Are we winning?
September 16, 2004 7:24 AM   Subscribe

An interesting assessment of the war on terrorism. I love it when blogs seem to be filling a void in media coverage. This one is taking a critical look at the war on terrorism and seems to be finding some holes. If you go past the partisan talk (and it seems like that blog is slanted, even though it claims to be centrist), there's a lot of interesting links in there.
posted by TNLNYC (9 comments total)
and it seems like that blog is slanted,

The truth always has what could be characterized as a slant. That is unavoidable. Which is not to say that all issues are totally black or white but that the preponderance of evidence will fall one way or another. For example, global warming. 99% of the scientists agree that it is a real phenomenon while a few scientists employed by fossil fuel companies, Rush Limbaugh and soem politicians disagree. Which way does the evidence slant on global warming?

[offtopic] Is making a FPP to a weblog acceptable protocol at MeFi? I mean, this is an interesting subject and the author has some good material so I'm not complaining, just asking. [/offtopic]
posted by nofundy at 8:07 AM on September 16, 2004

Perhaps adding analysis from other blogs would have helped the post. Losing the War on Terror - Jihad and Foreign Policy is good companion piece.

The bottom line is that we let Osama escape because the government shifted to planning for Iraq. There is a great article in this months Atlantic about this (it isn't online). Afghanistan is in trouble, and we didn't finish the job there. If Iraq had anything to do with the Global War on Terror the this could be somewhat acceptable. But al Qaeda isn't beholden to nation-states [self link] and nation-state sponsored terrorism isn't the only kind of terrorism. But the Bush Administration is still stuck in the Cold War mentality of nation-states as the actors in the field. This makes sense because Missile defense was pushed hard before and after September 11th and the famous Axis of Evil. Furthermore, al Qaeda has become a transnational organization, outside of any nation. Attacking Iraq falls right into Osama's plans of claiming that the US is attacking Islam, and all therefore all of Islam must respond by using a defensive jihad. In Islam, to not join in the Jihad is to not go to heaven. You might find that dumb, but a third of the world doesn't.

What we need is a Cockroach Solution [self link] hitting the terrorists at all levels, and not falling into Osama's trap of the jihad. When your house is infected with termites or cockroaches, you don't burn it down; you take out the infected areas, spray the house, install perimeter barriers, etc. President Bush started burning the house, because that is the only power they believe works: the military. Forgetting about the other "soft powers" (economic, law enforcement, containment, political, etc) work equally good in tandem, has left America weaker. Listen to Christopher Dickey explain the situation. Using the military to rout out the terrorist-sponsored state of Afghanistan was the right thing to do, but to not finish the job, and attack a marginal enemy is myopic at best, and foolhardy at worst.

Finally, if invading Iraq was really necessary to deter terrorism, what explains the Madrid train bombings, the Jakarta bombing of the Australian Embassy, the Russian Hostage crisis? If Iraq really was this lynch-pin that we had to divert all of our resources to, has our war failed or was it just wrong. Either way, the administration doesn't look good.
posted by plemeljr at 8:51 AM on September 16, 2004

plemeljr: The cockroach solution is basically an all-out solution, which seems to make sense to me. I can't remember who it was but someone said that the reason we won the cold war was that it had three fronts: hard (wars abroad to prevent the expansion of communism), soft (diplomatic pressures and back channels) and alternative (providing a better model, ie. exporting capitalism). It seems that it would make sense to follow all three. However, the problem in the war on terrorism is that terrorism is a pretty open-ended thing. When McVey detonated his bomb in Oklahoma, he didn't have a large network. So the question is whether we can actually stop the lone nuts too.

I also read the Fallows piece in this month's Atlantic and second your recommendation on it. The mention of GWOT in it (a term I was unfamiliar with in the past) is actually what ended up leading me to that blog (I did a feedster search on GWOT and found that blog).
posted by TNLNYC at 9:08 AM on September 16, 2004

Homeland Security. It would take estimated $70-$100 billion to bring the fire and rescue teams up to speed in equipment and training to deal with a large scale event. Port security is in the neighborhood of $30 billion or so. Big money, but not as big as the war in Iraq. What is more important to Bush?
posted by stbalbach at 9:53 AM on September 16, 2004

So the question is whether we can actually stop the lone nuts too.

That question has been answered time and again, by McVie, Kaczinsky, and dozens of others. No, we can't stop the lone nuts. It just isn't an answer that a fear riddled public wants to hear; and those in charge don't tend to remain so by telling people what they don't want to hear.
posted by Wulfgar! at 9:54 AM on September 16, 2004

As Bruce Schneier says in the latest issue of his Crypto-Gram newsletter:
it's pretty much impossible to stop a lone operator intent on making mischief. It doesn't matter how many cameras and listening devices you've installed. It doesn't matter how many badge checkers and gun-toting security personnel you've hired. It doesn't matter how many billions of dollars you've spent.

A lone gunman or a lone bomber can always find a crowd of people.

This is not to say that guards and cameras are useless, only that they have their limits. Money spent on them rapidly reaches the point of diminishing returns, and after that more is just wasteful.
posted by Vidiot at 11:20 AM on September 16, 2004

I knew Al Caeda - he was a used car dealer in Hoboken - with a place by the name of, unsurprisingly, "Al Caeda's" - who had taken to feeding his insatiable coke habit by taking old cars, cleaning them up quite thoroughly and slapping on cheap new paint jobs, and then turning their odometers WAY back.

One day, an enraged customer who'd purchased an especially fruity lemon from Caeda brained him over the head with a tire iron.

That was in late August, '01 and so it all may have been a mixed blessing for Al - who lost the addiction along with a considerable chunk of his brain and now shuffles around somewhere in a ward, in adult diapers, watching old reruns of "Cheers". But, with a name like that it could have been far worse.
posted by troutfishing at 12:06 PM on September 16, 2004

Here's James Fallows' Atlantic article; the same issue also has a good article by Peter Bergen on the search for Bin Laden.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:16 PM on September 16, 2004

Al NiƱo can be a real jerk, too, troutfishing. But luckily Al Jazeera is usually around to set things straight.
posted by Vidiot at 12:39 PM on September 16, 2004

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