Sunday, July 09, 2006

No more War On Terror in London?

James Wimberley at The Reality Based Community points out an interesting thing about the London bombing commemorations.

There was no sign of any talk about a War on Terror.

There is plenty to dislike about Tony Blair, but he knows his audience. If he's not talking about a War on Terror, it's because he knows that Brits aren't buying it.

Direct American involvement in WW2 started in December 1941, after Pearl Harbour. (Well, the US occupied Iceland in July 1941, but that doesn't count.) Less than four years later, WW2 was over and America was one of the victors. But five years after declaring a War on Terror, not only has Bush been unable to defeat al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, but he's even stopped trying: the CIA taskforce hunting bin Laden was disbanded last year.

Over the last half century, there have been many conflicts with extra-national groups that used more or less indiscriminate terror tactics. In Ireland, it was the IRA; in Spain, the Basque ETA; the French OAS; the Red Brigade in Italy, and others. They adopted military terminology and identified themselves as warriors, declaring they were fighting a war. Invariably, the governments they fought refused to take the bait. For three decades, the British insisted that the IRA were no more than criminals.

This is the only sensible strategy:

  • it denies legitimacy to the terrorists

  • it encourages the terrorist group to renounce the use of violence in order to gain that legitimacy, and therefore gain real political power

  • it helps keep events in perspective (Sept 11 was a terrible event, but al Qaeda is powerless to destroy the USA let alone the entire democratic West)

  • it reminds authorities to practice restraint (in war, it may become necessary to destroy a hospital or a school, but you don't burn a hospital to the ground to catch a thief).

Less than 24 hours after al Qaeda's first attack on US interests during President Bush's watch, he'd conceded that legitimacy to bin Laden. That demonstrates the sheer cluelessness of the neo-cons pulling Bush's strings.

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