Declaring the War Over
You may be surprised to know that the war on terror is over. As President Obama said in his latest foreign policy speech, " This war, like all wars, must end." Well, maybe it does and maybe it doesn't. Certainly we can't just declare it over. The other side has to agree unless we're talking surrender.
The irony is that we were never at war with anyone. We were attacked before 9/11 and after by a group known as Al Qaeda. This is not a "state or nation" group, but an organization now representing radical Islam to apply one phrase. Not that it or its many affiliates and individually acting proponents consider themselves the radical element. From what I read and understand, the Al Qaedans (my word) consider themselves representatives of the way the world should be: totally Muslim. Death to the infidels who won't submit.
There's no tolerance, there's no compromise, there are no negotiations. There is only murder for all who oppose or disagree. It's an all or nothing proposition. It's an idea propelled by a powerful religion that is subscribed to by an estimated 1.5 billion people only a fraction of whom subscribe to the radical path. They, too, are victims of the radicals although many might sympathize with some aspects of the jihadists to use another name sometimes associated with the movement.
Anyway, our "war" version came about because we attacked countries who accommodated the extremists (another handy word) - Afganistan, then run by the Taliban an Al Qaeda sympathizing group. Worries about weapons of mass destruction owned by Iraq, another aider and abettor of Al Qaeda, led us into that country. These are the wars we are really weary of. The problem is that "ending" these wars doesn't end anything. On a small scale, the Boston Marathon bombing and beheading of a British soldier in London last week tells us this.
I also suspect that changing the Obama drone strike policy to kill fewer civilians won't do much good either. My point: the "war" is going to go on with or without us. We can't retire from it. We're a target. It might be fought in individual or street battles, it might be fought economically or diplomatically (diplomatically with whom?). Certainly, the side war with Christianity goes on independently of Al Qaeda. There's also the internal, active and violent wars within the Muslim faith (Shia vs Sunni), as well as the wars within the Muslim nations themselves. Again this is independent of the specific jihad against the West.
However, President Obama is correct in implying that we need a new strategy. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld noted a week or so ago that we are fighting an idea, not a military. Yet, having a strong, effective military that we are unafraid to use is essential to the "idea" idea. Perception of strength is critical in the world of ideas. So is energy independence which provides an economic weapon however resented that will be. So is world leadership.
A Morrocan acquaintance (a Christian who lives in the U.S.), argued that the Arab countries have to sort themselves out and that it might take a long time. We should stay out of the fights, but continue to provide foreign aid to whomever is in power. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to continue the conversation, but I suspect he would have provided some exceptions to his case.
Nor, did we get a chance to address the world's expectation that we ultimately are the world's policeman. I often get the impression that the so-called "world opinion" likes to have it both ways: don't use your power except when we call for it in our own interests. Certainly, Afghanistan and Pakistan want us to be on hand so they can use our weapons, manpower, and power when they need it.
While we search for a new strategy and hone our ideas to be used against theirs, count on more terrorism collectively and individually. Maybe we won't send in the soldiers. Maybe we'll have to rely on the local "well-armed militia".