where is our Phase 4 plan?' " the official said. It never arrived. Casey is now the commander of U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq. ...

posted by russilwvong at 4:28 PM on June 19, 2006


"We" are not losing the war on terror, because I'm not fighting the war on terror.
Similar to the war on drugs, which you're either winning or losing, depending on what side you're on.
posted by spazzm at 5:11 PM on June 19, 2006


""We" are not losing the war on terror, because I'm not fighting the war on terror. "

Pay taxes in the U.S.?
posted by Smedleyman at 5:13 PM on June 19, 2006


dios wrote: "These things have to be analyzed in the universe defined by Bush. He set the rules and the goals, and he should be judged by them."

Surely the good of America is the only possible standard with which to judge the President's results?

Our claim is that this President is a dangerous madman. Should we therefore use his mad rules and goals to evaluate him? Since when do criminals get to set their own laws?

What about an objective government, of laws and measurable accomplishments?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:13 PM on June 19, 2006


At present, I would suggest that nearly the entire Sunni Arab population of Iraq regards the US-backed Iraqi government as illegitimate.

EXACTLY. That's why I'm totally floored when all the discussions ponder if this conflict could turn into a civil war. I would argue that it already is a civil war -and we're fighting on the Shiite side. Hardly a way to fan the flames of democracy. (And Lord only knows how Iran works into the equation if the Shia win. From a purely selfish standpoint, the US was much better off with Iran and Iraq at loggerheads - a problem it seems we're trying very hard to eradicate.)

This is one huge shit sandwich, primarily of our own making.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:56 PM on June 19, 2006


To appropriate a metaphor:
So the President decides to dig a hole to the center of the Earth. Okay. But then he struggles to climb up Mt. Everest, declaring that starting to dig at the summit will be the quickest, easiest, way to accomplish this goal. Can we point out the folly in this?
posted by zoinks at 5:58 PM on June 19, 2006


So right now you have a wide array of SWAT units, homeland security, the FBI, etc. etc. etc. not to mention the state level operations -(and the U.S. doesn’t want to get more into Interpol or the U.N.) all vying for control over the counter-terrorism dollar.

SWAT teams also need that money to protect us from renegade film crews.
posted by homunculus at 6:03 PM on June 19, 2006




"We're losing the war on terror" == Our citizens no longer tremble in continuous fear.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:52 PM on June 19, 2006


five fresh fish, if that's the case, then the best thing we can do to win the war on terror is to vote the damn Republicans out of office, because they've made a cottage industry of churning up peoples' fears on any number of issues for their political gain.

I'm good with having a serious concern about the risks. Heck, I do that in my job, too. I just don't like the way that's transmuted into fear in Republican hands so as to try to divide and cow me and my fellow citizens.

There's something decidedly unAmerican about it.
posted by darkstar at 8:34 PM on June 19, 2006


fff, sorry...i completely misread your comment.

never mind. It's way past my bedtime.
posted by darkstar at 8:34 PM on June 19, 2006


dios - But again, not winning/won yet, doesn't mean that it is a full and complete loss in this universe (it would be a loss if it was said that this would all be done in 6 months or for X amount of dollars... conditions which were never placed on the conflict).

i think the whole problem with the argument over winning or losing misses the point ... that the best victory we're going to get is a pyrrhic victory

we've spent nearly 300 billion dollars at a time when our government and economy are in danger of going broke ... we have damaged our relations, such as they were, with the muslim world for a generation ... we have caused russia and china to distrust our actions in their part of the world and reminded them of the necessity that they act as regional powers ... we also have caused the rest of the world to distrust us to a lesser degree

the iraq war, even if we manage to leave a strong, democratic iraq behind us, was a critical error of global strategy and far too costly ... now iran wants to get nuclear weapons ... but after seeing what happened in iraq, the iranian people are going to go all out to try to prevent such a thing ever happening to their country ... and, mark my words ... i fully believe that russia and china may well insist that we back off from any kind of military action ... or else

iran might not have been so determined to get the bomb ... and russia and china may not have been so concerned about our sable rattling over it if we hadn't invaded iraq

in the long run, what we really may have done is restart the cold war after we won it
posted by pyramid termite at 9:25 PM on June 19, 2006


There are a lot of people who miss the cold war.
posted by sonofsamiam at 6:18 AM on June 20, 2006


These things have to be analyzed in the universe defined by Bush. He set the rules and the goals, and he should be judged by them.

This makes no sense to me, no matter how many times I read it.

"The debate shall only be valid when all players use my criteria for success and my criteria are: I win!"
posted by sonofsamiam at 6:25 AM on June 20, 2006


dios, if you're still listening:

Bush's strategy for dealing with Middle Eastern terrorism is "transform the Middle East." It's a simple strategy. Unfortunately it's a utopian fantasy.

What's a more realistic strategy?

Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Next Attack:
If the record of the past four years is one of failure to stem the growth of the jihadist threat, then the question is: What would a successful strategy look like?

We need to start with first principles. A comprehensive counterterrorism strategy must be centered on four goals:

First, stop terrorists from committing acts of violence by capturing them, disrupting their cells, or, if necessary, killing them.

Second, keep the most dangerous weapons out of their hands.

Third, recognizing that there is no way to prevent all attacks, protect those facilities in the United States that, if struck, would cause catastrophic damage.

Fourth, halt the creation of new terrorists by dealing, to the extent possible, with those grievances that are driving radicalization.

In each of these areas, the United States can do better--in the last, we could hardly do worse.
posted by russilwvong at 10:19 AM on June 20, 2006


russilwvong, the minute you suggest the 'Fourth' goal, the word "appeaser" gets trotted out. It's one of a handful of convenient attack words that doesn't have to be substantiated, merely used, to put the other on the defensive.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:37 AM on June 20, 2006


Yeah, I know. But the US is fighting al-Qaeda, and one of the most effective ways to weaken al-Qaeda is to reduce its appeal within the Muslim world. The US isn't fighting Zombie Hitler.
posted by russilwvong at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2006


But maybe we’re fighting Cat Hitler.

I agree - with both of you on the last three posts. That is a decent outline for a counterterrorist strategy. And, unfortunately, political idiots suddenly think they’re experts and they get pseudo-muscles and become wannabe’s and ‘get tough’ on terrorism.

In fact diplomacy is the #1 most often used, and most often successful method.

The political tough guys actually make it harder to fight terror because they immediately instill the mindset that the terrorist is cornered and faces harsh reprisals.
Little wonder there’s been a spike in suicide bombings.
All this apart from trading a natural dynamic edge (superior mobility in, say, a hijacking situation, freer communication, wider range of resources, media control, etc. etc. etc.) with a static “We don’t negosheaite! We’re gonna keeel yew!” tactical strategy.
Kinda limits options.

What’s that old line about politics being a situation where you’re saying “nice doggie” until you can find a rock?

Going straight to the rock - or rather - declaring you’re going straight to the rock whether you can, will, or the rest of your guys even want to, kind of a tip off there.

Talking with everyone puts everybody on equal footing. You’re not special just because the mighty U.S. is talking to you.
This is better than than forcing everyone to compete for esteem and into commiting such horrendous or such large scale acts that you are forced to talk to them - and grant them legitimacy.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:28 PM on June 20, 2006


The administration runs the War on Terror like we're in a James Bond movie: there's one organization ("The Terrorists") with a mastermind and a lot of #2 guys plus a finite number of terrorists. All their attention is on the supply side, with no attention to the demand side.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:24 PM on June 20, 2006


What’s that old line about politics being a situation where you’re saying “nice doggie” until you can find a rock?

Yeah. Supposedly Will Rogers.

And, unfortunately, political idiots suddenly think they’re experts and they get pseudo-muscles and become wannabe’s and ‘get tough’ on terrorism.

Plus the Bush administration doesn't get that terrorist groups can operate without state sponsorship. (See Wolfowitz's endorsement of Mylroie's theories about Saddam being behind anti-US terrorism.) It's like thinking that there must be some multi-billion corporation behind Linux--how could a loose network of volunteers possibly come up with an operating system that's better than Microsoft's?

When you're fighting a state, you need an army. When you're fighting a network, what you need is intelligence. Meanwhile the Bush administration seems intent on purging the CIA.
posted by russilwvong at 1:25 PM on June 20, 2006


The US Administration isn't the least bit interested in ending the war on terror.

Think about it: how would they benefit by an end to the terror threat? In what way, in terms that are important to them, would an end to war actions benefit them?

Please, do try to answer. I'm curious to know.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:08 AM on June 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm sure AQ would love to assassinate Bush and his top advisors. (Remember that on 9/11, the Pentagon and the Capitol were both targets.) So there'd be some benefit to their actual personal safety.

I don't think the problem is Bush's intentions; it's his lack of humility and his incredibly unrealistic strategy. You can't bring democracy to the Middle East with fire and sword.
posted by russilwvong at 12:40 AM on June 21, 2006


"In what way, in terms that are important to them, would an end to war actions benefit them?
Please, do try to answer. I'm curious to know." - posted by five fresh fish

One thing that comes to mind - declare victory at the end of the term. This way Bush exits on a high - the Republican candidate (Jeb) gets a boost and if a Democrat gets elected they have to clean it up and the Republicans can ride them about what a lousy job their doing, how they started a civil war - etc.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:08 AM on June 21, 2006


Neither answer really flies. Ending war actions won't reduce the assassination risk. And that risk is pretty damn slim anyway. As for leaving on a high note, Bush just has to claim to have eliminated a few key AQ leaders: he doesn't actually have to put an end to terrorism or war. Smoke and mirrors will suffice for the people of America.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:04 AM on June 21, 2006


Ending war actions won't reduce the assassination risk. And that risk is pretty damn slim anyway.

If you haven't already, you should really see United 93. Before 9/11, would you have thought that hijackers flying planes into buildings was likely?

Al-Qaeda and its fellow jihadists are smart, technically astute guys; not so different from MetaFilter (a technically-minded community linked by the Internet). I'm sure they'll come up with new avenues of attack. And I'm sure they're thinking pretty hard about how to attack the White House.
posted by russilwvong at 9:27 AM on June 21, 2006


There were scenarios presented to the White House that included attacks on buildings using airplaces; these scenarios were wholly ignored by the administration.

Besides which, you appear to once again miss the point: George Bush and his cronies do not stand to personally benefit by the ending of terrorism. It is not in the best interests of their pocketbooks nor their power structure. They do not want an end to terror or war.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:34 PM on June 24, 2006


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