July 23, 2004

It's More Complicated than Just al Qaeda

Via WaPo's story on the 911 commission's report, The 567-Page Story Of a Humbled America, we have:

It begins with a view of the enemy larger than just Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda operation. "The problem is that al Qaeda represents an ideological movement, not a finite group of people. It initiates and inspires, even if it no longer directs," the commissioners found. "Killing or capturing [bin Laden], while extremely important, would not end terror."


This is why any myopic focus on "al Qaeda" (and, by extension, bin Laden) as if it is an organization like SPECTRE in James Bond novels/movies (take out Blofeld and you can destroy the organization and its threat).

Further, it is part of the main reason that I supported the war in Iraq. First, the elimination of a regime known to be overtly supportive of terrorism (not just al Qaeda) was a worthwhile endeavor--and along those lines, a clear demonstration of US power to other such states (e.g., Libya) struck me as a worthwhile effort also. Second (and, to me, more importantly) the potential to establish a secular, successful, quasi-democracy in the heart of the Middle East has a much larger potential for combatting the ideology of death that permeates Islamofascism than any increased security on the homefront can provide. I am not convinced that any amount of money, training, bureaucratic reorganization or vigilance can protect us from these fanatics. Hence, there are only two things that we primarily need to do: 1) take the fight to them and attempt to eliminate as many of them as possible (and by "them" I mean radical Islamic terrorists), and 2) work to provide an alternative vision for the region so as to hopefully allow for hope outside of a Sixth Century interpretation of the Koran.

I am not saying that there aren't things that can and should be done on the homefront, but let's be real: it is truly impossible to search every ship, car and truck that enters the United States--utterly impossible. We haven't stopped illicit drugs or illegal immigrants, and we aren't going to ever be able to do so. As such, it is foolish to think we can make our borders terrorist-proof. Hence, the main policy alternative is clearly as I have outlines. This is part of what I mean when I make the war paradigm v. law enforcement paradigm comparisons in terms of anti-terrorism policy and why I am supportive of the Bush approach (flawed as it is in places) to the likely Kerry approach.

Indeed, I would like the administration to present its policies in Iraq and elsewhere (in terms of terrorism) more along the lines of what I have described. I think one of the administration's\ biggest failings is that it has often done a very poor job of explaining itself.

James Joyner had a post along these lines a few months back at OTB in which he noted a Christopher Hitchens piece in which Hitchens noted that we are at war against a worldview of jihad. He noted the terminology more in terms of war on terror v. war on jihad, but I would note that it is clearly the case that instead of being at war with al Qaeda, we are at war with any group of a jihadist nature.

I have posted a similar set of thoughts back in June.

Posted by Steven Taylor at July 23, 2004 11:08 AM | TrackBack
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