View Full Version : Wrong Definition For a War

07-28-04, 11:57 AM
Wrong Definition For a War

By Caleb Carr
Wednesday, July 28, 2004; Page A19

Toward the end of its widely praised report, the Sept. 11 commission offers a prescriptive chapter titled "What to Do?" There, it makes an assertion that is genuinely shocking. It says that in our current conflict, "the enemy is not just 'terrorism,' some generic evil. This vagueness blurs the strategy. The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism [the report's emphasis] -- especially the al Qaeda network, its affiliates, and its ideology."

At a stroke, in other words, the members of the commission have tried to rewrite the terms of the global war on terrorism and turn it into a global war on Islamist terrorism alone.

It seems almost incredible that we could have been at war this long without defining precisely who or what we are at war with. But such is the case, and it has never seemed an urgent matter to lawmakers. When I appeared before a congressional subcommittee studying strategies for the war on terrorism in 2002 and suggested that the first step should be the promulgation of just such a uniform definition, the members were momentarily dumbstruck. To their credit, they soon recovered and we began to discuss the issue, but a comprehensive definition of terrorism for the use of the American government and the education of the American people never emerged. Now, however, the president and his supporters are apparently ready to instantly approve the radical definition set forward by the commission.

Terrorism, as defined by military historians, has been a constant, ugly feature of warfare, an aberrant tactic akin to slavery, piracy and genocide. One of the reasons that some of us argued throughout the 1990s for undertaking of genuine war on terrorism (involving the military in addition to intelligence and law enforcement) was the notion that we might finally declare the tactic -- like those other aberrant belligerent methods -- to be out of bounds, for the armed forces of civilized nations and non-state organizations alike.

It's true that both slavery and piracy are still practiced, but only in remote corners of the world; certainly genocide is still with us, but its employment is now cause for immediate sanction and forceful reaction (theoretically, at any rate) by the United Nations. Banning such tactics and actively stamping out their practice has been the work of some of the great political and military minds and leaders of the past two centuries. Now it is time -- past time, really -- for terrorism to take its place as a similarly proscribed and anachronistic practice.

But first we must agree on an internationally acceptable definition. Certainly terrorism must include the deliberate victimization of civilians for political purposes as a principal feature -- anything else would be a logical absurdity. And yet there are powerful voices, in this country and elsewhere, that argue against such a definition. They don't want to lose the weapon of terror -- and they don't want to admit to having used it in the past. Should the United States assent to such a specific definition of terrorism, for example, it would have to admit that its fire-bombings of German and Japanese cities during World War II represented effective terrorism. On the other hand, few Muslim nations want to go up against the power of organized terrorist groups by declaring them de jure as well as de facto outlaws.

In the intellectual arena, meanwhile, the fatuous logic that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" keeps left-leaning intellectuals away from the cause of definition. And so its promulgation continues to elude the world, even as we have embarked on a war against the phenomenon itself.

The Sept. 11 commission evidently also came to feel, during its months of sitting, that defining terrorism was too thorny a problem to be undertaken in anything but a partial and temporary manner. Fighting wars against tactics, they announced -- fighting wars over the nature of war itself -- is simply too complicated. We need to fight specific wars about people, not general wars about ideas (the American Revolution, the Civil War and two world wars notwithstanding).

By this token, any and all intellectual or moral meaning is removed from our military undertakings in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as from the global war on terrorism generally. What began as a war between modernism and medievalism, between progressive ideas of how to reform war and regressive notions of cataclysmic conflicts, will, if the commission's recommendations are fully implemented, become instead a "clash of civilizations" between extremist Western and extremist Muslim values: a simplistic, devastating confrontation. In a terribly ironic but real sense, the final hijacking of Sept. 11 will be the commandeering of the global war on terrorism itself.

What the commission fails to see is that the word "extremist" (or "Islamist") is not what will be heard on the "Arab street," or indeed much of anywhere else in the world, when the new enemy is proclaimed. George Bush initially reacted to the Sept. 11 attacks by calling for a "crusade" against terrorism, but many Muslims heard only one word, "crusade," and they heard it in its historical rather than its rhetorical sense. The West, that word implied, is coming again to take control of Muslim nations and holy places, just as it did after the turn of the last millennium. The president later apologized for his thoughtlessness, but the damage had been done.

And now, when the Sept. 11 commission says that terrorism is no longer the enemy, that Islamist extremism has assumed that role, most Muslims are going to hear the same sort of threatening, generalized message, one constantly repeated by Osama bin Laden: The Americans are not really concerned with terrorism -- in fact, they've practiced it throughout their history; what they are embarked on is a war against Islam itself.

The commission should immediately amend its report, and reassert, rather than deny, that we are indeed engaged in a global war against terrorism, whoever practices it. (They might also think to recommend that, at some point soon, the United States formally repudiate the deliberate victimization of civilians, something it has never done.) Then President Bush, Sen. John Kerry and all national leaders should support the change in message. The war on terrorism began not as a crusade about ideology but as a pragmatic war about war. It must remain such.

The writer is professor of military history at Bard College and the author, most recently, of "The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians."

2004 The Washington Post Company



07-28-04, 11:57 AM
The 9/11 Commission Findings
An accurate definition of the enemy

Daniel Pipes
Tuesday, July 27, 2004


Finally, an official body of the U.S. government has come out and said what needs to be said: that the enemy is "Islamist terrorism ... not just 'terrorism,' some generic evil." The 9/11 commission in its final report even declares that Islamist terrorism is the "catastrophic threat" facing the United States.

As Thomas Donnelly points out in the New York Sun, the commission has called the enemy "by its true name, something that politically correct Americans have trouble facing."

Why does it matter that the Islamist dimension of terrorism must be specified? Simple. Just as a physician must identify a disease to treat it, so a strategist must name an enemy to defeat it. The great failing in the U.S. war effort since late 2001 has been the reluctance to name the enemy. So long as the anodyne, euphemistic and inaccurate term "war on terror" remains the official nomenclature, that war will not be won.

Better is to call it a "war on Islamist terrorism." Significantly, the same day that the 9/11 report was published, President Bush for the first time used the term "Islamic militants" in a speech, bringing him closer than ever before to pointing to the Islamist threat.

The report of the 9/11 commission has other good value. It paints an accurate picture of Islamist views, describing these as a "hostility toward us and our values [that] is limitless." Equally useful is the description of the Islamist goal being "to rid the world of religious and political pluralism."

In contrast to those analysts who wishfully dismiss the Islamists as a few fanatics, the 9/11 commission acknowledges their true importance, noting that Osama bin Laden's message "has attracted active support from thousands of disaffected young Muslims and resonates powerfully with a far larger number who do not actively support his methods." The Islamist outlook represents not a hijacking of Islam, as is often but wrongly claimed; rather it emerges from a "long tradition of extreme intolerance" within Islam, one going back centuries and in recent times associated with Wahhabism, the Muslim Brethren and the Egyptian writer Sayyid Qutb.

The commission then does something almost unheard of in U.S. government circles: It offers a goal for the war now underway, namely the isolation or destruction of Islamism.

And, after nearly three years, how fares the war? The commission carefully distinguishes between the enemy's twofold nature: "al Qaeda, a stateless network of terrorists" and the "radical ideological movement in the Islamic world." It correctly finds the first weakened, yet posing "a grave threat." The second is the greater concern, however, for it is still gathering and "will menace Americans and American interests long after Osama bin Laden and his cohorts are killed or captured."

U.S. strategy, therefore, must be to dismantle al Qaeda's network and prevail over "the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism." In other words, "the United States has to help defeat an ideology, not just a group of people."

Doing so means nothing less than changing the way Muslims see themselves, something Washington can help with but cannot do on its own: "Tolerance, the rule of law, political and economic openness, the extension of greater opportunities to women -- these cures must come from within Muslim societies themselves. The United States must support such developments."

Of course, such an evolution "will be violently opposed by Islamist terrorist organizations" and this battle is the key one, for the clash underway is not one of civilizations but one "within a civilization," that civilization being the Islamic one. By definition, Washington is a bystander to this battle. It "can promote moderation, but cannot ensure its ascendancy. Only Muslims can do this."

Moderate Muslims who seek reform, freedom, democracy and opportunity, the report goes on, must "reflect upon such basic issues as the concept of jihad, the position of women and the place of non-Muslim minorities," then they need to develop new Islamic interpretations of these.

The 9/11 commission has fulfilled its mandate in interpreting the current danger. The Bush administration should now take advantage of its insights and implement them with dispatch.

Daniel Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and author of Miniatures (Transaction Publishers, 2003).



07-28-04, 03:45 PM
Due to our limited education, we have a few questions.
First, has all this been about oil?
Please hear me out, our use of the products made from oil.
Find their way back to the Middle East, to countries that have ties to bil laden base.
Unless we change our daily habits, we will be funding those wishing our destruction.
Second question;
Am I the only one that notices many of basic stores and gas stations are now owned by nationilites from the Middle East and India.
Am I racist?
No, but it has me wondering, where all the money come from.
Also where is the money going.
Yet its ironic that they wish our destruction, who will be left to buy the products made from oil.
I always come back to the question;
If truth is the first to die in war, what second?
Not only of individual but of the nations involved.
In this case there's no nation involved but an idealogy that seeks the desruction of our way of life.
How do we define an idealogy as our enemy?
Questions to ponder till hades freezes over...

Semper Fidelis/Semper Fi

Tap, tap, tap my wife telling the woodpecker back at it...

07-28-04, 05:00 PM
There are those that see America as an opportunity to prosper, thus they come here seeking employment and entrepreneurship. Whether it be technology, taxi cabs, or 7-11, they want to prosper. Good for them.

Then there are those that are raised from day one to believe that the reason they don't have any food, a car, a job, or that their sister died, is because of America. Men who are hungry for power can easily exploit them and use them for a personal Jihad. They see America's opportunity to prosper as an evil that must be destroyed. It is evil because they are led to believe they can never take part of it and ultimately they believe that to take part of it would make them evil.

The vast majority of "extremists" :

1. Cannot read - interpretation of the Koran comes from another
2. Have been oppressed by some other people or government since birth (and when it's their own government, they are led to believe America is the cause)
3. Have nothing better to live for other than to die for a cause
4. Have never benefited from oil sales in their life. Even as a part of a well-funded terrorist group, they aren't out buying big screen TVs and new cars.

With a few exceptions, it is easy to classify the enemy. However, traditional methods of finding him are out. We could, in the past, determine our enemy by their uniform. (Sans guerillas in Vietnam)