The 'War on Terror' Isn't Working

The 'War on Terror' Isn't Working by Andrew Bacevich, Los Angeles Times

Here's a question that ought to be at the center of the presidential campaign, but has been strangely absent: What strategy should the United States pursue to counter the problem posed by violent radical Islam?

Sure, several candidates vow, if elected, to escalate the ongoing military campaign against Islamic State. But Islamic State is merely an expression of a much larger and more complex phenomenon. Carpet-bomb Islamic State into extinction tomorrow and the larger problem remains.

To label that problem “terrorism” is to privilege convenience over understanding. It's like calling big-time college football a “sport.” Doing so entails leaving out all the grimy, money-soaked activity that occurs off the gridiron.

Those most deeply invested in the status quo--those benefiting from a condition of perpetual war--dismiss alternatives out of hand, arguing that no choice exists but to press on.

What Americans refer to as terrorism is more accurately this: a violent outgrowth of chronic political dysfunction and economic underdevelopment affecting large parts of the Islamic world, exacerbated by deep-seated  sectarian divisions and the pernicious legacy of European colonialism and further complicated by the presence of Israel, all together finding expression in antipathy toward the West and especially the United States. For the “war on terror” to succeed, it will have to remedy the conditions giving rise to that antipathy in the first place…

Read on.

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"Here's a question that ought to be at the center of the presidential campaign, but has been strangely absent: What strategy should the United States pursue to counter the problem posed by violent radical Islam?"

I suggest that this question is too narrow to adequately explain, and/or to adequately address, our difficulties today.

The broader, more correct question -- that our presidential candidates should be required to entertain and to answer -- would appear to be:

What strategy should the U.S./the West use to counter/address the problems posed by the massive resistance (coming as this such resistance does today from various state and non-state actors and manifested as this such resistance is today in many different ways; "terrorism being only one of these) to our concentrated efforts to:

a. Eliminate the various unique ways of life, the various unique ways of governance and the various unique values, attitudes and beliefs of other states and societies. And to

b. Replace these with our own unique (and, thus, often alien, profane and/or simply ill-fitting) such attributes?

This more-broad, and seemingly more-correct, question -- which highlights the basis for the both broad and deep resistance to our such "modernizing" initiatives -- allowing our presidential candidates to address:

a. Why not only the conservative elements of various lesser states and societies are moving against us/standing in our way today (some using, for example, "terrorism" as their resistance method-of-choice) but also

b. Why various great nations are, likewise, moving against us/standing in our way currently (herein using, for example, "hybrid warfare" as their resistance method-of-choice). And allowing our presidential candidates to address:

c. How these such significant "resistance" problems -- re: our "modernization" designs for other countries -- might, reasonably and intelligently, be overcome?

Now THESE (more comprehensive) questions, I suggest, are THE questions that our presidential candidates should be required to entertain.

Bottom Line:

The "War on Terrorism?" This is a too narrow and a too limited focus, as "terrorism" only describes (a) one resistance method-of-choice being used by (b) only a few "resisting" state and non-state actors.

The "War on Resistance to Western Modernization?" Now this seems to be more appropriate, as this such title/heading allows us to view:

a. Not only what it is that we are exactly up against (both broad and deep resistance to modernization more along modern western political, economic and social lines). But also

b. The entire range of "resistance" state and non-state actors standing against us re: our such "modernization" initiatives. And

c. The entire range of "resistance" methods that these such "resistance" state and non-state actors are using against us now, and/or may use against us in the future; this, to thwart our such "modernization" designs.

Our "countering" strategy(ies)/methods/approaches to, thus, be best served by embracing this more-comprehensive, more-encompassing (and, thus, more-correct and more-useful?) view?

Usually not a fan of Andrew Bacevich views, but I think he hit the nail on the head with this article. He isn't arguing for the U.S. to go into Iraq and Syria with large forces, instead he critiques the military for pushing a strategy that is simply doing more of what hasn't worked in the past. More cow bell, got to have it, its all we know.

I loved this line.

"To label that problem “terrorism” is to privilege convenience over understanding."