Prosecuting the war on terrorism
By John D. Turner
8 October 2001

Due to the events of 7 October, this article, which I had ready to put out today has somewhat been overcome by events. Also due to the events of 7 October, I find myself without sufficient time to draft a new article. In fact, I may not have time to maintain this site. I am presenting the article here anyhow, however I make no promises on forthcoming articles or that I will be able to continue to add new links to the rest of my site. I do expect, at a minimum, to post a series of articles next spring at the start of the primary season concerning voting, the grassroots political process, and how you can become involved.

That was, after all, the original thrust of this website.

The parts of this article that have become moot in light of yesterdayís military action should be readily apparent. It should also be apparent that certain elements of Mr Kiddís plan have been implemented, whether due to his efforts, or independently of the information he provided.

I received a letter, entitled "Insight on Afghanistan", by Mr Richard Kidd. Mr Kidd is a retired US Army infantry colonel, who has, in the past, hired out as a mercenary in that part of the world, and has a lot of experience with Afghanistan. He is currently back in the States, and among other things, is doing consulting work with US security agencies. As you may well imagine, his expertise is in high demand!

His letter, which I suggest you read before proceeding further with this one, is a very interesting and thought provoking work on the Afghan people, the terrain, and the political realities surrounding the area. His ideas for prosecuting this war, which he lays out in very plain language, are very different from what most Americans would envision. In the main, they do not involve much of what we would traditionally think of as "fighting". There would not be much of the "rockets red glare" and "bombs bursting in air" for CNN to bring home to our living rooms each night. In fact, for most of us back here at home, it would look very much like we were doing nothing at all.

And therein lies the problem.

It has been over three weeks since the WTC was destroyed. The President has issued a recall notice for up to 50,000 reservists to be called to active duty for a period of up to two years. National Guard troops have been mobilized to guard the nationís airports. The authority to shoot down civilian aircraft has been delegated down to certain "mid-level" (read 3-star) generals and admirals. An unprecedented four carrier battlegroups have been ordered to the Middle East area. We hear of troops being positioned, and a whole lot of political maneuvering going on. What we donít see are things going boom in the night on our TV sets.

Our President is treading a very fine line. What we don't want to do is act hastily and precipitate World War III with the entire Islamic world. Not the least reason being the fact that there are over 6 million Muslims living within the borders of our own country. We also remember that as much as we would like to get Bin Laden, making him the focus of our effort is counterproductive. In his address to the nation following the 11 September attack, Mr Bush spoke of a "war on terrorism" and those nations who harbor and support terrorists, not a "war on Bin Laden". Ultimately, we need to be looking at countries supporting, training, and harboring terrorists, such as Iran and Iraq. It is there that our military power will be needed, not stirring around the rubble in Afghanistan.

If there is a way to get rid of Bin Laden and his network without massive commitment of US forces, I am all for it. We may need those forces later to deal with countries such as Iran and Iraq. And we mustnít let countries such as North Korea or China get the idea that we are so fully engaged that we canít respond if they should decide to go after South Korea or Taiwan respectively.

Ultimately, Bin Laden is a sideshow, albeit a colorful and very dangerous one. He is not and should not be our main focus. We need to remember that the job we came to do was to drain the swamp, not just kill the alligator affixed to our posterior. This is a different war than any we have fought before. Different methods will be necessary to win it. Some may well involve traditional military force against a traditionally identifiable "enemy". Some of it, as outlined in Mr. Kiddís plan, will be more covert.

And therein lies the rub. The main problem with Mr. Kiddís plan is that there is no pizazz. No flash bang boom that people can relate to. Nothing they can point to on their TV's and say "there, take that you bastards". This makes them unhappy, as they canít see that anything is being done. It makes the media unhappy too, as they don't have anything they can cover to sell news (and incidentally, make themselves feel important). So while Mr Clinton's shooting of 70 cruise missiles at empty tents after the embassy bombing accomplished very little, at least it looked like he was doing something. This plan, although it might accomplish quite a bit, has the drawback of not looking like it is doing anything.

A large part of this war will be fought here at home, and not just against the terrorists themselves. The biggest war will be with ourselves, and our collective desire to win. The terrorists think we are soft; that we lack the stomach for a protracted struggle. They think that we will give up after awhile. Recent history has told them that if they drag a few bodies of American servicemen through the streets, we will pack up our bags and go home. Recent history tells them our politicians make their decisions based on polling data. If the polls say Americans are upset, the politicians fire a few cruise missiles. If they say Americans are bored, they "move on" to other issues. The terrorists think Americans as a culture suffer from "Attention Deficit Disorder". We have to fight not to prove them right.

On the political front, the "bipartisanship" that has been present since 11 Sep in Washington is already showing signs of fracturing. The conflict between two opposing ideologies hasnít ended; its just moved underground. Democrats Ted Kennedy in the Senate and Barney Frank in the House have shown themselves unable to resist the temptation to attach their own pet legislation as riders on bills designed to address the current emergency. They are not the only ones with their hands in the cookie jar either. Donít expect that the political ambitions of career politicians in either party collapsed along with the twin towers. Next year is an election year. Just because the WTC was blown up doesn't mean the Democrats aren't interested in strengthening their hold on the Senate, and recapturing the House. If Mr. Bush pursues the strategy outlined by Mr. Kidd, it gives Democrats a golden opportunity to campaign against a perceived "do nothing" administration.

Absent a vigorous and very visible war on terrorism, expect to hear comments from the Democrats on how Bush has "squandered" the "surplus", and used it to further his own political purposes while letting terrorists who assaulted our very shores get away scot free. Not to mention being responsible for the "worst economy in the last 50 years". The Bush administration will be blamed for everything from the AIDS epidemic to global warming.

Republicans meanwhile, have their own desire to take back the Senate and secure their hold on the House. They will be lobbying fiercely for the administration to do something visible so as to show how "tough" they are. Both sides will wrap themselves in the flag.

As voters, we need to take note of such, who are interested only in feathering their own political nests, rather than the good of the nation as a whole. We need to exercise our duties as citizens of this nation to vote such out of office. We need to remember that the political leaders of this country work for us, not the other way around. And we need to get involved in the political process ourselves, not just at the end, when we vote for whatever happens to be on the ballot, but earlier, at the beginning, where we can have some influence over who gets on the ballot to begin with. (See my first three articles, dated 14 May 2001, 21 May 2001, and 28 May 2001 in the Archives for further information).

As a people, we must continue to remain united here on the home front, particularly in the political arena. Now is not the time to give Bin Laden and others the idea that we are divided. Other countries donít understand the "family squabbling" that goes on in this country. They see it as a sign of weakness. In their countries, such would not be allowed. To project such an image at this time would be to give them the idea that they can ultimately succeed; that they are in fact, winning. This would be a huge boost to their morale.

What we must show is that we are a country united. We must make those who committed this heinous act, and those who support them feel as Admiral Yamamoto did after he discovered that the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred before the declaration of war was transmitted rather than after as was intended. At that time, he is reported to have stated "I fear all I have done is awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve."

Bin Laden has awakened us from our slumber. We shall show the world our resolve.