I just have one question for the architects and proponents of this global war on terror, how will we know when it is over? Who will sign the treaty papers for the terrorists? Will it be Osama bin Laden? The truth is that there will be no surrender ceremony because we are not really fighting a war. We are not fighting a war in the conventional sense. It is sort of like the “war on poverty” or the “war on drugs” there is no identifiable point of success or failure. Because our enemy is undefined and really impossible to defeat there are no “benchmarks” to gauge our successes or failures. We have been fighting the war on poverty since 1964 and poverty has not surrendered yet. We have been fighting the war on drugs since 1972 and drugs have yet to surrender. In fact in both case we have actually lost ground to both enemies. The problem with declaring war on these types of enemies is that you become entrenched in the mindset of the original declaration.
For instance, we are still fighting poverty and drugs in many of the same ways we were when the wars were declared. Even though we know from study after study that we are not fighting them efficiently or with any great success, we continue doing the same things. In the war on poverty there were some initial large scale successes, but a lot of that was due to the severity of the problems. Poverty had been so widespread in many parts of America that any efforts to alleviate its effects brought welcome change to those suffering its ill-effects. However, due to a relentless campaign by the Right to vilify the poor a lot of the gains that were made were lost to inertia and false propaganda. There are those who have even falsely reported that poverty no longer exists in America. The war on drugs has produced similar results, the biggest fallout being the new prison industrial complex that now houses over 2 million Americans. The largest number of an imprisoned populace in the industrialized world.
Which brings us to the war on terror, due to the nature of the conflict we have the potential of an endless conflict. For the sake of argument let’s say we “win” in Iraq, will this be the end of the war? What about Pakistan? Iran? The Philippines? The definition of terrorist has become so generic and nonspecific that anyone can be classified as one and any conflict can be recast as an insurgency. Those who are now classified as terrorist for the most part are those who have not accepted globalization and the Western civilization model. So we have an unlimited supply of enemies and potential trouble-spots, the question now becomes how can the American public be persuaded to continue their unwavering support for a war that can not be won, against an enemy that cannot surrender?
I read a commentary a few days ago about the situation in Iraq. In it the author discussed how the war in Iraq has already been won as much as we can win it from a military standpoint. Our troops did an outstanding job of doing what armies prior to the war on terror were supposed to do. They routed the Iraqi army and deposed a dictator. So from a military standpoint the military did what it was created to do. The problem is that since then we have asked them to do what they were not created to do and the results have been well documented. The job of the military is to launch an attack and defeat a known enemy. Our military did an amazing job of carrying out it’s role in this ill advised invasion, they crushed the Iraqi army and rolled into Bagdad in less than two months. No one can argue that our military did not complete the mission it was designed to do. The Bushies have placed the military in an untenable position.
The military is stretched beyond any sustainable level with no end in sight, enlistments are at all-time lows, and we have yet to feel the healthcare crisis from the long deployments of our military personnel. And yet despite all of these facts, we have Senator McSame and the General claiming that victory is at hand. My question is victory over whom? The victory is not ours to declare in Iraq, our victory has already been completed. As long as we continue to define victory and loss in obsolete terminology we will be destined to repeat the same mistakes we have made in the our other two ill-fated wars. We constantly read and hear about how the war on terror is a new type of warfare, yet we continue to define it in antiquated terms. The war in Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror and the sooner we force our politicians and our military leaders to separate them the better off we will be as a nation. As long as we allow them to keep the two connected, we will continue to spend billions on a war we can never win.
Imagine if we had taken all the money that we have spent fighting the war on terror in military terms and had spent that money actually improving the lives of the people in these countries. We could have declared victory in the war on terror without ever firing a shot. But lets face it, there’s no profits in peaceful resolution of conflicts. There is profits in armaments. There is profits in reconstruction of the damage caused by those armaments. We spend billions of dollars destroying countries and ruining lives, money which could be used to renovate and rejuvenate these ailing societies. But just like the war on poverty at home has been fought with little enthusiasm, so has our efforts abroad to actually overhaul these societies through peaceful means.
I know it hasn’t been reported yet but the terrorists have surrendered. There was just no one at the table to take their surrender. We were too busy fighting the crusade to fight the real war. We were too busy invading and occupying the wrong countries to address the real terrorists. So the next time someone says that the mission was accomplished, they will be telling the truth. The problem is the mission that was accomplished wasn’t the mission they were sent to do. What should have been a military operation under George Bush became a political operation and we continue to deal with the fall-out.