War Without A Name

April 16th, 2009 at 11:06 am | 1 Comment |

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Our war on terror begins with al Qaida, but it does not end there.  It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.

- President George W. Bush, address to a join session of Congress, September 20, 2001

And that’s why I think it’s so important for us to reverse course, because [Afghanistan-Pakistan is] the central front on terrorism. They are plotting to kill Americans right now. As Secretary Gates, the defense secretary, said, the war against terrorism began in that region and that’s where it will end.

-President Barack Obama, debate with Senator John McCain, October 7, 2008

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Last week, Rachel Maddow snarked about inaccurate reports that President Obama had changed the name of the Global War on Terrorism to “overseas contingency operations”, or as she found it delightfully amusing to call it “OCO”.  In all the giddiness about etymology, one almost forgot the seriousness of the threat of global terrorism.

And the threat truly is global, pace the President’s comments in the second Presidential debate. 

Iran, which shelters a “substantial al Qaida network on its soil“, announced it was closer to developing a nuclear weapon.  North Korea, which showed no qualms about diverting weapons to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and nuclear technologies to Syria, may be helping in Iran’s apocalyptic endeavor by shipping uranium from a hitherto unknown secret nuclear program to the militant mullahs.  In Algeria, al Qaida in the Maghreb was discovered to have been dabbling with biological and chemical weapons. And several al Qaida training camp graduates are working for the Islamist al Shabab terrorists who tried to kill a Congressman on Monday in Somalia.  And this is what’s going on outside of the “central front on terrorism.”

In the central front, Pakistan caved to terrorist demands and signed away the Swat region to the Taliban’s seventh century interpretations of Islamic law.  This is yet another sign that Pakistan may well completely disintegrate, which could result in al Qaida getting their hands on nuclear weapons.  This is clearly going to require a significant commitment of American and international resources, of both the soft and hard power variety, probably for a long time.

The Obama Administration is clearly seeking to minimize the war on terrorism. (Indeed, Secretary Clinton said she no longer uses the term.)  Worse, Vice President Biden even intimated that defeating the Taliban will be fairly easy, given his suggestion that 70 percent of the Taliban are simply hired or coerced guns.  (No proof of this assertion was ever given, according to The Long War Journal). 

There are short-term benefits to this strategy.  Americans are tired of being in Afghanistan, over 40 percent of us even believe we never should have toppled the Taliban after 9/11.  Nobody wants to pay for a potentially decades long strategy of reconstructing Afghanistan into a proper state, especially given how profligately we are spending on just about every other item in the budget.  And certainly, nobody wants America to engage in another war along the lines of Afghanistan or Iraq. 

In the long-term, ignoring and minimizing could be a gross miscalculation.  (Although I personally hope not.)

This is a world where Kim Jong-il could divert uranium to al Qaida, where the al Shabab terrorists of Somalia were considered likely to strike on U.S. soil during President Obama’s inauguration, and where Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could become the property of Osama bin Laden.  The United States must remain vigilant and committed to taking courses of action which will prevent those and other events from occurring. 

We remain in the Global War on Terrorism.  Or the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism.  Or the Global Battle Against Man-Made Disasters.  Whatever we call it, it is real, and on the way to becoming the new majority, we should never hesitate to face this reality.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • danbmil99

    The problem with the “war on terror” verbiage is that it was horrendously abused by the prior administration, in hypocritical ways. To many, not just left-wing nuts, those abuses make the continued use of the phrase suspect. The problem with calling a global issue that isn’t likely to go away soon a “war” (like the war on drugs) is that wars are supposed to have a beginning and an end. Historically, leaders have invoked war powers to facilitate command and control in a time of crisis. In these cases, some limitations on the usual freedoms of speech, assembly, and so on are abridged, with the understanding that they will be restored once the threat has been contained.Using the “war on terror” as an excuse to wage a poorly thought out action in Iraq, spy on citizens, torture people with no due process, etc. and so on, is what makes the phrase virtually useless. The public will not submit to having their rights taken away permanently for a “war” that is really a set of strategies and tactics, not a “war” in the classic sense.