Tuesday, March 11, 2008

War on Terror

I read yesterday that a politician (whose name escapes me right now) said that Barrack Obama’s statement that he would order a withdrawal from Iraq, should he be elected, is a reason not to vote for him.

He said “They’d be dancing in the streets more than they were on 9/11 and would declare victory in the war on terror.”

To be honest, I’m absolutely astounded that anyone with half a brain believes that there can even be a war on terror. Attempting to fight terrorism through warfare is a completely futile activity that can never, and will never, work.

Put simply, we were defeated as soon as we invaded. You can’t win a war on terror because you simply can’t use military power to combat terrorism.

Let me explain this.

Before 9/11 America believed itself to be invincible. If we were talking about conventional warfare, it could be said this was true.

However, the towers fell and America was shook to its core.

America came under attack, thousands died, a major symbolic landmark was demolished and America looked around and had no-one to retaliate against.

Long story short, America had never experienced terrorism before and reacted the only way it knew how. Unfortunately, terrorism simply cannot be fought with military power. By doing so, all you’re doing is playing straight into the terrorist’s hands.

Terrorism works by artificially exaggerating a comparatively small threat. The truth is that you’re far more likely to die on the road or be killed by a regular old ‘domestic’ murderer or in a robbery gone bad than you are by terrorist action.

Put it this way, just over two thousand people were killed in the 9/11 attacks. Around 45,000 people die every year on the road. In other words, more people died that September from car accidents than died in the attack.

While it in no way trivializes or makes those deaths any less tragic, my point is that terrorism only works when people believe the threat to be far greater than it is. By rights, we should be far more afraid of getting in our cars or slipping in the shower than we should ever be afraid of getting blown up by a terrorist bomb.

That’s how terrorists work. They commit small acts of violence, while making people believe that death is around every corner.

This is why you can’t fight terrorism through military strength. You’re not at war with a country, you’re trying to track down a small number of individuals. You fight terrorism through police action. You treat it like a serious crime, because that’s basically all it is.

What it boils down to is this. If a handful of American citizens declared war on Islam in Christianity’s name and started blowing up mosques overseas…is the entire American people responsible? Even if the American people and its leadership openly endorsed the attacks, would a foreign power occupying America actually do anything other than putting more of their own people in the firing line?

The thing is, America has come under similar ‘terror-style’ attacks over the past few decades without much outcry. Assassination attempts on Presidents, school shootings, the Unabomber etc. Because they were domestic threats by American citizens, they were treated in the correct way.

You have to treat terrorists as what they are. Small groups of individuals committing crimes. You beat terrorism by combating it in the same way you’d combat a serial killer.

I think I can put it best this way: Imagine that a disgruntled co-worker shot up his office building and managed to get away. If this happened would we declare martial law, put troops on the streets, roadblocks every five miles and arrest everyone in the general area who’d ever had a bad word to say about that particular business?

No, we wouldn’t. That would be just plain crazy. However, what it would be is a ‘War on Crime’.

Long story short, military action does very little in finding or bringing the guilty to justice. What it does do is generate bad feeling among the population and create a false sense of danger… exactly what the terrorists want. Terrorists want to inspire terror in their enemies and hatred for their enemies in their own people.

Add to this that your average citizen doesn’t really care about politics or world powers unless it directly effects them. They care more about things like keeping roofs over their heads and food on the table. I doubt very many average Iraqi’s had strong feelings about America one way or the other before the invasion…Now that there’s armed soldiers on every street, I wonder how many have strong feeling now?

Secondly, military action really is playing into the terrorists hands. Rather than having to get to America, operate in secret and do what they can, under constant pressure, to inspire terror…all they have to do now is wait for a patrol to walk down the street and open fire… and their own people will help them because when we do leave, who wants to be the guy who helped the foreign invaders?

Oh, and don’t forget the thousands of families in America under constant fear that their sons or daughters won’t return home. That’s terror.

Long story short, invading Iraq was completely the wrong thing to do. There really is only two possible outcomes.

We can withdraw now and things will be right back where they were before we ever went in…only now there will be more violence, most of it between the people who cooperated with the Americans and the people who didn’t.

Either that, or we can stay in Iraq for three or four generations until everyone in the country sees the American presence there as a fact of life, and just hope that hatred for the American people hasn’t been handed down from father to son before we leave.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, we lost the second we brought military power to bear against a terrorist enemy. Terrorists are stopped by investigation and arrests, not by invading the country they came from.


MC Etcher said...

We still have thousands of troops in Germany. The war ended in 1945.

There will be no withdrawal, only a downsizing - we're in the Middle East to stay.

Michael said...

Strange. The way you tagged the locations makes "America" disappear from the RSS feed. It makes the post read a bit differently.