Why we are losing the war
From the Guardian
The real war with al-Qaeda, as James Thomson, president of the Rand Corporation think-tank, pointed out, is not simply one of missiles, snatch squads and bullets. It is quintessentially one of ideas.
It is in the war of ideas that we are most notably failing in the war on terrorism. Even a year after 9/11, America and its allies still have little idea of the roots of the discontent that has made Jihad International so attractive to so many young Islamist men.
Or why they so willingly sacrifice themselves. The recent Kenya suicide bombers were laughing and joking as they drove up to the hotel. This is more than “religious fanaticism”, this is more than nothing left to lose. This is motivation the West does not understand. We have religious fanatics here – they do not cheerfully blow themselves up. And many suicide bombers were middle class or better, and thus not motivated by grinding poverty.
What Bush and Blair and all their allies do not understand is that it is the idea of al- Qaeda, not its physical reality, that is the key, an idea which has taken deep root in countries from Afghanistan to South East Asia and Africa.
This Al-Qaeda idea says the US is corrupting our society, they must be driven out, and we are the ones who can do it. What is our idea? And please, saying we are for Democracy and Peace in a land where we have double-crossed and backstabbed most everyone just won’t play.
At the centre of that idea is an oppositional discourse that seeks to drive the west – particularly America – out of what Osama bin Laden has claimed as the wider Islamic nation. That misunderstanding is represented at its worst by George Bush who – it is said – keeps a list of 12 names of the top al-Qaeda terrorists in his desk and ticks them off as they are captured or killed.
What perfect proof of what the Rand Corp. book, Networks and Netwars, details – that hierarchies have difficulty understanding how networks operate. Al-Qaeda doesn’t have a head, and is just one player among many. There is no top hierarchy to take out. Does Jello have a structure?
By bringing Israel explosively into the mix <by the Kenya attack which deliberately infuriated Sharon> a week before the deadline for Iraq’s weapons declaration, Jihad International has shown a political and operational astuteness that is quite terrifying.
Al Qaeda wished to insure no Arab nation would even vaguely support an Iraq attack. They did this by provoking Sharon (easy enough to do) into retaliating in an exceptionally bloodthirsty, stupid manner (ditto), thus alienating any moderates. This is judo really, using an opponent’s force to your advantage and against them. I’m not sure our leaders know what judo is.
What is more terrifying still is the notion among the West’s political classes that it is an organisation, not an idea, that they are fighting. With each new arrest, each new targeted killing, we congratulate ourselves that we are winning – until the next atrocity takes place. All the while, we fail to tackle the ideas that replace each arrested or dead terrorist with a new recruit.
My ideas for peace.
Help create a Palestinian homeland that all the players can live with. Note I said “help create”, not “force everyone with the barrel of a gun”. There will be no peace in the Mideast until there is a Palestinian homeland. If we genuinely work towards this goal, and mean it, we defuse huge amounts of tension and hostility.
Price gas at $4-5 a gallon. Europe already does this. Use the money to move as fast as possible to high mpg cars and renewable energy. That way we won’t need outside oil nearly as much. Plus we will no longer have a reputation for being energy pigs.
Stop sticking our nose in everyone’s business. North Korea has nukes? Let China deal with it – if they choose to. They are next to North Korea and have far more at stake than us. It is not our problem. China has been around several thousand years more than us. I’m guessing they can deal with it. Maybe better than we can.
Repeat the above logic for the multitude of other countries we insist on telling what do to. If they need help, let them ask. Then be helpful, not imperial.
Apologize for the blind idiocy of our foreign policy that has aliented most of the planet.
Were we to genuinely do these things, al Qaeda might well cease to exist as it would no longer serve any purpose.