Monday, January 09, 2006

Losing the war on terrorism: Our incompetent Commander-in-Chief

Losing the war on terrorism: Our incompetent Commander-in-Chief
January 09
Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch

....Botching the War on Terrorism

Clearly, Bush's identification of rogue regimes as the center of gravity of the terrorist enemy has proven faulty; nor, in light of this failure, has he been able to correctly identify the true center. As suggested by most serious scholars of Islamic extremism, the real crux of the jihadists' strength lies in their ability to articulate and propagate a message of radical struggle that inspires and activates thousands of disaffected young Muslims around the world. As summarized by Hoffman of RAND, Al Qaeda has evolved into "an amorphous movement tenuously held together by a loosely networked constituency rather than a monolithic, international organization with an identifiable command and control apparatus.... It has become a vast enterprise -- an international movement or franchise operation with like-minded local representatives, loosely connected to a central ideological or motivational base but advancing its goals independently."

Obviously, defeating this "movement" requires a very different strategy than the one now employed by the United States. Instead of military assaults on rogue states, it requires a capacity to identify and apprehend the often self-appointed "local representatives" of Al Qaeda, to disable the movement's propaganda apparatus, and, most of all, to discredit its prime messages. On a grand scale, this requires positioning the United States with progressive forces in the Middle East, withdrawing from Iraq, and ending U.S. support for repressive, regressive regimes like those in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. On a purely tactical level, it means developing harmonious relations with professional intelligence officials in other countries and developing a communications strategy aimed at delegitimizing the jihadists' violent appeals within the Islamic world -- an effort that can only be successful if it enjoys the assistance of moderate Muslims willing to cooperate with the United States.

The need for a strategy of this sort has been voiced by at least some terrorism experts in the U.S. and by many knowledgeable officials in Europe. But even those American experts who have advocated such an approach have been repeatedly stymied by the President's unswerving commitment to his own, demonstrably failed approach. No divergence from the official White House blueprint has been permitted. To make matters worse, Bush and his top advisers have insisted on micro-managing the war on terror, choosing tactics that amplify the damage caused by their defective strategy.

The greatest damage has been caused by decisions made by top administration officials, including the President, Vice President, and Secretary of Defense, regarding the methods used to apprehend, confine, and extract information from terrorist suspects and those associated with them. Most significantly, this includes decisions to permit the abduction of suspects on the territory of friendly nations, to use Europe as a stopover point for the transport or "rendition" of suspects to Asian and Middle Eastern countries where torture is routinely employed to extract confessions, to allow U.S. interrogators to use methods that by any reasonable definition constitute torture, and to tolerate the mistreatment of Muslim prisoners in U.S. custody (whether at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, or in secret CIA-run prisons in Afghanistan, Europe, and elsewhere). Separately and together, these decisions have severely alienated the very governments and religious figures whose assistance is desperately needed to mount an effective campaign against Al Qaeda and its offshoots....