Probably the only thing that has worked effectively in the so-called War on Terror has been not winning the war. That’s right, Cheney is wrong in warning that Obama’s policies may put the U.S. at greater risk, unless of course Cheney is worried that Obama may make the mistake of prevailing in Afghanistan.
Cheney isn’t the only one who is mistaken. In a pair of articles published in today’s Washington Post – one by David Ignatius and the other jointly by John McCain and Joseph Lieberman – the writers give opposing views on our military operations in Afghanistan. One side preaches a moderate approach, recognizing the perils of the historically untamable region. The other side stresses the importance of immediate “victory” (McCain, if you recall from the elections, is obsessed with winning wars, which must be some subconscious fear of having lost in Vietnam). Both sides are wrong.
There is probably very little evidence that anything, outside of not prevailing in either Iraq or Afghanistan, that the Bush Administration has done to make us any safer. Yes, we increased our NSA budget, we spy on domestic and international communications, we have heightened travel security and different color coded threat levels, and we consider anything written or spoken in Arabic to be a serious threat. Nevertheless, we have already learned that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies actually had all of the necessary information back in 2001 to have prevented the 9/11 massacres. Bureaucratic inefficiencies and bottlenecks, not a lack of information, were to blame. As a result, the great majority of the heightened security measures, like the Patriot Act and domestic surveillance programs, have been purely cosmetic.
Furthermore, arguing that a bunch of cave-dwelling weirdoes living like its 1299 is the biggest threat to our national defense and livelihood offends our intelligence. Torturing and holding suspects without properly gathering evidence does not make us safer either, it only ensures that eventually they’ll be set free for obvious reasons (not to mention justice, as the majority are not guilty).
The truth of the matter is that the U.S. has entered the 21st Century less isolated from the rest of world, and that our security is never completely secure. All you need is one freak with a grudge. Heck, denial aside, we already have our own domestic breed of suicide bombers (aka postal workers and alienated, trigger-happy teenagers). Yet for each Columbine and Virginia Tech, we have always resorted to giving victims’ families grief therapy, rather than air strikes directed at rural America, industrial parks, or video-game developers. Just as we’ve accepted these All American shootings as a given, we’re also going to have to learn to live with, like the rest of the world does, both domestic and foreign threats.
Having said that, the only thing that, as it appears, has prevented us from being attacked at home again, has been not winning in Afghanistan. By creating a distraction, our war in Afghanistan (like Iraq had early on) has served as a terrorist magnet, focusing all of Al Qaeda’s attention in one place and thus away from the U.S. It is actually a brilliant strategy, similar to one of those bug zapper lights. If you don’t know where the terrorists are hiding, then fabricate a battlefield where they can all flock to, likes flies to feces. The problem is — and this is where McCain, Lieberman and even the historic realists get it wrong — if we were to prevail in Afghanistan or leave, the freaks would disperse around the world again. But by not winning and perpetually keeping the war alive, we actually make ourselves safer.
Is that what we need: a perpetual, fictious war that we have no intention of ever winning?