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Friday, August 11

Fighting a war the Time Magazine way: first we get a really big sieve, then we empty the ocean with it

Ordinarily Pundita has more interesting things to do than critique monumentally stupid advice. Yesterday, for example, we spent a suspenseful 15 minutes watching to see if a squirrel would break his neck harvesting tomatoes in our garden. The squirrel didn't want just any old tomato; they had to be not too red and not too green and these delectables hung at the end of tall spindly vines twisted around flimsy metal supports.

But yesterday also found Pundita in the dentist's waiting room, which is the only place I can muster the focus to read Time Magazine editorials. Thus, I came across Lisa Beyer's August 7 effort titled, Why the Middle East Crisis Isn't Really About Terrorism. Beyer is an assistant managing editor at Time and before that she was Time's bureau chief in Jerusalem. Clearly Ms. Beyer thinks the President of the United States micromanages CENTCOM and that President Bush should cherry pick which terrorists the US fights based on her idea of a threat to the US.
Enunciating a new security doctrine nine days after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush declared that the war on terrorism would be fought not just against al-Qaeda but also against "every terrorist group of global reach." Hizballah can certainly be said to fit in that category. However grand it may be to fight all global terrorists, though, the simple fact is that we can't: we don't have the troops, the money or the political will. That means it may make sense to limit our hit list to the groups that actually threaten us. Hizballah does not now do that. Nor does the other group currently in the spotlight, the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas.
I think it's a military advantage if one can do serious damage to militant organizations created and overseen by the enemy, especially if the organizations are directed at attacking one's allies. This rule takes on even greater importance when the enemy relies on 'asymmetrical' (e.g., terrorist) battle tactics.

Perhaps the stumbling block to comprehension is the idea that "global" terrorists are operating as individuals. This is a popular notion among journalists and policy advisors who slept through President Bush's Axis of Evil speech.

The term "global (or transnational) terrorism" is not descriptive when interpreted to mean militant organizations independent of state assistance. Virtually all globally-acting militant organizations that deploy terror tactics are state sponsored, which was the point of Bush's speech.

Of course the sponsorship may not be total (i.e., the organization can raise funds and receive training from private sources) but the militants who today operate globally owe their existence to government support, even if they have some autonomy in their battle planning.

Would it be a help if Bush renamed the War on Terror so that it more clearly reflects the nature of the enemy? Yes, on the day that Iran and every other country covertly making war on the US openly declares war. Until then, we must stick with naming nonsense, which makes the war we're in no less real.
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