Why our message to terrorists will backfire

Every other sentence that President Bush uses in his speeches and every other national news broadcast seems to reference the idea that the United States is now at “war.” Considering the outcomes of Reagan’s War on Drugs, LBJ’s War on Poverty, Jimmy Carter’s War on Malaise, etc.,

you can not help but wonder how effective the War on Terrorism will be. Regardless of its effectiveness, though, this week’s bombing campaign in Afghanistan is being conducted for all the wrong reasons. Nobody really believes that any of the bombs will land right in Osama bin Laden’s lap. Not being much of a military strategist, I do not know the most practical way to capture or kill bin Laden, but I do know that the solution should be practical instead of symbolic. Our response so far has been all symbolism. Bush wants to send a “message” to the Taliban government and to the world that the United States will not stand for any nation harboring terrorists.

So here comes a round of retaliatory strikes. It is this kind of eye-for-an-eye mindset that has kept the Israeli/Palestinian region in turmoil for the last couple of centuries. This is not to say that we should take violations of our freedom sitting down, and I am not some neo-hippie with a dry-erase protest sign on hand for all occasions – I feel that the perpetrators should get what they deserve as strongly as anyone – but prevention of future attacks is far more important. The Taliban has been calling for a holy war since the first bomb hit, and it is inevitable that there will be many attempted retaliations and re-retaliations on their part. Attacks on our country in the future could very likely involve biological weapons like Anthrax or Ebola – not a pretty picture.

The United States has a great track record at winning conventional wars. It is second to none at mobilizing troops and technology to march in and take over designated territory, but when it gets into unconventional conflicts like Vietnam the scheisse tends to hit the fan. Desert Storm was a fairly conventional war. U.S.-led forces liberated Kuwait in short order, saving the Kuwaiti people from Iraqi oppression for the time being and, more importantly in the eyes of the government, protecting oil interests. We accomplished all of our goals except for permanently removing Saddam Hussein from power, but that was okay because he came in handy later to divert attention away from Bill Clinton’s various scandals in the mid-’90s. In much the same way, all the domestic unrest over the terrorist attacks would make it very easy for our current president, Curious George, to sneak all kinds of nefarious conservative legislation through the back door while the country’s attention is focused on the events in Afghanistan.

So, here we have a “war” that is shaping up to be even more unconventional than Vietnam ever was. Remember: the Soviet Union tried a ground war against Afghan rebels (who benefited from large amounts of U.S. military training and aid) in 1979 and had to back out.

The people we’re supposed to be after are loosely knit bands of rebels scattered throughout a country about the size of Texas. Afghanistan does not have any World Trade Center or Pentagon to take out. Bombing the airport in Kabul is an exercise in futility when the planes attacking our civilians are coming from Logan International Airport in Boston.

In addition, our military bureaucracy seems just too out-of-touch to understand or care about the cultural differences between the people it is fighting and your average GI Joe. And no Islamic extremist movement is going to roll over for the United States due to fear of death when they believe that dying in the course of waging jihad on the evil land of Atheism, Israeli Appeasement, Free Speech and Coca-Cola is a sacred act. When you are fighting a holy war, even if you lose, you still win.