Friday, October 24, 2014

Losing the War on Terror - more thoughts

I've been reading the book "A Bright Shining Lie" by Pulitzer Prize winning author Neil Sheehan, which reveals the massive extent to which bungling high-level military leadership failed completely to understand the nature of the Vietnamese civil war they inherited from the French after Dien Bien Phu, leading us to (a) support incompetent and mendacious leadership, and (b) supply our foes inadvertently with American weapons and ammunition.  Our blundering prosecution of counterinsurgency actually was destined to aid the very enemy we were trying to defeat.  Curiously, by reading some history books in my undergraduate days about Vietnam, I concluded this was not a war we could win, short of utterly destroying the "country" we were trying to "save" from the evils of Communism.  Even a lowly undergrad kid had a better understanding of Vietnam than our national leadership, it seems.

Although no events in history ever repeat themselves perfectly, there are many points of similarity between our current "War on Terror" (WoT) and the mess we created in Vietnam.  For one thing, the war is dividing our nation in ways not entirely dissimilar from how our nation was divided by the Vietnam War.  Liberals and conservatives are positioned on similar ground as the populace learns more about the mostly hidden issues in the WoT.  We're going down a similar path to defeat, but this time, we're impoverishing ourselves to an unprecedented extent and yielding our open society to a politically expedient sanctioning of giving up our Constitutional rights.

Second, we're again inadvertently supplying arms to our implacable enemies as our leaders (both military and civilian) struggle to come to grips with a war they evidently don't understand.  Rather than clashing political ideologies (as in Vietnam), the current war is one of clashing religious sects - sects that have been fighting and killing each other for a long time before we ever became involved.  Which side do we back?  Sending arms to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in their insurgency against the Soviet invasion backfired on us rather thoroughly - in our fear of Communism, we helped to arm Osama Bil Laden!   The "Iraqi Freedom" invasion was based on lies and actually had nothing to do with terrorism, at least until the overthrow of Saddam encouraged eager terrorists to flood into Iraq to fight the "great satan" (i.e., us).  We seem entirely to have misunderstood the outcome of the "Arab Spring" revolutions against Mideastern fascist-style secular dictatorships:  we apparently believed this was the start of a western-style democracy spreading into the Mideast, when it was clear enough that the islamic majorities eventually would elect islamic theocrats, not liberals supporting minority rights. Which side of those clashes should we support?  It seems whomever we supply with arms comes eventually to turn them on us.  Is it not in our best interests to stay out of such clashes?  Sadly, our obsession with Mideast oil has clouded our vision ...

So after 9/11, after we invaded Afghanistan (supposedly in retaliation for the attack on the World Trade Center), the inevitable reaction of the Afghanis became focused on expelling the infidel invasion (i.e., us).  What a surprise!!  Evidently, no one had read the history of that war-torn land - like Vietnam, its people have been fighting against and expelling invaders for many centuries.  What made us think it would be different for us?  Did we really think we could manage to succeed where no one has ever succeeded before?  What colossal ignorance and arrogance!

Third, like Vietnam, in the name of operational security ("opsec"), many actions of the WoT are criminal activities being hidden from the American public.  As suggested in Sheehan's book, opsec is often the perfect coverup for immoral and/or illegal activities.  Why would the Bush administration try to conceal the recently-uncovered discovery of chemical weapons during Operation Iraqi Freedom?  What possible purpose could there be to not reveal their existence, when it was WMDs that formed the cornerstone of the government's excuse for that invasion?  What sort of machinations have been (and are now) going on behind the cloak of opsec?  As the WoT has proceeded, there have been various evil deeds (including torture on captured enemy troops) perpetrated but held mostly under wraps in the name of opsec, or justified by the WoT (e.g., the drone attacks).

Do we give up our freedoms for the sake of an illusory security?  Many historical figures in our nation's past (including Benjamin Franklin) have warned against that.  Yet we currently are approaching something like a police state, with judicially-sanctioned warrantless searches, pervasive illegal and unjustifiable surveillance of all sorts, widespread police brutality, the militarization of police, etc.   That's what fear does.

The irrational fear of terrorism is unwarranted - it's exactly that fear that is the goal of all terrorists.  The very name "terrorist" makes that abundantly obvious. Unfortunately, that fear is being exploited for the sake of pursuing an ill-justified war on an ill-defined enemy, with ill-defined goals and unjustified tactics that mostly serve to recruit new terrorists.  The war is one that can never end, because the terrorists can't all be killed, so the profits will continue to pour into the corporations supporting the military and security operations.  War is profitable for them, and they've learned how to exploit politicians to keep the trillions flowing into their coffers, even as Americans (and innocent civilians) die or are grievously wounded in this senseless war.  And we Americans lose more and more of our freedom.

As I've said many times, terrorism is the last resort of an enemy not otherwise capable of imposing their will.  It's a clear indication of weakness.  We only play to their strengths by perpetuating the WoT and imposing a police state on our own people.  Defending ourselves is perfectly justifiable, but not to the point where we must give up the very things we're supposed to be fighting to keep!  Not to the point where our tactics are as immoral and illegal as those of our foes.  In confronting terror, we have become a state that sanctions terror.