The New War on Terror

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 30, 2007 | Go to article overview
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The New War on Terror


Byline: Daniel Gallington, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Just when we need creative solutions and new strategies to fight global terrorism, we're getting political posturing for the 2008 presidential election.

Both sides are a little bit guilty of this: The Congress passed a war funding Bill any president would have vetoed because it interfered with presidential prerogatives as commander in chief. The administration says it is looking for a "war czar" to coordinate the war-related efforts of the State and Defense Departments, an odd idea that critics say looks like part of an exit plan - a political "hand-off" of an increasingly unpopular war.

Neither effort is likely to address the fundamental policy issues raised by the war in Iraq or the larger "war on terrorism." What's wrong with our efforts isn't a matter of exit dates or more coordination - though better coordination is almost always a good thing. The problem is our basic strategy for the war on terror is flawed - this is an extremely dangerous situation and can only encourage further terrorist attacks on us, attacks al Qaeda described recently as "on a par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

In fact, here is the very scary proposition: We could fail in Iraq - and in the larger "war on terror" - unless we change our basic strategy to target the various strategic components (financial, political and logistic) that terrorism needs for its continued operational success. However, so far we have mostly fought terrorism using traditional counterinsurgency strategies, with only mixed success. Not surprisingly, Americans have tired of this.

Some history is instructive: World War II was a massive logistic endeavor for us and cost thousands of lives, but it was mostly over in four-plus years - in Europe, just 18 months after D-Day - and we clearly won it. The war in Iraq has already gone that long with no possibility for a "military victory" (according to Henry Kissinger, who learned it firsthand in the 1970s) even though "victory" is still the word of choice used by the administration to describe our goal there.

The war in Korea ended in a stalemate that continues to this day. By many objective measures, we lost the war in Vietnam and at the same time showed anyone interested exactly how to beat us. And the Vietnam War answered this question: Do we have the stomach and patience to fight an insurgency to a successful conclusion? Regardless of whether we should have, the warring factions in Iraq have determined we don't.

Lesson? Americans are impatient: We only give our political leaderships so much time to win a war - any war - and we had better win this one soon.

The new strategy: The September 11, 2001, attack was an asymmetric attack on us.

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