How Americas Foreign Policy is Making the US Less Safe in the War on Terrorism


"And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand. So we'll fight them there, we'll fight them across the world, and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won." (Applause.) -- President George W. Bush

Despite plenty of muscular rhetoric, President Bush's strategy in the War on Terrorism demonstrates a dangerous ignorance of the unique military, tactical, and political aspects of the terrorist threat, and breeds a dangerous and chaotic foreign policy which has only served to put our nation in greater danger.

Back in the 6th century BC, in his classic, The Art of War, Sun Tsu observed, "Know your enemy, and in a thousand battles you will not be defeated." Sadly, our current Commander-in-Chief ignores the Chinese grand master's lesson, and actively eschews the acquisition of useful knowledge about our terrorist enemy. After the 9/11 Commission found that the CIA and FBI could have prevented the attacks of September 11th, had they only more effectively shared and communicated their intelligence to the White House, the Bush Administration could have ensured a dynamic and efficient system of American intelligence simply by reforming and/or streamlining the two agencies. Instead, the Administration did nothing to improve either agency, instead creating an entirely new government agency, the Department of Homeland Security, whose most obvious contribution to homeland security to date is a puerile, and now universally-ignored, color-coded Alert Level system.

Not surprisingly, the enhanced state of perpetual ignorance within America's intelligence community quickly took its toll, proceeding to deliver terribly flawed pre-war intelligence to the White House, which then spawned an utterly disastrous occupation of Iraq. All of this, of course, was in addition to our continued inability to capture, or even locate, America's Public Enemy 1, Osama bin Laden. Sun Tsu is rolling in his grave.

The atrocious ignorance continues with the Administration's inability to grasp the fundamental distinction between fighting terrorists and fighting enemy nation-states. In the wars of yesteryear, an enemy nation had a standing army, a native population, static boundaries, and permanent institutions, all of which helped to create an enemy who could be effectively destroyed with a sustained military campaign. But the problem with terrorists, unlike nationals of a belligerent foreign nation, is that they are not a permanent, distinct class. Terrorists are recruited, shaped, molded and trained by underground organizations, usually working without state sanction, and thus there is no fixed stock of "enemy combatants" capable of comprehensive military liquidation. As William F. Buckley, Jr. brilliantly observed, "Individual terrorists were, only yesterday, engaged in ordinary occupations, shocking friends and family when they struck as terrorists." Victory, then, will be achieved not with a specific death toll or geographic occupation, but by ensuring that Islamofascism remains a detested minority in every country in which it hopes to gain support. Victory is depriving the Islamofascists the ideological fuel with which they recruit the ordinary citizens to join the ranks of the jihad.

Terrorism itself is only a tactic of violence; it finds its roots in an ideology and thus cannot be defeated by military might alone. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelan, founded in 1975 in Sri Lanka as the first terrorist organization to make widespread use of suicide bombing, are amazingly still blowing themselves up as part of their independence movement there (talk about dedication!), simply because they are still not independent from Sri Lanka, and thus can still recruit their martyrs with an effective narrative of foreign oppression and victimization. The near-infinite willingness of a people to willingly slaughter themselves in an ideological protest against foreign occupation has been confirmed over and over, from the Algerian resistance to French occupation, to America's own experience in Vietnam.

Unfortunately, most of the fuel for the global jihad is supplied by current American foreign policy in the Middle East. It is true, as some allege, that Islamists hate nearly every feature of Western society, from our politics to our culture, and as a result, it is easy to say that Islamic terrorism against America is a fait accompli stemming from a fanatical worldview that hates everything we stand for. But while Islamists indeed harbor grand visions of world empire under Allah, their delusions of global theocracy have been swirling around the Middle East ever since Muhammad began claiming his divinity; only recently did Islamic terrorism emerge as a dangerous threat to America. As late as the 1950s, Arab nations still sought out American mediation in their international disputes, respecting our independence and fairness, despite presumably still harboring atavistic religious hatred toward Our American Freedoms. Seven decades later, Uncle Sam is reviled like no one else in the world.

Libertarians, like Ron Paul, rightly point out that the difference between the good ol' days of respect for America and the current days of Death to America is a U.S. foreign policy of interference in the Middle East. Rudy Giuliani and his supporters would like to believe otherwise. But nothing is more devastating in the obliteration of Rudy G's arguments than the facts.

Back in 1998, Cato Institute scholar Ivan Eland had already been looking at the facts, and as a result, he had already begun to note the growing trend of America's terrorist threat, corresponding directly and invariably with American intervention into the Middle East. Unlike both Bush and Clinton, Eland was already keenly aware of al-Qaida, Hezbollah, and their growing threat to American interests. (If only Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney read the Cato Institute.) Here are some partial excerpts of his prescient work, from his 1998 paper Does U.S. Intervention Overseas Breed Terrorism? The Historical Record:

July 2, 1915: The Senate reception room in the U.S. Capitol was damaged by a homemade bomb built by Erich Muenter, a former Harvard professor who was upset by sales of U.S. munitions to the Allies in World War I.

June 5, 1968: Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, former attorney general and senior policy adviser to President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan, who had grown up on the West Bank and regarded Kennedy as a collaborator with Israel.

March 1971: A bomb exploded in a U.S. Senate restroom, causing extensive damage. The bombing came at a time of rising opposition to U.S. policies in Vietnam.

November 4, 1979: Supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran, capturing hostages that were not freed until January 1981. The embassy was captured as a protest against long-time U.S. support for the unpopular shah of Iran.

July 22, 1980: Ali Akbar Tabatabai, a former press counselor at the Iranian embassy in the United States during the shah's reign, was assassinated by the Islamic Guerrillas of America (IGA) after he had supplied U.S. officials with a manifesto of the IGA that advocated strategically planned terrorism on U.S. soil and assassinations of U.S. officials, stating, Any American can be targeted... no American is innocent... as long as U.S. foreign policies are to the detriment of the Islamic community.

April 8 and October 23, 1983: Islamic militants, funded by Iran and supported by Syria, suicide bombed the U.S. embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 290 people and wounding 200 more. The attack remains the deadliest post-World War II attack on Americans overseas. The Americans were supporting the Christian government in Lebanon against the Muslim militias by training and arming the Lebanese National Army. The U.S. Marines were later withdrawn from Beirut, prompting a Hezbollah spokesman to brag that the $martyrs! had finally forced the Marines out of Lebanon.

April 5, 1986: Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi sponsored the bombing of the La Belle nightclub in West Berlin, which was frequented by U.S. servicemen. The United States retaliated for the La Belle bombing with air strikes against Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya. In retaliation for the U.S. air strikes on Libya, an American hostage in Lebanon was sold to Libya and executed; Libyans attempted to blow up the U.S. embassy in Lomé, Togo; a Libyan agent, Abu Nidal, hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi, Pakistan, killing several Americans; The Japanese Red Army, under contract from Abu Nidal, planted a bomb at the USO military club in Naples, Italy, on the two-year anniversary of the air strikes, killing five; and two Libyan agents bombed Pan Am Flight 103, killing 270 people, 200 of whom were Americans.

March 10, 1989: A pipe bomb exploded beneath a van owned by the commander of the U.S.S. Vincennes, who had shot down an Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulf (killing 290 civilians) during U.S. participation in the $tanker war! against Iran. March 12, 1991: During the Gulf War, a U.S. Air Force sergeant was blown up by a remotecontrolled bomb placed at the entrance of his residence in Athens, Greece. $November 17!, the deadliest terrorist group in Greece, November 17, which attacks U.S. targets because of American imperialism-nationalism!, claimed responsibility for the attack.

February 26, 1993: A group of Islamic terrorists detonated a massive van bomb in the garage of the World Trade Center in New York City. The Egyptian perpetrators were trying to kill 250,000 people by collapsing the towers. Ramzi Yousef, the leader of the terrorists, said the intent was to inflict Hiroshima-like casualties to punish the United States for its foreign policy toward the Middle East. The perpetrators considered augmenting the explosion with radiological or chemical agents that would have increased the casualties.

April 15, 1993: Seventeen Iraqis were arrested as part of government plot to assassinate former president George Bush on a visit to Kuwait, in retaliation for the Gulf War against Iraq.

June 1993: Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman--a militant Egyptian cleric--and other radical Muslims conspired to destroy several New York landmarks on the same day. Funding for the operation apparently came from Iran and was funneled through Sudan, attempting to punish the United States for its policies toward the Middle East.