What exactly is meant by “fighting the war” on terror? War has always been defined as forcing an opposing nation to submit to the political will of the aggressor nation. But war requires a defined opponent and a clear objective.
The war on terror has neither. It is ‘global’, and it is directed against a means of fighting, terrorism, rather than against a belligerent group. The United States could have declared the attacks of 9/11 a criminal act, as Britain opted to do in the case of IRA terrorism.
It did not. Instead it deemed them an act of war, and it identified Al-Qaeda with a
‘failed state’, Afghanistan. In other words it conferred a national base and a political identity on an international organization which possessed neither.
The United States could then fight a conflict in Afghanistan which was then normative to a war. What it had defined as an ‘asymmetric’ threat could then be treated ‘symmetrically’.
But this newly defined war allows some of the normal conventions of war to be circumvented. Captured “Al-Queda” are neither prisoners of war or classified as criminals that committed an illegal act. They can be held indefinitely on whatever grounds that may seem appropriate at the time.
Just who are we fighting in the war on terror? In World War II, you had the Germans, Japanese, and the Italians. Clearly defined opponents to target in battle. But the war on terror knows no boundaries. The enemy soldier could be a Pakistani, Iraqi, or someone from Yemen. Even someone from the United States.
So how is one to know how to spot the “terrorist” enemy soldier? Their actions can certainly contribute, but that alone is not the criteria. A citizen of one country may put down political unrest with an iron fist but not receive the definition of terrorist because of a particular foreign policy towards that country.
The bottom line is that it’s the United States that defines who the terrorists are. From making a bomb on one extreme… to wearing the wrong kind of cheap Casio watch on the other… if you’re part of the unfavored region or country, you’re a terrorist.
The unfortunate terms of this new type of war is that it’s completely open ended. Completely dynamic and undefined. Who is the enemy? We are the ones that say who. What is the objective? To end terror? Just how are you going to end terror? How can there be an end to this war if there isn’t a realistic end point or objective.
Are we to continue on until all terrorists are defeated? Is that the true goal for this struggle? Is essentially the terms of the war are that we can kill anyone in the Middle East who WE define as a “terrorist” and also continue with the war indefinitely, until WE say enough. We already have constructed PERMANENT military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Contrary to public perceptions, we are never going to leave those countries.
But what about the causalities of our military? With more causalities comes more public pressure and questioning the wisdom of continuing with the war. A real dilemma for the continuation. But along comes a perfect solution, a Drone Attack. The drone attack allows us to chose anyone we want to kill and do it remotely with precision.
Assassination by remote control. Judge and jury by executive committee, a Star Chamber with Executive sign-off.
It’s a double bonus solution because there is never any additions to prisons or having those unfortunate possibilities of trials and court room proceedings. Nothing to worry about when you’ve blown them to pieces with a Hellfire missile. Never-mind any innocents that happen to be standing close by because this is a WAR ON TERROR!
We are not at war with Pakistan… we are not at war with Libya (supposedly).. but yet we can remotely kill without so much as a pre-trial hearing or lawyer. We have created an open ended blank check for ourselves. Remote killing of non-soldiers in countries that we have not declared war upon for an indefinite amount of time.
Does anyone else see the irony in that statement?