Saturday, August 21, 2010

We're Losing the War on Terror

What I see happening at the NWC tells me that we as a nation are losing the war on terror. As I suggested in an essay posted shortly after 9/11, if the terrorists succeed in making us give up our freedom in the name of security, then they've won. Most Americans have been told by their leaders that fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan is keeping the war on terrorism off of American soil. Supposedly, were it not for our military operations in those places (that already have been responsible for more American fatalities than the 9/11 attacks), this war could be ongoing in America. That is simply not the case - the war on terror is being fought right here, right now! It's similar to Vietnam - military victories and defeats in Vietnam were inconsequential to the war being fought in America between those who supported the war and those who opposed it. The communists in Vietnam knew that if they continued to kill Americans, we eventually would lose our willingness to fight those battles. They were willing to sacrifice 20 or more Vietnamese for every American fatality, because they knew the important battle wasn't being fought with guns. That battle was fought with what was being shown on television news every night in American homes. How did the Vietnamese communists know that would work to get American troops out of Vietnam? Because they had studied history, including that of the American Revolution, where we used similar tactics to free the USA from England.

The war on terror is similar to the Vietnam war, in that the real battle is for 'hearts and minds' in the USA, not military success. If the terrorists induce us to become a police state, and/or a christian theocracy, then they've won the war!

This is just not a war that can be won by killing all the terrorists. For each terrorist we kill, for each muslim we persecute and disenfranchise, for each innocent non-combatant that dies, more terrorists spring up. Terrorism can't be defeated by military operations. The islamic terrorists aren't interested in invading the US, conquering us to turn us into a vassal state. They hope to turn us onto ourselves by convincing us that our freedoms put us in danger. They succeed not by military victories but by fanning the flames of our fear. We have a whole segment of our population that benefits from fear-mongering. They're encouraging us to give up freedoms that have defined us as a nation, simply for the sake of an illusion of security. Turning the USA into a christian police state won't make us more secure - it will be the fulfillment of the dark vision of Orwell's 1984. We can win this war only by conquering our fear.

Why have muslims left their homelands to come to the USA? I suppose this is seen by some to be a vast conspiracy, a fifth column festering within our borders, nests of snakes ready to strike when commanded by their muslim masters. But the reality is that most of them came to the USA to escape the tyranny of the theocracies running their homelands. They came to the USA for the same reason that most of our ancestors came to the USA - for freedom and for the economic opportunities they can develop for themselves, which they saw they couldn't have in their homelands. Any hidden terrorist cells within the American muslims must be a tiny, tiny minority. Persecuting American muslims by denying them the same rights all Americans are supposed to have only confirms islamic terrorist propaganda - that the USA has declared war on all of islam. It recruits terrorists.

At the start of WWII, the US shamefully interred Japanese, German, and Italian Americans (sometimes 2nd or 3rd generation Americans) simply because of their national origins. Not because they had done anything to cast suspicion on themselves. Just because they were connected, however tenuously, with governments with which we were at war. There was no attempt to sift the chaff from the wheat - all were guilty without cause or trial. This is a shameful episode in our history - a self-induced repudiation of the freedoms that we were at war at that very time to protect! It seems that today, some would have us follow that same path: to deny some of our citizens the very rights that many thousands of Americans have fought for and died to preserve. Martin Niemöller once wrote:

  • They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
  • Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
  • Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
  • Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.

I repeat: it is our freedom that terrorists fear the most. Not our guns, not our bombs, not our technology. It is by standing as a beacon of civilized light in a sea of barbaric darkness that we Americans can defeat terrorism. We can't win by killing. We can't win by imposing ever-tightening security on ourselves, limiting our freedoms for the illusion of protection. We can't win by becoming mirror images of our enemies. The only thing we really have to fear ... is fear itself!


Lak said...

Couldn't agree more. The best advertisement that America has for its way of life is its openness.

We have a foreign-national visitor at the NWC now and we had to find him a place in one of the OU labs because the paperwork to have him within the NOAA space is so onerous. Whenever he needs to talk to me, therefore, he needs to be physically escorted into my office by security. He doesn't come very often.

The impression that he is going to carry of America is going to be very different from the impression that previous generations of visitors had. If you look at many of the leaders of many foreign countries, they studied in America and this personal experience accounts for the "soft power" that the USA still has with the middle-class and elites in much of the world.

These closed-door policies are going to do long term damage to that soft power.

bc said...

There is a way to win the war on terror. Make it clear to Islam that an attack on American interests abroad or at home with a weapon of mass destruction will be a declaration of war by Islam on America. The response will be overwhelming: a combination of ground and airbursts in the high kiloton range on Mecca. Furthermore, it will be shared that the tampers in these devices will be salted with cobalt, ensuring a very dirty yield. Perhaps when the "religion of peace" realizes that they will say Salat five times a day facing a glowing hole that can be seen from space and that a haj will result in radiation sickness and death for generations to come, the "moderate" Islams I keep hearing about just might remove the radicals and, just maybe, Islam might once again be called a religion of peace and tolerance.

Chuck Doswell said...


I don't believe that would work, nor would it be the right thing to do. But if that's truly your opinion, you have the right to express it.

Anonymous said...

Lak, with all do respect, America is no more open than Mexico. (Not to mention virtually every European country.) Perhaps I don't understand what you mean by this "openness".