Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Ivan Eland: Are We Fighting a Real War?

Are We Fighting a Real War on Terror at All?


By Ivan Eland*
February 4, 2004

The Bush administration recently made it known that a major offensive against al Qaeda would be launched in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the spring. It was even hinted that Osama bin Laden might be caught this year.

To the average Super Bowl-watching American, it might seem strange to warn dangerous and already elusive foes that you are coming to get them. Conspiracy theorists among us (who occasionally prove to be right) would conclude that the Bush administration already knows Osama’s location and, to have the maximum political impact, is just waiting to round him up shortly before the election. Of course, this conclusion would be a very cynical interpretation of the Bush administration’s actions—which, given the administration’s secrecy and twisting of intelligence to hype the Iraqi threat, may not be entirely unwarranted. Under that scenario, however, the risk for President Bush and his minions is that Osama would once again manage to disappear before they could capture him—leaving them empty-handed before the election.

A more sympathetic line of reasoning might conclude that publicity for the new offensive is an attempt to scare bin Laden into doing something rash in order to smoke him out and capture him. But spring is a still long way away and bin Laden would have plenty of time, without panicking, to adjust his own strategy for avoiding capture. Besides, if bin Laden is somewhere along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, he has had, and will continue to have advantages, that Saddam Hussein never did: remote, rugged terrain and a very sympathetic population to shelter him.

And that population is likely to become more loyal. The Pakistani government, under U.S. pressure, is now employing aggressive tactics—learned from the Israelis, who learned them from the British—against people in the Pakistani tribal areas close to the border who are associated with al Qaeda fighters. For example, Pakistani authorities are bulldozing houses of the family members of those fighters. This wrong-headed strategy violates the doctrine of individual rights and responsibilities that is a cornerstone of American beliefs and will backfire among the heavily fundamentalist populations of the tribal areas, which already hate the Pakistani and U.S. governments. Like the use of aggressive tactics by Israel against Palestinian fundamentalists and radicals, short-term gains can be achieved but in the long run will fuel more support for the extremist cause. Playing hardball in Pakistan’s tribal areas will only increase support for bin Laden and al Qaeda in the long-term.

It is curious, however, that the administration is only now getting ambitious about rounding up terrorists, when it has seemed lukewarm to the idea ever since the September 11 attacks. During the war in Afghanistan, the United States concentrated less on neutralizing al Qaeda fighters than on removing the unfriendly Taliban regime from a country perceived to be strategic and installing a more compliant, hand-picked government. On two important occasions in the war, the administration refused to risk U.S. casualties by committing U.S. forces to fight al Qaeda in the Afghan mountains—relying instead on Afghan allies that were ultimately paid off to let the terrorists escape.

Moreover, for similar geo-strategic reasons and seemingly to divert attention from its failure to neutralize bin Laden, the administration chose to change the subject to Saddam Hussein and Iraq. This shift in attention and intelligence and military efforts from Afghanistan to Iraq took resources away from hunting down people who had actually orchestrated attacks on the United States. In fact, the war in Iraq was actually counterproductive to the war on terrorism because it inflamed Islamic populations everywhere and caused radical elements to volunteer people and money to the terrorist cause. The rash of recent terrorist attacks around the world—including in Iraq—is evidence of the effect. Moreover, shaky governments in many Islamic countries have been more reluctant to be seen as helping the United States round up terrorists.

Given the administration’s past tepid and even counterproductive efforts to fight al Qaeda, one can correctly examine its new advertising for a spring offensive in the context of the election year back home. Since Iraq policy is in shambles and President Bush wants to burnish national security credentials against any Democratic challenger, the administration has suddenly become more energetic in promoting its efforts against al Qaeda. This illustrates that a never-ending war on terrorism is ideal for an incumbent president. It’s just surprising that we didn’t see ads during the Super Bowl telecast.

***********

*Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute in Oakland, CA., and author of the book, Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World. For further articles and studies, see the War on Terrorism and OnPower.org.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news