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Just End The “War On Terror”

February 22, 2008

Speaking of memos, Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh has an excellent article up today: Memo to President Obama

It is a debate that only Obama can start. McCain won’t bring it up. Nor will Hillary Clinton. Apart from being on the verge of oblivion politically, she is too fully vested in the war on terror, having voted in 2002 to authorize the war in Iraq as part of it. And if that debate doesn’t start, we as a country will be effectively doomed to a “war” that has no prospect of ending. Bush has gradually expanded his definition of the war on terror to include all Islamic “extremists”—among them Hezbollah, Hamas, and other radical political groups that have no ties to Al Qaeda, ideological or otherwise. In doing so the president has plainly condemned us to a permanent war, for the simple reason that we will never be rid of all the terrorists. It is also a war that we will wage by ourselves, since no other nation agrees on such a broadly defined enemy. As Princeton scholar G. John Ikenberry has written, “It is perhaps a paradox—and one that is fitting for the strangeness of our current age—that we will need to end the war against terrorism because we cannot end terrorism.”

This is something that I’ve argued here in the Chamber many, many, many, many times*.  Would Obama have the political courage to change the paradigm in this country?  I’m not sure. 

During one of the presidential debates last April (have they really been going on for that long?), the candidates were asked to raise their hands if they believed that such a thing as a “global war on terror” existed.   Obama, somewhat hesitantly, did raise his hand:

I’m in complete agreement with Hirsh on this.   If we really want “change”, one of the first things we need to do is to start making the distinction between policies of smart counterterrorism and protecting the homeland and a ‘war’ that is, by definition, unwinnable.  John Edwards understood this, but he did a terrible job in articulating it (the “bumper sticker” thing just wasn’t working).  

I really hope Obama gets this memo.

*For a full list of Chamber entries on this issue, check the “war on terror” tag.

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26 comments

  1. No, he does not have the political courage. Just look at his advisors. It’s that simple, the proof is in the pudding. He does not represent change. He only ‘represents’ a stark contrast to what we’ve had before. But there is no change in the fundamentals.


  2. between policies of smart counterterrorism and protecting the homeland and a ‘war’ that is, by definition, unwinnable.

    So what’s your suggestion Chen concerning this war on terror we can’t win? Change the definition? Wait around to see what happens?

    I got two questions for you moderator?

    You’ve been hypercritical for 4 years now about Bush, his mistakes, adn the Iraq war quoting the most leftist rags in America called Newsweak and the NYT as reputable sources, both of which are dying a slow death due to their blatant bias and dishonesty. Matter of time before they fold tent or change. Shareholders are already seeing to it.

    First, How come you never address the surge is apparently working in Iraq? Even your rags don’t deny that fact. Wasn’t six months ago we were hearing that war was “unwinnable.” Isn’t that a fact, or am I missing something?

    Being older, I’d like to convey a paradox of my own that Newsweak, the NYSlimes and other leftist rag need not mention because it shows just how wrong they always are. Twenty-five years ago a man by the name of Reagan was mocked by the libs who called his plan for ballistic defense system “Star Wars.” Earlier this week we blew a satellite out of the sky moving at over 2 times the speed that the fastest ICBM can travel.

    Second, is the notion of “Star Wars” still unattainable?


  3. Tex-

    First, How come you never address the surge is apparently working in Iraq?

    I’ve argued before that the whole definition of “working” is open to different interpretation. My personal interpretation would be that it has “worked” when our troops are on their way home. Most analysts have argued that we needed more troops in Iraq from day one, so the fact that there have been improvements in the current security situation given a surge is hardly surprising. The question would be how long we are able to sustain such a presence and if we’ll see a return to pre-surge levels of violence once we’re forced to reduce the force strength. I think everyone needs to look at Iraq in the macro sense. Given where we are now vs. where we are a year ago, are we any closer to leaving the country?

    Second, is the notion of “Star Wars” still unattainable?

    What the heck does “Star Wars” have to do with this thread (not to say that the other question did either, but oh well)? And where did I say that it was unattainable? I’ve never mentioned “Star Wars” on this blog.

    Since you bring it up, I guess I’ll say that Star Wars isn’t such a bad idea in theory, so long as it isn’t a giant money pit. I’ve been more worried about our ability to detect the suitcase nukes and dirty bombs than the ICBM’s though. I think that and nuclear proliferation in general would take priority.


  4. What’s his emminence going to do if al Qaeda changes the paradigm and commits a major act of terrorism like 9/11? I have no idea. Neither do you.


  5. It’s not necessarily a fact that the surge is working.

    For many Iraqis, the homes they left no longer exist. Houses have been looted, destroyed or occupied. Most Baghdad neighborhoods, where Shiites and Sunnis once lived side by side, have been transformed into religiously homogeneous bastions where members of the other sect dare not tread.

    U.S. military commanders and diplomats here acknowledge that the recent decline in violence is the result, in part, of the city’s segregation. There are now far fewer mixed neighborhoods where religious militias can target members of the other sect.

    “There is an element of the violence being down because segregation has already happened,” said Col. William E. Rapp, a senior aide to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. “The violence is still at the fault lines, and we’re sitting on those fault lines.”

    Rapp said Iraqis have to ask themselves: “Do you even want to come back? Because that neighborhood is no longer Sunni, it’s now Shia. Or it’s no longer Shia, it’s now Sunni.”

    In most of Baghdad, the population shift has been at the expense of Sunnis, many of whose former neighborhoods are newly populated by poorer Shiite migrants under militia protection and, often, control. Groups such as Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia “are no longer just thugs who are carrying guns around on the street,” the diplomat said, speaking on the condition of anonymity about the issue. “They’ve kind of supplanted local government, with streams of revenue — rent from housing they’ve taken over, protection money from businesses,” and control of fuel and electricity supplies.

    If sectarian violence has been declining it’s because of ethnic cleansing.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/15/AR2007121501921_pf.html

    Population displacement resulting from sectarian violence continues, imposing burdens
    on provincial governments and some neighboring states and increasing the danger of
    destabilizing influences spreading across Iraq’s borders over the next six to 12 months.
    The polarization of communities is most evident in Baghdad, where the Shia are a clear
    majority in more than half of all neighborhoods and Sunni areas have become surrounded by
    predominately Shia districts. Where population displacements have led to significant
    sectarian separation, conflict levels have diminished to some extent because warring
    communities find it more difficult to penetrate communal enclaves.

    http://www.dni.gov/press_releases/20070823_release.pdf

    Statistics collected by one of the two humanitarian groups, the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, indicate that the total number of internally displaced Iraqis has more than doubled, to 1.1 million from 499,000, since the buildup started in February.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/24/world/middleeast/24displaced.html?ex=1345608000&en=898fc6ac9a1c2f85&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    Here’s more analysis by a retired general last month:

    Once Insurgents, Now Allies

    If it wasn’t just the surge, how did it happen?

    It could be, in part, exhaustion among Sunnis, tired of fighting and dying. Or also, in part, a cease-fire declared by the largest Shiite militia, others say.

    But another part, and possibly the most significant, can be traced to the end of last May. That month, 126 U.S. troops died; it was the second deadliest month for U.S. forces during the war. Petraeus was under pressure to reduce those casualties.

    “Petraeus seems to have concluded that it was essential to cut deals with the Sunni insurgents if he was going to succeed in reducing U.S. casualties,” Macgregor says.

    The military now calls those “deals” the Concerned Local Citizens program or simply, CLCs.

    It’s a somewhat abstract euphemism. The CLC program turns groups of former insurgents, including fighters for al-Qaida in Iraq, into paid, temporary allies of the U.S. military.

    McCaffrey just got back from a five-day trip to Iraq where, he says, he “went to a couple of these CLCs, you know, five awkward-looking guys with their own AKs standing at a road junction with two magazines of ammunition — and they’re there as early warning to protect their families in that village. I think that that’s good.”

    Creating a New Force

    Some 70,000 former insurgents are now being paid $10 a day by the U.S. military. It costs about a quarter billion dollars a year.

    It’s a controversial strategy, and Macgregor warns that it’s creating a parallel military force in Iraq that is made up almost entirely of Sunni Muslims.

    “We need to understand that buying off your enemy is a good short-term solution to gain a respite from violence,” he says, “but it’s not a long-term solution to creating a legitimate political order inside a country that, quite frankly, is recovering from the worst sort of civil war.”

    That civil war has subsided, for now. It’s diminished because of massive, internal migration, a movement of populations that has created de-facto ethnic cantons.

    “Segregation works is effectively what the U.S. military is telling you,” Macgregor says. “We have facilitated, whether on purpose or inadvertently, the division of the country. We are capitalizing on that now, and we are creating new militias out of Sunni insurgents. We’re calling them concerned citizens and guardians. These people are not our friends, they do not like us, they do not want us in the country. Their goal is unchanged.”

    Macgregor, a decorated combat veteran and a former administration adviser, articulates a view that is privately shared by several former and current officers. It’s not that they believe the plan isn’t working. It’s that they see it as a dangerous one with potentially destructive consequences.

    But McCaffrey argues that at $10 a day, the gamble is worth taking.

    “We can pay them that for 10 years if we had to,” he says. “Better we provide an infusion of cash where we’re keeping a local night watchman for us on duty than we conduct combat operation. Money isn’t even a factor we ought to take into account.”

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17899543

    So basically, yes violence has decreased. But much of it is due to ethnic cleansing, and the United States paying off insurgents.


  6. I’ll weigh in. Obama would not “end” the war on terror, he won’t fight it either.He will default to Clintonian tactics,I doubt he would even be willing to run special ops. I want to say this also. The war on terror is a reality.Diplomacy won’t satisfy despots and the Palestinian/Israeli issue is unsolvable. The problem is the baddies have a new bent and it won’t be bottled up by pretty words.


  7. Mr. Roach-

    What’s his emminence going to do if al Qaeda changes the paradigm and commits a major act of terrorism like 9/11? I have no idea. Neither do you.

    I’m fairly confident that he won’t use it as an excuse to waste billions of dollars and divert our attention by invading and occupying a country that had nothing to do with it.


  8. I’m sure then he’ll attack al Qaeda strongholds then, right? But why doesn’t he say he’ll increase forces in Afghanistan to, say, 100,000. And, since we’re having a tough time with counterinsurgency in Iraq, what makes him think that war will go better, even if it was less optional in nature.


  9. Chen,

    What the heck does “Star Wars” have to do with this thread (not to say that the other question did either, but oh well)? And where did I say that it was unattainable? I’ve never mentioned “Star Wars” on this blog.

    Because the description of Star Wars was called by the MSM and the American loathing crowd that you’re a member of as “unattainable” and a pipe dream just as the war on terror has been called “unwinnable” That is what you have called the war on terror, isn’t Chen on this very blog in a previous thread?

    King,

    Would you mind so that I don’t have to bother with you anymore if I passed your last post verbatim to a few Vets on another blog and let the Vets themselves answer you about the success or failure of the surge? I want them to see what contrarians like you are saying elsewhere on the net. But I don’t want to do so without your permission.


  10. Mr. Roach-

    I’m sure then he’ll attack al Qaeda strongholds then, right? But why doesn’t he say he’ll increase forces in Afghanistan to, say, 100,000. And, since we’re having a tough time with counterinsurgency in Iraq, what makes him think that war will go better, even if it was less optional in nature.

    I’m guessing that he’d attack whoever was deemed responsible.

    And I don’t know if there’s a magic formula for troop levels, as Afghanistan is different from Iraq. I’m guessing that he won’t wait until his party gets its ass handed to it in a general election to bring in competent people to get the job done though.


  11. I’m fairly confident that he won’t use it as an excuse to waste billions of dollars

    You mean like global change and carbon ‘footprints’ do free enterprise? Wonder why a barrel of crude is $100 this week? Refining capacity, or lack thereof.

    Or hwo about the Great Society?


  12. I’m guessing that he won’t wait until his party gets its ass handed to it in a general election to bring in competent people to get the job done though.

    With all that supposed clout you got handed after “the ass kicking”, you sure haven’t seem to do much with it. Imagine the ratings you could get with Dim President to go with it?

    Congressional approval rating = 17%


  13. Geepers Tex, you’re moving the debate all over the place. The surge, Star Wars, carbon footprints, great society… can we get back on topic? It’s about not constructing our foriegn policy around an ambiguous concept that can never be resolved, and dropping the “war on terror”. Our pals the Brits already did it awhile back, BTW.


  14. Would you mind so that I don’t have to bother with you anymore if I passed your last post verbatim to a few Vets on another blog and let the Vets themselves answer you about the success or failure of the surge? I want them to see what contrarians like you are saying elsewhere on the net. But I don’t want to do so without your permission.

    Sure, but they wouldn’t be addressing me. All I did was post what analysts like retired general MacGregor says about the situation in Iraq after a five-day visit to the country. And other left-wing sources like the NIE, the Iraq Red Crescent Organization, and military officers Iraq – the latter who have conceded that ethnic cleansing has contributed to a lull in sectarian violence. I don’t think that’s what Bush had in mind when he signed on for the surge.


  15. And didn’t Ron Paul get more money from the military than any other candidate? I’m not sure what your particular Iraqi killing friends think about the war, but let’s not design foreign policy based on what ignorant soldiers think.


  16. Chen,

    I’m not sure what your particular Iraqi killing friends think about the war, but let’s not design foreign policy based on what ignorant soldiers think.

    Perhaps you can see why I think people like the King, the chicken fryer, are nothing but a bunch of cowardly, military-hating, American loathing shills. Believe the content of the Colonel’s statement says about all I believe wrong with your party.

    Our pals the Brits already did it awhile back, BTW.

    Our pals the Brits are about to go to civil war with the Muslim youth too. They ain’t calling Londonistan for nothing.


  17. I’m going let you in on a little secret Tex; King isn’t posting from the USA.


  18. Our pals the Brits are about to go to civil war with the Muslim youth too. They ain’t calling Londonistan for nothing.

    Ever been to London, Tex? I have, many times. And despite its noticable minority of Pakistani, Indian and Arab immigrants, it’s nowhere close to be called Londonistan, nor is it heading towards any civil war.


  19. The problem, as I see it, is that the word “terrorist” has become a perjorative catch-all phrase for violent political dissidents. However, using a single word to describe all these folks white-washes over some extremely important distinctions which seperate the groups. We shouldn’t treat all political dissidents the same way, but calling them all terrorists can trick us into thinking they’re all the same. This happens on the right of the blogosphere (and the left) but I hope it doesn’t happen in places of power. But who knows?

    Oh, and King, I wouldn’t be so sure that Bush wasn’t looking to ethnic cleansing as a means of ending violence. There are some very disturbing quotes from administration officials early on that civil wars/insurgencies tend to “burn out.” What do they mean by that, anyway?

    It would be like waging a “war against Napoleonic mass troop movements” and then lumping together all 19th century military powers.


  20. I need to add one thing: I’d like to hear from some candidate, any freakin’ candidate, that not all terrorists are created equal. Not everyone that is on the terrorist list is on there for the same reason, they don’t all have the same aspirations, and therefore their endgames can be radically different.

    For instance, in Basra, one major “terrorist cell” that was recently defeated was actually a millenarian cult. According to some Generals in Iraq, there are three seperate wars fought for three seperate reasons in Iraq (local Sunnis, foreign Sunnis, and local Shiites) [Wash. Post]. Plus, the CLC’s and the Awakening Councils are not, contrary to popular belief, the same and they are generally at odds with one another. McCain loses points for not pointing out the complexities of means to victory, and the Democrats lose points for being too closely wedded to “exit strategies” as their primary foreign policy concern.


  21. One mans terrorist is another ones freedom fighter.The complexity of the war on terror is variable. You can look at the nature of the groups actions and their alignments. You can account for the actions being either in your favor or against.Not addressing the fact that people are dying and entities are being destabilized is not to be ignored though.


  22. Sphinx,

    Ever been to London, Tex? I have, many times. And despite its noticable minority of Pakistani, Indian and Arab immigrants, it’s nowhere close to be called Londonistan, nor is it heading towards any civil war.

    Melanie Phillips disagrees with you Mr. Worldly.
    http://www.amazon.com/Londonistan-Melanie-Phillips/dp/1594031444

    Read it so you don’t follow your idiot brother on the subways and buses.


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