After over twenty years of unpunished terrorist violence against American servicemen and civilians that culminated in a September 11th attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Center more destructive than Pearl Harbor, the Bush administration has declared a world war against terrorism. How can America and her allies possibly win such a war?
America, here is what you do:
1) Sever the head from the body: Terrorists destroy human life and property; they do not produce wealth and cannot conduct international campaigns of terror without massive funding by national governments. They also need governments to harbor them from the wrath of their victims. If the U. S. government intends to secure American life, liberty, and property against future terrorist attacks, it must sever the connection between terrorist organizations and the national governments that support them.
First, tell all of the countries known to sponsor terrorism (principally, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria) that they must renounce terror as a national policy. Do not take them at their word that they will. The U. S. and Israel made that mistake with Yasir Arafat in drafting the Oslo Accords. Require the governments of the terrorist nations to cut all material support to the terrorists they finance and harbor. Each government must either eradicate all their terrorists or stand aside and let the U. S. go in and do it.
Unlike the Clinton administration, which treated each act of terror as a discrete criminal act by private individuals, the Bush administration understands that terrorism is the means by which uncivilized nations wage a proxy war against their stronger, civilized enemies.
America’s new counter-terrorism policy–as recently articulated by President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld–is the correct one: take the war against terrorism to the soil of those nations which sponsor it.
2) Offer the carrot before you brandish the stick: When you confront each of these rogue states with your demands, couple those demands with an offer to lift existing economic sanctions if the government agrees to renounce its sponsorship of terror (which is principally the motive for imposing those sanctions in the first place). Currently, the Bush administration suspects Saudi renegade Usama bin Laden of masterminding the September 11th attack as well as previous bloody attacks on Americans. Saudi Arabia expelled Bin Laden, who now receives aid and comfort from the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist militia, that imposed its authoritarian control over Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal from that devastated country. Although Pakistan is the principal backer for the Taliban, the Bush administration wisely refrained from going into Karachi with guns blazing. Our government requested that Pakistan end its support for the Taliban and provide a springboard for military action against Afghanistan. Pakistan agreed, and in return, she may receive such incentives as an end to sanctions. Perhaps the same strategy will work for Iran and Syria as it did for Pakistan. It appears, however, that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in Iraq will not renounce anti-American terrorism without the application of America’s Big Stick.
3) Turn up the temperature: If a terrorist regime does not prove receptive to America’s offer to lift sanctions in return for renouncing terrorism, then apply pressure and escalate it. Send in your aircraft carriers and start building up troop strength in a cooperative neighboring country like Pakistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or Israel. Do whatever you can to isolate that rogue nation from the rest of the world. Isolate them economically, politically, diplomatically. Tighten existing economic sanctions. Starve them into submission if you can. Impose a naval blockade or no-fly zone if appropriate. Postpone invasion for the moment, but make it clear that you are prepared to attack if the government does not comply with your demands within an appropriate span of time, from a few days to a month. Hopefully, pressure short of military attack will prove adequate to compel their submission. You do not want to put the life and limb of our soldiers, marines, seamen, and airmen at risk if it can be avoided. This is appears to be the Bush administration’s present stance toward Afghanistan. It is increasingly clear, though, that the Taliban regime will not yield to such nonmilitary pressure just as Saddam Hussein has not over the last ten years.
4) Destroy all who stand against you: If a terrorist regime refuses to end its use of terror despite economic incentives and nonmilitary pressure, then it is finally time to go in like gangbusters. Teach them a lesson about the advantages of reason and civilization by inflicting massive and overwhelming military force of the sort only a capitalist nation with a scientific culture can muster. Use missiles and bombers to cripple the nation’s ability to make war. That means strikes against military bases and terrorist training camps and also seaports, shipyards, railroads, factories, farms, etc., as well as the people working in them and living next to them. There is no way around that. Do not refrain from targeting the means of war production for fear of killing “innocent” people. As far as people produce the materials, which their government uses to make war against us, they are not civilians but rather belligerents, and as such, they are appropriate targets for military action. As we saw in fighting the Second World War against Germany and Japan, making war on a national economy is the only way to defeat industrialized nations committed to aggression. This is also true of semi-industrialized nations like Iraq, Iran, and Syria.
5) Prepare the public for an ugly fight: Once your bombardment has softened up the enemy nation, send in special operations units and ground troops to locate and eradicate remaining military opposition and subjugate and pacify the country. Such a ground war will prove especially challenging against terrorists and guerillas in a country, like Afghanistan, with no cities or industrial base to bomb. If you want to hunt down terrorists and punish the people who harbor them, you will not usually be fighting big battles out in the open desert against uniformed soldiers, as in the Persian Gulf War. The war against terrorism will often demand unconventional weapons and tactics. It may require that you not only attack terrorist camps and guerilla bases hidden in isolated wilderness, but also that you bomb the neighborhoods, villages, or towns in which terrorists also hide themselves. Our troops may have to fire on the men, women, and even children who provide terrorists aid and comfort and support them as God’s holy warriors. You need to be prepared for special ops professionals assassinating terrorist leaders and perhaps even the head of a rogue state, a helicopter gunship leveling the apartment complex or hotel in which terrorists have barricaded themselves, U. S. Marines gunning down a twelve-year-old boy running at them with the bomb which his mother tied around his waist. Israel has fought that kind of ugly, inglorious war, and now it is America’s turn. A war against terrorism will be bloody and brutal work, sometimes conducted in the midst of towns and cities, with few big battles or clear-cut victories, and you must be ready for that.
6) Seek justice, not vengeance: After the wholesale slaughter of innocent Americans in New York and Washington on September 11th, many of you may thirst for revenge and yearn for the annihilation of the entire Afghan people with saturation bombing or the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons. However, the use of force in defense of life and property against aggression is moral only when limited to the amount necessary to end that aggression.
To end the terrorist threat, you must hit the terrorists and those nations that support them. You must hit them hard; with all of the military might necessary to stop them from ever hurting you again–that much force only and nothing more. What is moral is also practical. Analogies between Afghanistan and Carthage, the North African city-state that ancient Rome erased from the face of the earth, may come easily. However, Afghanistan is no city-state. It is a huge country–the size of Oregon and California combined–with a rural, diffused population. There are no population centers like Dresden or Hiroshima upon which to concentrate your rage. You cannot bomb Afghanistan back into the Stone Age; that wretchedly poor country is practically there.
Even if it were possible to slaughter indiscriminately huge numbers of civilians in Afghanistan or another terrorist nation, such a strategy would surely prove counterproductive. During the Second World War, the U. S. belatedly determined that its “terror bombing” of civilian populations in Japan and Germany strengthened the people’s will to fight rather than breaking it. Terror bombing serves only to prolong war by embittering the populace, whereas your concentration of force against the military and political targets of an oppressive regime like the Taliban’s may encourage the general population to surrender to your forces without a fight or even welcome you as liberators and join you as allies.
7) Make friends and influence people: Try to make as many allies as you can to help you end the war quickly and thus minimize American casualties. Find allies within the enemy nation’s population if possible. All terrorist governments enjoy at least some support from their civilian populations, but their oppressiveness also earns them domestic enemies who may support your effort to overthrow the presiding regime. The Middle East’s rogue nations have elements within them that are be favorable to better relations with the West, if not indeed eager to reform their countries along liberal, Western, modern lines. In Afghanistan, there are anti-Taliban rebels such as the Northern Alliance. Unite with them and anyone else in the country that will help you overthrow the Taliban and build a pro-American regime. There is no guarantee, of course, that the allies you may find in the Middle East will prove any more pro-American in the long run than Usama Bin Laden and the Taliban. But they may at least help you to defeat and pacify terrorist regimes in the short run.
8) Plan to stick around for a while: It is not enough just to kill the bad guys and then walk away. Make a long-term commitment to prevent other anti-American regimes from springing up in place of the one you overthrew. Have your ground troops occupy the nation, enforce martial law, and suppress resistance. Rule the nation through military governors in the manner of Occupied Japan after World War Two or Congressional Reconstruction after the Civil War. Keep an iron grip on the conquered nation until it starts behaving in a civilized manner. This period will be much shorter and less painful for everyone if you can secure domestic allies during the war. Of course, allies can very easily turn into enemies. In a post-Saddam Iraq, for instance, American occupiers will inherit the thorny problem of separatism by Iraqi Kurds and Shiites. Intervention in the Middle East will no doubt give you a headache for decades, but better a headache than a crushed skull.
9) Start rebuilding with American blueprints: With your troops in place to preserve order and secure property rights, investment in the conquered nation by Western business should not be too difficult to encourage, particularly in an oil-rich nation like Iran or Iraq. Once you open wide the Middle East’s petroleum spigot, the world economy will rebound dramatically. Life should get cheaper for everyone, including the conquered. Western investment in a new, pro-Western Middle East should save the region from a resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism just as the Marshall Plan saved Western Europe from the spread of communism. Rebuild the economy of the defeated nation, but do it on your terms, making capital available only to those committed to a New Order for their country based on individual rights, limited and representative government, free markets, and friendship and trade with the civilized world. By mating economic reconstruction to political reordering, you will lay the groundwork for lasting stability and peace in the region. Keep troops based there indefinitely to preserve that peace and stability as the U.S. has done in Japan, Western Europe, South Korea, and Taiwan. Perhaps even incorporate the defeated nation into a standing defensive alliance system for the region, as the U. S. did in welcoming West Germany and Italy to NATO. I hope that you will only have to invade, pacify, and rebuild one or two terrorist nations, say, Afghanistan and Iraq. With their neighbors prostrate and victorious American troops massed next door, ready to strike, one can expect Iran, Syria, and other terrorist nations to submit to American demands and play ball.
If you do indeed conduct a war against terrorism, you will pay a price for it in American blood and treasure. War should not entered into for light and transient causes or without rational consideration for the costs and consequences. But a sustained military campaign against terrorism would be much less bloody than World War Two and much less costly than the Cold War. The West’s Middle-Eastern enemies taken altogether are not half so strong militarily or economically as Nazi Germany or Imperialist Japan alone, and yet they have attacked the American Republic at a time when she has more wealth at her command than any civilization has ever had. If the U. S. could whip the Axis in the midst of the Great Depression, you sure as hell can whip these guys today (if only the American people can sustain the will, the moral resolve, to do so). Although a war against terrorism in the Middle East will require unconventional warfare against guerillas, as in the Vietnam War, guerillas will be much easier to locate and eradicate with satellite technology in the Middle East’s desert environment than they were in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Today’s terrorist nations do not have the wealth of two Communist superpowers behind them, as North Vietnam had. Nor did the Vietcong unite the American people and galvanize them for war by launching a bloody and savage attack like that of September 11th. This war against terrorism should be much less bloody than the four-year struggle to defeat Japan and Germany, much less costly than the fifty-year standoff with Russia and China, and much easier to win than Vietnam.
Through this just and necessary war, let us have peace: an American Peace imposed on our enemies by American military might and cemented for our posterity by American economic power. I can imagine no more fitting tribute to the innocent dead of the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. With a firm commitment to each individual’s sacred right to his life and to the defense of human life against aggression, we Americans will prevail over those who plot to take our lives and destroy our free institutions. As in 1941, we did not start this fight. But, by God, we are going to finish it.