Monday, September 6

Opportunists? I'll Opine you decide

You may have found the argument that 9/11 changed everything compelling, and that as a result all the rules have changed. I do not. What happened that day was certainly on a scale larger with regards to the cost of outcome, but ultimately, was just another in a long line of terrorist acts perpetrated worldwide over the years. I know it sounds harsh, because we value the life of our own more than any other, but on a fundimental level nothing changed except that we got hit in a spectacular fashion.

This certainly did not deter our administration from taking the ball and running as fast and far as they could with it. A populous shocked and cowed by fear, was willing to lose some of its civil liberties in exchange for the perception of security. The Patriot act was rammed through congress, and provided law enforcement all kinds of new toys to play with. Dissent was quickly discouraged, Bill Maher lost his job for having the temerity to suggest, that it took more courage to fly an airplane into a building than fire cruise missles from hundreds of mile away. Ari Fliescher was quick to warn us to watch what we said. Not so slowly, our liberties were eroded in the name of security.

One year previously, a group called the Project for a New American Century published a document titled Rebuilding America's Defenses, and near the end of that document were the acknowledgement that barring a "catastrophic and Catylizing event like a new
Pearl Harbor" that the desired changes would most likely take a long time to come to fruition. Well one year later this event came to pass, and I can't help but wonder who was licking their chops at the opportunities presented.

Despite the ravings of Mylroi, Wolfowitz, Perle among others, terrorism is an assymetric problem. While in some cases States sponser the activities, (most notably Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia), terrorism is a tactic, used by terrorists to effect some goal. This type of terrorism can not be dealt with by the use of traditional military force, no matter how often they try to move that shinola out of the warehouse. Like it or not, dealing with acts of terror efectively, requires an investigative approach more in keeping with a police force, than a military approach.

Would it were so that you could take care of the problem by invading a country, replacing rulers that have been supporters, if not directly given shelter to them, as in the case of the Taliban. But to fight terrorism with that playbook, is not unlike trying to blow up a thunderstorm. Terrorists in general, and Al Queada in particular, are an amorphous group, consisting of cells spread far and wide, with a variety of communication channels, and sources of funding. They are not unlike the the Mob. The 101st airborn is as likely to break up organized crime in New Your as the first mechanized is likely to have any real impact of terrorism as a whole in Baghdad, Tikrit, or Fallujah.

You want to wipe out (nearly impossible) or severly hamstring terrorism in the world, then that is going to require police work. You are going to have to choke off the financial resources which will immediately weaken the enemy. Then you are going to have to put boots on the ground and gather intelligence through infiltration, monitoring of communications, in other words HUMINT. This angle of approach is not very sexy and it certainly does not lend itself to massive increases in military spending. As the often mocked Europeans (who have been dealing with this problem a lot longer than we) have discovered it is really the only way to proceed.

What has now been proven to be an optional and pre-emptive attack on an anemic enemy, has seriously undermined our ability to render the threat of al Quaeda impotent. We let a proxy army do the majority of the fighting in Afghanistan, and did not finish the job before moving on to our great Messopotamian adventure. This is like pulling the leaves and vegetation of a dandelion and believing that we have killed the plant, only to be shocked a week later when the plant seemingly appears out of no where. You did not kill the root, therefor you did not kill the plant. Until we decide to have an honest discussion of the root causes, and the need to change our approach, this will truly become a war without end resulting in the continued and tragic loss of blood and treasure, that will likely continue beyond our lifetimes.

We need to start a dialog soon, or accept that we have become like Don Quixote, forever to be tilting at windmills, and that our children will never have the opportunity to grow up free from fear as we did. Our present course on this front is simply unsustainable, and unlikely to result in the extermination of terrorism.