War On Terror Needs To Find Its Voice
March 28, 2002
By Tommy Ates
Just like Frank Bruni's adventurous biography of George
W. Bush Ambling Into History, the Bush administration's
war on terror appears to lack a clear direction. The original
goal of the conflict, outlined in Bush's Sept. 19th special
address to Congress, gave the United States and the free world
a mandate to stop terror and to pressure regimes that support
them. However, after six months, the terrorists among us have
not been caught, and the Administration has had to appease
the American media. Thus, to distract attention at not getting
Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the President's
strategic foreign policy has to resort to the use of 'bait
and switch' tactics.
The Pentagon has continued to display pictures of American
military prowess instead of intelligence operatives because
Americans can believe we are making progress using action
photos. This tactic and the use of 'old news' being recycled
as breaking news (i.e., Iraq) have helped the Bush administration
mainstream high public support.
But, this 'substitution' phase of the war cannot last for
In order to understand the meaning of the word 'substitution'
in this instance, let's review events of the war thus far.
With the fall of the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan,
Muslim remnants mostly have returned home (except for rebels
regrouping in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan).
Meanwhile, the American military said previously that the
'worst' Taliban and al-Qaeda had been sent to Camp X-Ray in
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for questioning. But, in the light of
heavy resistance with Operation Anaconda and the new commitment
to train a national Afghan army, it appears that the job of
the Afghan POW airlift and Operation Anaconda mission did
With these Pyrrhic victories, President Bush and Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld desperately need an exit strategy
as not to lose face or public confidence in the war. Both
U.S. and Pakistan intelligence have known for some time that
ex-Taliban and al-Qaeda would be lying dormant during the
winter. Now spring is coming, and rather than face a splintering
Afghanistan, a training brigade will come to quickly build
an army in a year's time and leave them with the English peacekeepers
(who have had uneasy relations with the Northern Alliance).
As a result, responsibility of an Afghan government collapse
would no longer lie with the U.S. Sounds like a plan? On its
face, the scenario creates beautiful public relations cover
for the Bush administration (especially Donald Rumsfeld) whose
eagerness to get out of the potential quagmire is as evident
as the melting snow thawing in the mountain passes near Gardez,
Afghanistan. Shifting the blame for possible failures and
taking credit for alliance successes is nothing new in U.S.
foreign policy (Clinton did it as well as Reagan). The only
problem for the Pentagon and Donald Rumsfeld is how to marshal
the forces needed to quiet the usurping, guerrilla movement
afoot in the Afghan-Pakistan border region and tackle the
next terror target, Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
Unfortunately for the administration, the spectre of getting
Saddam in a military operation seems problematic at best.
Vice President Dick Cheney's visit to the Middle East came
up short on Iraq support and long on the need to enter the
Israel-Palestine fray, and a foreign policy stalemate has
developed in which the U.S. cannot 'go it alone' on Iraq without
condemnation from Europe and the Middle East (and probably
the United Nations). In addition, placing Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein on the top of the list of most wanted terrorists
belies the fact that none of the attackers on Sept. 11 were
Iraqi and that the investigation behind the Iraqi intelligence
contact (that ringleader Mohammed Atta met in Germany) never
turned up any leads.
If Saddam is the 'Rosetta Stone' in the next step on terror,
then what is Osama bin Laden? A "marginalized" player as the
Bush administration contends? And with blasť pace of the terror
war, an Achilles heel has appeared for President Bush in the
long-term: domestic security. With the current state of the
active American military, achieving the mission objectives
to preserving the fledgling Afghan democracy and sending U.S.
Special Forces teams to the Philippines, Somalia, and Yemen,
already risk the United States being in a state of "unpreparedness"
should another homeland emergency arrive (i.e., Sept. 11).
Already, current domestic terror-prevention techniques such
as airline security are coming under fire from both the right
and the left because of civil liberty concerns, glaring holes
associated with foreign hires, and still inadequate training.
Domestic security woes should be a concern for White House.
The Bush administration's vague, high-opinion ratings have
been based the ascendancy of American military might (and
patriotism), which cannot be questioned. Should there be another
domestic terror attack, this criticism may move on to foreign
policy, shaking the pillars upon which American support for
the war is based.
In order to have a cohesive war policy on the war on terror,
the Bush administration must address the issue of terror from
many sources: Saudi, Palestinian, Afghani, and Israeli. The
circle of violence and fear will not be broken unless the
U.S. takes on the dual role of dealmaker and impartial judge.
The use of substitution policy regarding the future of Afghanistan
and Iraq (as a military threat) only creates roadblocks for
the Arab world in reaching out to the West, fueling speculation
of a religious war, helping radical Islam. The war on terror
needs to find its voice.
Tommy Ates loves the left because the left is always right!
He wants to help the underdog become the Top Dog.