The Failed Policy for the “War on Terror”


The “War on Terror,” the Bush administration’s chimerical attempt at a positive legacy, is an entirely unconventional war that the government has struggled to adapt to as it employs tactics of conventional warfare. Whereas terrorism has no centrality, no common goal, no single leader, and no possibility of complete disestablishment, the government continues to shun direct confrontation with terrorist leaders and instead confront individual threats with no feasible strategy.

In a narrow-minded sense, proponents of the current, conventional method of combating terrorism abroad correctly identify the disestablishment or conversion of “terrorist-friendly” regimes to cooperate with the U.S. government. Libya and other countries that the U.S. believes to have formerly harbored terrorists now aid the international effort to combat terrorism (State). Also, the coalition effort to purportedly dismantle Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” that would furnish global terrorism managed to also conveniently remove its oppressive dictator Saddam Hussein and “liberate” the Iraqi public (Bush, Iraqi). In the long-term, declaring war on terror is an effort that neither conventional warfare nor current U.S. policy could accomplish. Since the U.S.’s deployment of conventional warfare – the occupation of Iraq – global terrorism has increased (Georgia10), not only proving the futility of conventional forces, but the inverse of its intention. Historically, conventional opposition to unconventional terrorism or insurgency is not an efficient method of eradicating the threat, like the Soviet-Afghan War and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. More efficient strategies to combat terrorism abroad should be employed to minimize collateral damage and maintain favorable international relations. Direct confrontation like Special Forces’ deployment, espionage, and infiltration and corruption of individual terror cells would be a quicker, more complete solution for the dissolution of terrorist organizations. Indirect strategies like letters of marque, diplomacy, and economic supplements to cooperating nations would at least limit and contain threats while improving international relations and cooperation.

The popular defense of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” contends that the “war” eradicates terrorist threats to the world and, since the dissolution of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, has continued to persuade governments to pursue terrorists. The “War on Terror” is not necessarily a war on the invisible legions of organizations like Al Qaeda, but a war on all forms of oppressive regimes that disparage and mistreat its public. For example, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, purportedly to neutralize “weapons of mass destruction,” also ultimately sought to remove dictator Saddam Hussein who has sponsored and provided a haven for terrorism since the 1990s (Rosett). Since the U.S. completely razed the Hussein regime, Iraq is no longer a safe haven for terrorism, or anything else for that matter, and a new government founded on democratic ideals with paternal guidance from the U.S. will prevent further endorsement of terror. Based on these examples in the past five years, the policy of occupying a country, disestablishing its oppressive government or insurgency, and liberating its people from the noose of terror is a success for the affected regions, albeit its monumental cost in lives and infrastructure (Belasco).

Another route the administration has succeeded in is negotiating with individual countries that formerly harbored terrorists. Countries like Libya – formerly considered “terrorist friendly” (Hawkins) for providing haven to terrorists responsible for an airplane bombing (United States, Libya) – have joined the U.S. after renouncing any affiliation or aid of suspected terrorists. Saudi Arabia, the origin of most of the September 11th hijackers (United States, FBI), enforces strict anti-terrorism measures (Terrorism) and Pakistan is bearing a heavy front line engaging Taliban on its volatile tribal region bordering Afghanistan (Havens). Under these terms, the Bush administration may declare a positive correlation between its divine intervention and the global policy and perspective of terrorism.

Correspondingly, myopic President Bush believes that “…because America and a great coalition acted, [Saddam Hussein’s] regime is no longer in power, is no longer sponsoring terrorists, is no longer destabilizing the region, is no longer undermining the credibility of the United Nations, is no longer threatening the world. Because we acted, 25 million Iraqis now taste freedom” (Bush, Global). However, because the 2003 invasion of Iraq created a power vacuum in one of the most volatile regions of the world, the omnipresent terrorism and extremism occupied that empty position. The situation is similar in the U.S.’s and Pakistan’s war on terror in Afghanistan, and a global resurgence in terrorism is an apparent effect of this war (Georgia10). Whereas the U.S. brazenly marches through the Middle East with the chimerical goal of eliminating terrorism, the U.S.’s closest ally in the “War on Terrorism” Pakistan is forced to both increase pressure on terrorism while maintaining the U.S.’s mandate of proliferated democracy (Dhar). This bullying by the U.S. degrades the idea of “allies” in a war that focuses on diplomatic pressure to ensure progressively limiting support of terrorism. If anything, the invasion of highly volatile regions like the Middle East only upsets the reactionary nature of terrorism. Thus, the current policy of intervention and militant opposition of individual threats is worse than inefficient: it is destructive.

What the U.S.’s foreign policy requires is a strategy that promotes a feasible goal via practical application. Announcing a campaign to destroy terrorism by forcing countries into submission hardly accomplishes the task, as evidenced above. Instead, both direct and indirect routes to maintain peace and security, thus mitigating terror levels, must be considered in a dynamic process to discern the most successful strategy. The idea of dynamics is an important factor in combat, because no enemy employs a single strategy in every situation; however, the Bush administration’s strategy of invasion, occupation, and militant counter-insurgency has remained static for the past seven years of the “War on Terror.”

In terms of direct confrontation of terrorism, Special Forces, espionage and infiltration of terror cells and organizations, and cessation of funding of any extremist group or insurgency. Special Forces were the first to enter the “War on Terror” battlefield in Afghanistan as the CIA’s liaison to individual tribes. The idea was to convince tribal leaders to cooperate with the U.S. and renounce any affiliation with the Taliban; therefore, recruitment to such terrorist organizations would be extremely limited (Ricks) and funding, mostly from tribes’ opium producers (Chossudovsky) would be cut. In order to neutralize officials in terrorist organizations, Special Forces deployed in strategic, definite situations are the best solution for the direct confrontation of militants. Espionage and infiltration of individual terror cells and organizations would work to both sabotage and disorganize terror from the source; however, this would require extensive concrete intelligence and highly trained operatives. Finally, the U.S. must learn from its previous funding of extremist organizations to indirectly combat political enemies. Whereas the U.S. supported and partially funded both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein’s regime (Herman), the U.S. must instead learn to either use reliable, non-extremist organizations or learn to keep hands to itself.

The U.S. may also employ an indirect method of combating terrorism like issuing Letters of Marque, engaging in negotiation and diplomacy, and providing economic supplements for cooperating nations. Letters of Marque are national declaration of an individual as a dangerous individual and designating that person a target for reprisal from injury or crime. Diplomacy and economic supplements would further the U.S. in international relations and provide incentive for a nation to cooperate instead of endorsing or forcibly cooperating with a terrorist organization. Whatever the case may be, some form of indirect confrontation would benefit the international war on terrorism without necessarily directly contributing physical support.

The Bush administration’s policy on the confrontation of terrorism has failed in the long-term, prompting the destabilization of both Iraq and Afghanistan. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, the U.N.’s successful control of Afghan opium production was reversed, furthermore funding the Taliban and other extremist militants (Chossudovsky). When the U.S. invaded Iraq, sectarian violence prompted by the sudden removal of centuries of popular and governmental oppression of the Shi’ite minority dissolved any order in most of the country. The “War on Terror” must be reconsidered in order for it to achieve its goal: the mitigation and ultimate control or containment of terrorism. Policy may be a failure, but in order to save the U.S. from further ignominy dynamism and efficiency must be introduced to a fatally static system.

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