Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Wisdom about the War on Terror

Ralph Peters, in recent article entitled "In Praise of Attrition", has this to say about the war on terror:
It isn’t a question of whether or not we want to fight a war of attrition against religion-fueled terrorists. We’re in a war of attrition with them. We have no realistic choice. Indeed, our enemies are, in some respects, better suited to both global and local wars of maneuver than we are. They have a world in which to hide, and the world is full of targets for them. They do not heed laws or boundaries. They make and observe no treaties. They do not expect the approval of the United Nations Security Council. They do not face election cycles. And their weapons are largely provided by our own societies.

Of course, we shall hear no end of fatuous arguments to the effect that we can’t kill our way out of the problem. Well, until a better methodology is discovered, killing every terrorist we can find is a good interim solution. The truth is that even if you can’t kill yourself out of the problem, you can make the problem a great deal smaller by effective targeting....

And we shall hear that killing terrorists only creates more terrorists. This is sophomoric nonsense. The surest way to swell the ranks of terror is to follow the approach we did in the decade before 9/11 and do nothing of substance. Success breeds success. Everybody loves a winner. The clich├ęs exist because they’re true. Al Qaeda and related terrorist groups metastasized because they were viewed in the Muslim world as standing up to the West successfully and handing the Great Satan America embarrassing defeats with impunity. Some fanatics will flock to the standard of terror, no matter what we do. But it’s far easier for Islamic societies to purge themselves of terrorists if the terrorists are on the losing end of the global struggle than if they’re allowed to become triumphant heroes to every jobless, unstable teenager in the Middle East and beyond....

It is not a matter of whether attrition is good or bad. It’s necessary. Only the shedding of their blood defeats resolute enemies. Especially in our struggle with God-obsessed terrorists -- the most implacable enemies our nation has ever faced -- there is no economical solution. Unquestionably, our long-term strategy must include a wide range of efforts to do what we, as outsiders, can to address the environmental conditions in which terrorism arises and thrives (often disappointingly little -- it’s a self-help world). But, for now, all we can do is to impress our enemies, our allies, and all the populations in between that we are winning and will continue to win.

The only way to do that is through killing.