The United States has embarked on a worldwide “War Against Terrorism”. Many people are questioning how this war will be fought and if it will be won. There are 4 major components to a worldwide war on terrorism: intelligence and diplomacy, the homefront, winning hearts and minds, and the military. Let’s look at each of these components in turn…
Intelligence and Diplomacy: In the past the US has always been on the defensive when we’ve dealt with terrorists. The terrorists have had unlimited amounts of time to plan and execute terrorist attacks against targets of their choice. Their failures usually have minimum consequences. An unsuccessful operation only means that they lose a handful of men and a relatively small amount of treasure. On the other hand, even if 95% of their attacks fail, the 5% that succeed do devastating amounts of damage. The September 11th attack cost hundreds of billions of dollars and arguably was the final straw that started a global economic downturn.
This formula has to change. We have to put tremendous pressure on the terrorists where they live. We must use diplomatic pressure to obtain intelligence info from neutral and unfriendly governments and to turn terrorist friendly governments against the terrorists they previously sheltered. Terrorists who used to feel safe and secure should be made to fear that the very governments who were their greatest allies could turn on them at any time. We also need to turn the CIA loose and let them use every dirty trick in the book against the terrorists. We’ll pay large amounts of money to people who can infiltrate these groups, pay off those who will turn against their fellow terrorists, plant information that will lead the terrorists to turn against each other, and assassinate these terrorists wherever we can find them. Snipers, exploding cell phones, poison and every other underhanded ploy we can think of must be used to make these terrorists fear for their lives. Every scrap of information we gain will make it that much easier to find and eliminate these terrorists as well as protect ourselves and our allies from attack.
The Homefront: First and foremost, we must start to effectively screen the people who enter this country. We should not allow anybody from a country that sponsors terrorism to legally enter the United States. Period. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt that do not sponsor terrorism but have large terrorist contingents in their nation should have all their citizens very tightly and thoroughly screened as they enter the US. Furthermore, we have to close off the porous border between the US and Mexico. The millions of illegal immigrants and massive amounts of illegal drugs that come across the US/Mexico border give testament to the fact our border patrols are not even coming close to getting the job done. That has to change. There are internal security measures we can take at our airports, dams, nuclear plants, etc. However, there are so many targets in the US that’s impossible to effectively protect them all. That’s why it’s so essential to keep the terrorists out of the US in the first place.
Winning Hearts and Minds: The United States has done more to help Muslims in the last two decades than any other nation in the world. The US liberated Kuwait and defended Saudi Arabia from Iraq, we saved Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo from the Serbs, our aid enabled Afghanistan to fight off an invasion by the Soviet Union, and we’ve been the #1 source of food for Afghanistan before and after September 11th. We’ve got to do a better job of getting the word out to the Muslim world about what we’ve done for them.
There are also 3 of what I like to call “irritants” that turn public opinion against the US in the Muslim world. Two of them are directly tied to Iraq. Saddam Hussein is deliberately starving hundreds of thousands of his citizens and blaming sanctions called for by the US for their deaths. Is that true? Not at all. No Iraqi has ever starved because of the sanctions in Iraq. However, it has been an effective propaganda tool for Hussein. Also, the United States keeps 5000 troops in Saudi Arabia in order to help stop a possible Iraqi attack. This issue has been Osama Bin Laden’s cause celebre and has aided him in recruiting Muslims who think that it’s not proper for the US to have troops in the “holy land” of Saudi Arabia. Simply getting rid of Saddam Hussein will allow us to remove both of these “irritants” that stir anti-American sentiment in the Middle East.
The third “irritant” is the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Although Americans have done more to try to bring peace to the region than the Palestinians have done themselves, the US is looked at in a negative light because of our support for Israel. The Israelis are loathed in the region because of their treatment of the Palestinians, their numerous military defeats of Arab countries, and because of the conflict over sites that are holy to the Jews and Muslims. Because of all these factors, the Arab states surrounding Israel overwhelmingly support Palestine and vehemently condemn Israel in almost every situation. To further complicate the issue, most Palestinians and their leader Yassir Arafat seem to have destroying Israel and taking their land as goal instead of making peace. Furthermore, Yassir Arafat covertly supports terrorist organizations in Palestine. However, if Israel were allowed to eliminate him, his replacement would likely be even more radical and less likely to negotiate for peace. There is no easy answer to this situation and other than radical action such as completely separating the two populations with walls, machine gun nests, etc, or simply driving the Palestinians into Syria (both of which would cause outrage throughout the Arab/Muslim world), there appears to be no short-term solution to this conflict. So this may be an issue we�ll have to live with for a while.
The Military: Terrorist organizations have become so powerful in recent years because of state support. A terrorist group that has the backing of a state can get large amounts of funding, advanced weaponry, excellent intelligence and training, protection from law enforcement and enemy nations, and a safe have to train and recruit from. Simply stopping the state support of terrorism would drastically cut the effectiveness of terrorist organizations as a whole. Cleaning out Afghanistan was a good first step. Iraq is likely to be our second stop on the list because we can remove the “irritants” listed above and replace a terrorist supporting government at the same time. After taking out Afghanistan and Iraq, the hope is that other terrorist supporting governments like Iran, Syria, Libya, N. Korea, Sudan, Lebanon, etc. will kill, imprison, or kick out the terrorists in their nation rather than face the might of the American military. However, if these nations refuse to do the right thing we have to be willing to take them on militarily.
Also, the US military can be used for strikes on terrorist bases even in friendly nations. In places like Bosnia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Somalia where terrorists take advantage of weak governments that aren’t capable of rooting them out, the US can use Special Forces and the USAF to swoop in and terminate large numbers of terrorists in quick hitting raids. We can take advantage of the intelligence info we gather to do the same thing even in hostile countries. For example if we locate a terrorist base in Lebanon, we can sneak in, do a special forces raid, kill everyone in the camp and then leave while retaining plausible deniability of the attack if we need to.
Summing It All Up: We face what is the perhaps the greatest threat our nation has ever known. We know that terrorist organizations have biological and chemical weapons, as well radiological bombs, and perhaps even nuclear weapons. If we don’t win this war it’s quite likely that we’ll one day see a terrorist attack that makes September 11th look like a birthday party. Imagine if Los Angeles, D.C., or NYC were all obliterated in the same day by nuclear weapons. What if 50k people at a football game were surreptitiously sickened by an infectious biological agent and unknown to them, spread the disease to their family, friends, and co-workers with 10′s of millions of resulting deaths? There are thousands of terrorists across the world working to make these nightmare scenarios and others like them a reality. Unless they are stopped, eventually they will succeed.
In order to stop them we have to put them on the defensive. We have to deny them safe haven, cut off their finances, make them fear that every new recruit is a CIA plant, turn their own sponsoring nations against them, and keep them worrying about surviving until tomorrow instead of planning new terrorist attacks.
The fight against global terrorism will be a long, hard, and treacherous battle. But, no matter what difficulties lie ahead, we must be willing to persevere, because the very destiny of our nation rides on our success or failure in this war.