10 Reasons the Global War on Terror Must Continue

22.06.2013 18:08

Earlier this month, this column addressed
the lack of grand strategy to combat
terrorism from the Obama administration
by stating that there are 10 issues that
illustrate the need for such a strategy,
now more than ever. The administration
has continuously avoided the rhetoric and
policies of the Global War on Terror, and
American interests and lives have paid the
1) Democracy feeds terrorism. This is
the supposed consternation that many
raise about how democracy feeds the
terrorists. This boils down to an argument
that our very liberties allow the terrorist
to exploit our societies, and we are thus
at their mercy or must revert to
authoritarian means. This canard is
absurd, and always has been.
It might be true in some abstract form of
democracy, where all liberties are actually
freedoms with no government or societal
restraint; but the United States is a
constitutional republic. Those that seek
the destruction of liberty are by definition
the enemies of liberty, and the
Constitution does not protect them. As the
famous American Nuremberg magistrate,
Justice Robert Jackson, famously said, "The
Constitution is not a suicide pact." There
is no dichotomy. Republican liberty can be
maintained and we can prosecute the War
on Terror to the fullest. This view should
be shared by all who believe in the grand
tenets of western civilization. A recent
conversation with a German diplomat
shocked me when he seemed to attack
this view by suggesting that the "rule of
law can exist without democracy." I did
not want to teach basic American civics,
but there can never be the legitimacy of
law without democracy; it is an
[See a collection of political cartoons on
defense spending.]
2) Iran is the number one threat. Iran
is an immediate national security threat.
It is not only a terror state (terrorizing its
own populace), but also the number one
state sponsor of terrorism in the world.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard-Qods
Force-Hezbollah axis is active worldwide,
maintaining cells in the United States and
Western Europe, bombing synagogues in
South America, undermining the
governments of Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt,
and operating to seriously destabilize the
government of Yemen, the importance of
which was succinctly stated by Jonathan
Paris of King's College: "If Yemen is set
on fire, the gulf will burn."
One of the strange arguments that many
make about the Iranians is that we lost
some chance with them since they were
fighting al-Qaida as well. Those in the
counterterrorist field have known for years
that Iran plays both sides against the
middle. In the past, they have supported
al-Qaida when they felt their interests
have merited it, they have given some
sanctuary in Iran, they have allowed
transit of Iran, they back a Sunni
extremist movement Hamas in Palestine
and, as Amos Gilad of the Israeli Ministry
of Defense stated, they "continue to
support al-Qaida." It does not mean they
are in control of al-Qaida or the reverse,
but it means what is commons sense:
when Sunni extremism and Shiite
extremism mesh, namely to fight the
United States, Europe and Israel, they will
work together and are thus a combined
The debate about whether Iranian leaders
are "rational" or "apocalyptic" may also
be a false choice. They may be both, as
stated plainly by the Dean of the Lauder
School of Government, Diplomacy and
Strategy, Alex Mintz: "Iran may be willing
to sacrifice, in a rational way, one to two
million Iranians to eliminate Israel and
control the Gulf." This is made worse by
many who argue that Iran's supreme
leader does not fully appreciate Israel's
second strike capability and may make
assumptions about their ability to destroy
Israel in one blow. All of this is
exacerbated by Iran's cozy relationship
with the regime of Venezuela. Many
national security experts report a story of
a weekly aircraft that leaves Tehran and
arrives in Caracas, where it is exempt
from customs inspections. Iran's quest for
a Pax Iranica, stretching from the Levant
to Persia, poses a threat from both the
War on Terror and traditional state
[See a collection of political cartoons on
the Middle East. ]
3) Terror state organizations pose
problems for international law. A
number of terrorist organizations are
essentially running quasi states; this is
especially true in Gaza with Hamas and in
Lebanon with Hezbollah. However, even
though both are fed by the Iranian trough,
they are not individuals or states. They
are not criminals or soldiers. They are
terrorists who are neither protected by the
sovereignty of states nor the laws of war.
The west has yet to come to terms with
this new classification and is mired in
classical definitions of international
Twelve years after 9/11 we still vigorously
debate whether or not Osama Bin Laden
should have been captured or should have
received a criminal trial. Terrorists are not
criminals, they are not soldiers (as defined
by the Geneva Convention) and they are
not states, regardless of their appearance.
The definition for terrorism is not "one
man's freedom fighter is another man's
terrorist," a phrase that is the refuge of
scoundrels. Terrorists are those who are
motivated by political goals and use
violence to instill fear, primarily against
non-combatants. If the west fails to fully
understand this, and wallows in a false
narcissistic debate about criminality versus
the laws of war, the west is defeated
before it begins.
4) The most basic human right in the
War on Terror is to live. We in the west
have obsessed over the rights of detainees
and terrorists. We have forgotten that the
real destroyers of human rights were the
evildoers who have killed thousands of
men, women and children. They have killed
them in the Twin Towers, cafes and school
buses. I was once struck by an
impassioned speech by Professor Asa
Kasher, Chair of the Ethics and Philosophy
at Tel Aviv University, at a conference on
counterterrorism. At one salient point he
said, "For citizens to be able to enjoy all
human rights, they need to be alive."
[Read the U.S. News debate: Should the
United States Consider Military Action to
Hinder Iran's Nuclear Program? ]
5) International law, multilateral
organizations and treaties work only
when there is legitimacy. The inability
of the west to successfully react to
terrorism and its use of asymmetrical
warfare has created another vacuum: that
of international law. The United Nations is
supposed to defend states from the
exploitation of others, prevent harm to
civilians and punish war crimes. However,
the U.N. and international law in general
fails to address the non-state actor. If
legitimacy is lost due to legality, the
legitimacy of protecting the innocent, then
what happens to the usefulness of
international law and agreements? If we
willingly enter a quicksand of legality in
order to avoid our legitimate
responsibilities to defeat terrorism and
extremism, we risk the entire house of
civilization coming tumbling down.
6) The War on Terror is really a war on
Islamic extremism, Islamic
totalitarianism and salafism. We dance
around terminology and ideas. We engage
in mental and verbal gymnastics in order
to avoid the actual terms of the war. The
war is a war, not a police action and not
the venue for negotiation. Anyone who
studies jihadism knows this. Everyone
knows that jihad, as the terrorists mean it,
has nothing to do with personal struggle
and everything to do with violence, death-
dealing and martyrdom. It is a war that
many in the media and academia tremble
to discuss for fear of professional
ostracism. A war where the jihadists
openly state their contempt for the
"religion of democracy" and proclaim that
a "democratic Muslim is like someone
calling themselves a Jewish Muslim." A
war where the jihadists view violence and
martyrdom as a collective responsibility
and obligation, where the only outcome is
victory or annihilation.
7) The role of the Muslim Brotherhood
is underestimated and hidden. With all
the attention on al-Qaida, its affiliates
and Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood
operates in secret, but in a much vaster
way. Blinded by the strategic largesse of
al-Qaida and Hezbollah, the west has
ignored or is scared into quietude about
the Muslim Brotherhood. This salafist
threat is active in over 70 countries and
has taken over Gaza, and is an important
player in Egypt, Algeria, Europe and the
United States. They are a highly organized
group that is not dependent on a single
leader or personality; they preach a pan-
Islamic return to the caliphate. They have
successfully hidden their financing and
activity by posing as charities, educational
institutions, think tanks, ministries and
social service providers. They were clearly
behind the organized attacks concerning
the Danish cartoons and the recent pro-
Gaza demonstrations. Worse, they have
successfully convinced many in the west
that they have no political agenda, where
in reality their only agenda is political,
ranging in magnitude from the re-creation
of the caliphate to establishing Muslim
exclusive zones in Europe. Naturally, and
most alarmingly, is the Muslim
Brotherhood's takeover of Egypt.
[Read the U.S. News debate: Was The Iraq
War Worth It? ]
8) Western complacency and
overconfidence. The trite assumption that
the west will win, simply because it will, is
rife. We won against fascism, Nazism,
communism and militarism, so we must
win against Islamic extremism. This, mixed
with the inability to grasp the hatred for
liberal democratic philosophy that the
extremists have, creates the conditions for
defeat. Dr. Daniel Pipes, director of the
Middle East Forum, goes further by
suggesting that this has placed the west
in the impossible position of being unable
to stand for its own interests in the war
by focusing on the interests of the enemy.
If something is not really a threat, why
concern yourself with winning?
9) Terrorism is a world wide network.
The only way to measure the War on
Terror is to do so worldwide, whether it is
Sunni extremist and Shiite extremist
collaboration such as the 1996 Hezbollah/
Qods/al-Qaida bombing of the American
military residence, the Kohbar Towers in
Saudi Arabia, the bizarre terror links with
the Columbian FARC and the IRA, to the
Iranians giving safe haven to some in al-
Qaida while publicly announcing the
detention of others. It is the same evil.
The network of terror is broader than one
group, or even so-called ideological
divides. This has been the case for
decades, with Marxist-Leninist
revolutionary terrorists training in Libya
and Lebanon (especially the Bekka Valley),
to Uighur extremists training in
Afghanistan. They are not a monolith, but
they do drink at the same iniquitous
fountains that train, arm, finance and
support this horror of the 21st century.
10) The War on Terror is a war of
civilization versus barbarism. I, in my
book on the Bush Doctrine, and others
have named it such. Dr. Sergey Kurginyan,
president of the International Public
Foundation Experimental Creative Center,
Russian Federation, believes there is a
dichotomy in the world between those
who see the conflict as a war, where the
barbarian must be annihilated for
civilization to survive, and those who see
it as a game, where ultimately there is a
union between "counter modern" forces
and the barbarian to form a postmodern
world. This issue strikes at the very heart
of the War on Terror. If it is a war, and I
believe it is, then there will ultimately be
winner and vanquished. There will
ultimately be victory for the side of light
that sees hope and progress through the
lenses of democracy, human rights and
civil society or those in the dark who see
the blackness through violence, regress
and totalitarianism.
[See a collection of political cartoons on
Iran. ]
There is no compromise with terrorists.
True as this statement is, the fact remains
that the counter-terror community,
diplomats and politicians alike, have failed
to provide a strategic framework to deal
with these 10 issues. These 10 "metrics"
can provide a pathway to judging victory
and defeat, the discussion of which is
conspicuously lacking in media and
academic circles. Many seem willing to
backtrack on the issue of democracy if
"stability" can be purchased.
This belies the whole twelve years since
9/11 and the eight years of the Bush
administration, which clearly stated that
true stability can never be achieved
without draining the swamp that stability
was purchased from. The endless lectures
about American naiveté, namely, that we
believe only elections equal democracy, do
nothing to enhance the debate. This
mantra grows wearisome if not rehearsed.
America had the answer for the War on
Terror which began in earnest twelve
years ago. The fundamental promoting of
civil society and democracy serves as the
only strategic answer for a problem so
evil, the answer must be found in man's
ultimate good.