It’s a funny little war. "You mean Iraq" (I hear you ask?). Actually, I keep thinking about what is supposed to be the Meta-war, the war on terror, of which Iraq (and Afganistan) is supposed to be a sub-set.
A bit over two years ago I wanted to suggest that the administration was doing a bad job of promoting the war because it would not make clear its goals for the war (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04131/313837.stm). Now with two thirds of the population unhappy with the administration’s handling of Iraq and terror, this administration has turned Americans from patriots into grumblers.
The funny little war (on terror) had one big opening boom, but since then seems not to exist for most Americans. This is really important because it goes to the heart of our view of the war, the case the administration makes for its handling of the war and the question of how to look at the terrorists.
The funny little war (on terror) had one big opening boom, but since then seems not to exist for most Americans (I repeat for emphasis). One question is the little voice in the back of our heads that wonders “Is that because Bush and his guys are good or because the terrorists blew it all on that one shot”? To complicate matters, I heard one journalist suggest the terrorists will wait to strike until they can do something bigger than demolishing the WTC. That comment actually helps both the Bush Administration and the terrorists, as we continue to wonder what new terrible thing the terrorists might do.
Let’s do a little outline thing to lay all the stakes out on the table, to get the gestalt.
One: What does the Bush administration hope to accomplish in the WOT (War on Terror).
Two: Ditto for the terrorists.
One Ay: How does the administration plan to accomplish its goals.
Two Ay: Ditto for the terrorists.
One Ay ay: the detail questions – Is the administration accomplishing anything like its goals? Are the administration methods important? Does the administration have any hidden goals.
Two Ay ay: Ditto, ditto, ditto.
One: Clearly, Bush et al want to vanquish the terrorists that attacked us. Bush makes rumblings about stopping all terrorism, which I guess is part of how we ended up in Iraq.
Two: For the terrorists, it is difficult for us to know what they want. Apparently it had to do with us leaving Saudi Arabia, and now Iraq and Afghanistan. Is it possible that they would be satisfied with that? Maybe, but there is little chance we will do those things. Obviously because of that, the terrorists have up-ed the rhetoric to include the idea of destroying us. It is also probably a mistake to see the terrorists as a monolithic entity, the way we used to look at USSR (it was a mistake then too). The goals of the terrorists may depend on who has the upper hand in the hierarchy at any given moment. See Two Ay ay for my take on other terrorists goals.
One Ay: This is the real question, the one that the President should have made so clear every ten year old could recite it. How is the administration prosecuting its war on terror? Apparently by taking the reins off the spies, who are in turn are looking hard. Don’t be fooled by Iraq, it is actually a sideshow. The main effort in the WOT is listening to calls, watching money flows, interrogating prisoners and maybe some other things we don’t know about. This is a low intensity conflict; a game of world-wide hide and seek. And the seeking is done by ignoring a lot of privacy rights we are used to having.
Two Ay: This is another real question. Since (I say) we don’t know what the terrorists want, guessing at their methods is even less clear. The fact that they haven’t attacked us directly since 9/11 might mean that they are waiting to set up a bigger attack, that they used all their resources, or something else, like that we really did cripple them.
One Ay ay: The devil is in the details. Is the administration defeating Al Qaeda? We used to think so, before Katrina made us question the government’s abilities. Remember, FEMA is under Homeland Security. Does the administration have credibility when it says it has stopped many terrorists’ attacks? It really could use could use some pictures of dynamite or something, ‘cause otherwise apparently the country is growing less convinced. Bush ought to thank the NYTimes, LA Times and Washington Post for running the stories that expose wiretapping, secret prisons and financial monitoring. These stories show that the administration is at least doing something in the WOT. Otherwise the WOT amounts to a mid east oil grab, a chance to give republican congressional districts more earmarks for “Homeland Security” and no more meeting relatives at the airport gate. Or course, with the wiretapping and other surveillance, that little voice in the back of our heads asks “could Bush et al (Tom Delay?) use this vast new pool of information to hurt those other enemies, the democrats”? After all, Watergate had some of the same cast as this administration.
Two Ay ay: It’s not clear whether the terrorists are accomplishing anything or not. The Bush administration has handed them the PR tool that is Iraq. Otherwise, all we can do is wonder if another attack is coming or not. I do wonder if some of the terrorists also want to get control of a country.
A point is that all these notions rattle around in our heads. Support for the Civil war, in a different media age, went quite low at various times like support for the current administration’s policies has dropped. The talk about treason and helping the enemy is quite interesting. Surely the NYTimes does not want terrorists to win, but their stories might actually help the terrorists, or at least comfort them. Is that treasonable? Does the ‘Times concern over privacy rights trump their possible aiding or comforting the enemy?
Well, that’s enough for now.