Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

At War In A Time Of Terror

The above piece from the Times outlines the new US strategy for dealing with Al Qaeda.  Basically, we've replaced the hammer with a scalpel, using drones to fight Al Qaeda rather than invading countries.  Part of the strategy in Iraq was to create a "jihadi magnet" to draw in foreign fighters and kill them on the battlefield.

That turned out to be a sucky plan.

Instead, there is a "Star Chamber" set up to review life or death decisions and recommend action.

It's difficult to know what to think of this.

On the one hand, there is no transparency, no accountability and no final reckoning when things go wrong.  Decisions are made and implemented without it ever becoming a matter for public debate.  And while national security is less bound by public debate, these things are being done in our name, under our flag.  That's troubling. It is also troubling that we have set a precedent for future presidents and other countries that tracking people down and killing them remotely is OK.

But terrorism is such a fundamentally different form of warfare.  We are not at war with a state - something the Bush Administration seemed to struggle to understand.  We are at war with various loosely allied groups of individuals who can do great damage if they succeed only once out of a hundred attempts.  In some ways, targeted killing is really the only smart way to fight this type of enemy.  Certainly striking guys like Awlaki makes more sense than invading Yemen.

If there is one issue that most disturbs the left about Obama, it is likely this.  But for whatever reason, I've had trouble getting too upset over these strikes.  I'm probably more disappointed in his lack of advocacy for global warming.  I understand the constitutional and moral scruples over targeted assassination.

Yet, this is not a conflict we started.  It is not a conflict that has any clear definable end.  The only way to win it is to make it too painful for the other side to wage.

I don't like it, but I don't see an alternative.

No comments: