Sunday, February 12, 2006
"The Long War"
A February 3, 2006 Washington Post article shows this comparison may not be far-fetched.
The United States is engaged in what could be a generational conflict akin
to the Cold War, the kind of struggle that might last decades as allies work to
root out terrorists across the globe and battle extremists who want to rule the
world, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.
Rumsfeld ... laid out broad strategies for what the military and the
Bush administration are now calling the "long war...."
According to Ehsan Ahrari, a Virginia-based defense consultant, writing in the Asia Times on February 9, 2006:
"Long War" is the Pentagon's latest template to fight the "war on terror".
The importance of this concept will be signified by the fact that it will be
capitalized in all future official military documents, a la "Cold War". The
expectation is that eventually it will catch on the same way as "war on terror",
which was in the process of being replaced by another phrase, "war against
extremism". However, that phrase was not catchy enough. The expectation is that
"Long War" will be.
"Long War" holds considerable promise of being catchy and martial in tone
and and a sound propaganda tool. The "warriors" (not a pejorative phrase) of the
Pentagon would also be able to use it compactly in their daily briefings to make
their case. Consequently, even before releasing its Quadrennial Defense Review
2005, the Pentagon has initiated its public campaign of popularizing the
A February 10, 2006 opinion piece by William Pfaff in the International Herald Tribune makes some interesting and provocative points:
What was originally to be a matter of quick and exemplary revenge, with
lightning attacks and acclaimed victories, has now become, we are told, the long
war whose end cannot be foreseen. The citizen is implicitly told to expect the
current suspension of constitutional norms, disregard for justice, and defiance
of limits on presidential power as traditionally construed, to continue
indefinitely. We are in a new age, America's leaders say. The Democratic
opposition seems to agree.
What started as the war against terror, proclaimed by the president to Congress
in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks, has undergone a metamorphosis. The
interpretation was that the people responsible for the World Trade
attacks and other terrorist outrages against Americans and their
be discovered, defeated and killed or brought to justice.
Surely that is what most Americans thought when the search began for Osama bin
Laden, Mullah Mohammed Omar and members of Al Qaeda. Today bin Laden and Mullah Omar are somewhere in Waziristan, in Pakistan's tribal areas, tracked by the CIA and Pakistani soldiers (with different degrees of enthusiasm). There is an
insurrection in Iraq, which had nothing to do with Al Qaeda when it started, but
from which Al Qaeda and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi now draw global publicity.
Al Qaeda and individual international terrorists are the object of
worldwide intelligence and police operations. They are a marginal phenomenon.
The Bush administration's conflation of them with the social upheaval
in [the Arab] world is exploited to perpetuate changes in American
society that provide a much more sinister threat to democracy than anything ever
dreamed by Osama bin Laden.
The radical threat to the United States is at home.
I do not have sufficient personal knowledge to form what I would consider a valid opinion on the actual extent of the threat to U.S. national security posed by Al Qaeda and other Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organizations. The Bush Administration, at least in its public statements, appears to believe the threat is very real and very serious, and they want the American people to believe it as well because, as we have seen, the more afraid the American people are, the more unquestioningly they will forfeit their constitutional rights and liberties to allow the government to better "protect" the people from terrorists. However, the Bush Administration also believed, at least publicly, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. President Bush and his aides have said they relied on flawed intelligence and they did not intentionally deceive the American people. Assuming for the sake of argument that this is true, that means the Bush Administration negligently deceived the American people. Either way, I believe the Bush Administration's credibility is very low.
As we have seen with the NSA wiretapping issue, we have a President who believes he has "inherent" authority to ignore federal laws when he believes it is necessary to do so in the name of "national security." The Bush Administration is ramping up its propaganda machine to prepare the American people for "The Long War." How long will "The Long War" last? Until the last individual terrorist is tracked down and captured or killed? No one can know how long that will take with any degree of certainty.
The Bush Administration wants us to believe there is no choice but to prepare ourselves for a virtually perpetual state of war because there are enemies who are bent on our destruction. But given the Bush Administration's low credibility, I do not believe it is unreasonable to examine who benefits politically and economically from the U.S. existing in a state of war, and then to ask whether these political and economic benefits might not be the real rationale underlying "The Long War."