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Obama’s Alternate Universe
Posted on Jan 8, 2010
By Scott Ritter
As such, when one declares a “war” to exist, there must be a physical manifestation of an enemy, as well as the psychological manifestation of victory. After the 9/11 attacks, the “enemy” took on the form of the Taliban in Afghanistan, in so far as they facilitated the operations of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida by providing sanctuary and logistical support, however indirect. That the Taliban had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attack never registered in the minds of those U.S. policymakers who morphed the Taliban and al-Qaida into a singular entity, thus dictating a singular solution. The United States will forever be chasing the ghosts of al-Qaida in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan, all the while fighting a Taliban enemy that becomes stronger every day the American occupiers operate inside their country among their people.
The “war on terror” has further complicated the Afghanistan situation by drawing in the complicating reality of Pakistan’s Pashtun population and the centuries-old problem of Islamic fundamentalism, which has always existed in the rugged territory of Pakistan’s hinterlands and northwest frontier. The situation unfolding between Afghanistan and Pakistan is far less influenced by the events of 9/11 than by the historical consequences of the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and the U.S. covert efforts to oppose the Soviet action by supporting Islamic fundamentalist fighters operating out of Pakistan.
In the simplistic formulations emanating from Washington, Pakistan has become a new front in the “war of terror,” and the conflict in Afghanistan has been inexorably linked to an internal Pakistani domestic condition that has existed for centuries. In short, the United States was drawn into Afghanistan through a lack of understanding of the true nature of the problem it faced in the aftermath of 9/11 and is being further drawn into Pakistan by a similar lack of comprehension of the problems in that nation. In both cases, the United States seeks solutions to problems that have been inaccurately defined, which means the solutions being sought solve nothing, and for the most part only further complicate the original problem.
The “war on terror” into which Obama seems to have thrust himself (the most recent manifestation being Yemen) remains the largest obstacle for any rational resolution of America’s problems in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Simply put, so long as the United States seeks an enemy that does not exist, it will always be looking for an enemy in its stead. The “war on terror” has the United States combing the world in search of enemies, and because American policymakers are responsive not to the reality that exists in the world today, but rather the perceptions of an American people largely ignorant of the world in which they live, and paralyzed by the fear such ignorance generates, there will always be countries and causes America will anoint as foe.
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The “war on terror” becomes a self-perpetuating problem for which there is no solution. Worse, it is a problem that ultimately will destroy America, not from any actions undertaken by whatever manifestation of “enemy” America conjures up, but rather from the actions undertaken by America itself.
The asymmetrical nature of the “war on terror” allows an individual, or group of individuals, using a thousand dollars worth of explosives and airline tickets to generate a response from America that costs billions of dollars and further erodes the very system of ideals and values that ostensibly define the United States, all the while doing nothing to resolve the original issue.
The most visible example of this disparity is the American response to the 9/11 attacks. At a cost of a few million dollars and 19 lives, al-Qaida compelled the United States to spend a trillion dollars, destroy America’s reputation abroad and eviscerate the Constitution. In this manner, a case can be made that the greatest threat posed to the United States in the prosecution of the “war on terror” is the United States itself.
The solution to these problems rests not in defining new parameters for action, but rather in the definition of the basic problems faced. From an overarching perspective, the United States needs to realize that there is no “war on terror,” and as such no “enemy” for us to close with and destroy. The human condition has always produced those who would seek to do harm to society. Norms and standards have been adopted, in almost universal fashion, that define how humans, organized into communities and nations, should interact in dealing with such deviations. This body of rules and regulations is collectively “the rule of law,” the principle of which defines modern society.
Deviations from the “rule of law” are best dealt with in collective fashion by those who share not only common values but also a common interest in such a resolution. Giving a criminal element, whether in the form of al-Qaida or a drug lord, the status of community or nation by waging “war” against it represents a failure to define the problem properly, leading inevitably to solutions that solve nothing. The answer to 9/11 is not war, but rather the “rule of law.” Until this underlying premise is recognized and adopted by U.S. policymakers, the psychosis of war will continue to corrupt American policy, and with it American society.
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