How to win ‘war on terror’
A recent letter criticizing to the Vail Daily exhorted “Bush bashers, liberals or whatever you call yourselves” to offer some solutions or strategies on winning the “war on terror.” The suggestion was that the aforementioned critics do too much bitching and not enough solving.It’s an accurate point, to an extent. Criticisms that offer solutions are more credible, but what if the topic in question lies outside one’s realm of expertise? The suggestion is that if one is capable of criticizing something, then that person is also capable of making that something better him or herself.If that were true, all movie critics would be filmmakers, and all armchair quarterbacks would make their calls on the field. Even so, having given the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan quite a lot of thought over the past few years, and with a hearty nod to the fact that what I know about military strategy can be fit neatly on the head of the pin, here are some thoughts on how to improve this situation (“winning” is not, I don’t think, an applicable term here).– Get out of Iraq as soon as is reasonably possible without letting the whole country devolve into civil war. Easier said than done, yes, but since Iraq is a false front in the war, it should be abandoned ASAP as a simple strategic imperative. Saving young lives from becoming cannon fodder is a nice bonus. — Re-jigger the military, big time. From the Army and the Navy to the Marines and the Air Force, our military is designed to fight old school wars on land and sea. Do you have any idea what we spend each year training pilots to dogfight in F-18s? Or what we spend on our obscenely large fleet of aircraft carriers? Suffice to say, it’s probably money better spent putting operatives on the ground whacking terrorists rather than funding a bunch of guys floating around the oceans training to refight the Battle of Midway.While we still need capability in this area in the event some place like North Korea or Iran gets uppity, most countries in this world are not prepared or inclined to attack us or anyone else with a big offensive.A better use of our limited personnel and money is a cadre of specially trained forces that can imbed themselves in places like Baghdad, the Philippines, Afghanistan and other trouble spots. The military should recruit from the ranks of Americans who are immigrants from or trace their roots to these countries, and they should speak the language. Sending in Joe Six Pack with a tank just doesn’t work against terrorists. What we need are lighter forces who can bring the fight to the enemy in their own back yard. (To his partial credit, this is what Bush has been saying all along. He just had the tactics and the back yard wrong.)Backing up these forces is a much-improved CIA, NSA and FBI that has native speakers around the globe. No doubt some of this is already in place, but there needs to be a lot more of it, and it needs to be done in conjunction with the spy networks of other countries.– Know thine enemy. A pox on that creep Karl Rove lurking behind Bush for saying those who want to know the mind of the terrorist want to “offer them therapy.” Knowing your enemy is one of the basic tenets of warfare, and simply vilifying them as “bad” or “evil” or “freedom hating” is pointless. (Come on, W, who hates freedom?). As the rebels in Iraq have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, they are an incredibly potent enemy, difficult to counter because they refuse to line up and fight like a regular army. Plus, many of them don’t care if their death is included in the strategy.It makes sense, then, to work hard to nail the ones we can find or prevent, but also to do what we can to cut this many-headed beast off at the source. That means working with moderate Islamic nations and clerics to stop the flow of hatred that informs the schooling of many young Arab men in the madrassas schools. It means putting the screws to “allies” like Saudi Arabia to encourage them to help stop the teaching of intolerance and terror. It may also mean changing some of the things we do that piss these people off. Is that really such a bad idea? Why do you think the Israelis are pulling out of Gaza?– Change the business model. Despite what anyone says, we’re abnormally concerned and involved with what goes on in the Middle East because of their oil. Take away that dependence with an “Apollo project “style initiative to develop conservation and alternate energy sources in the U.S. and the need to become embroiled in the future is greatly reduced. At the same time, do what we can to help these countries develop more diverse economies. A young man with a job and a future is much less likely to strap on a suicide pack.– Finally, when we get a chance, let’s elect leaders who don’t want to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions – or who shoot the wrong target just to satisfy the blood-lust of revenge. We can be smarter than that; we have to be smarter than that.Assistant Managing Editor Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or email@example.com. This column, as with all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily. Vail, Colorado
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