Saturday, November 29, 2008

Steve Weissman: Mumbai to Obama: End Bush's War on Terror, a Truthout Exclusive

Exhausted commandos took a break after the hotel went up in flames.
(Photo and caption courtesy Amiran White for The New York Times.)

In a exclusive (link in the title), Steve Weissman calls for President-elect Barack Obama to allow the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India's financial capital, to inform him and to serve as a referendum for the Bush administration's failure to adequately address the threat of terrorism plaguing the world today. It's good advice. And while Weissman's article is a decent one, it's hardly what one would call a galvanizing one since it contains many truths that have been known to heads of state and policy-makers for almost 130 years.

They're truths about the essential nature of terrorism and the best but hardly guaranteed methods to combat it. Multilateralism. Working with host countries instead of invading and endlessly occupying them. Use our financial resources to prop up those economies that have been undermined by terrorism.

Basic, simple, commonsensical solutions that, amazingly, have been lost on this outgoing administration that sought to go it alone. Terrorism has been regarded as any conventional war, with law enforcement thrown in for good measure. The answer to combating terrorism is a tricky one but it cannot be preemptively countered through law enforcement as if terrorism is a mere crime (or thoughtcrime, since we're talking about people of differing nationalities united by the same antiAmerican/antiZionist mindset).

If the Obama administration is staffed with competent national security advisors, then they already know that terrorism is an ideology that doesn't come with easily identifiable uniforms or identification cards. Fighting an ideology through conventional military means is as futile as trying to gather smoke with a pitchfork. It cannot and will not be won with catchy phrases such as "the Global War on Terror" and Worldwide Struggle Against Extremism.

The so-called "war on terror" ought to be fought on an intelligence, an IT and a financial front and the Central Intelligence Agency and the 15 other agencies under it will justifiably greet this incoming administration with a great deal of skepticism after the dark days of Dick Cheney making unprecedented visits to Langley and twisting the arms of junior intelligence analysts into telling him only what he wanted to hear (a common but ultimately self-defeating mindset that seemed to dominate the interrogation process in Bagram, Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere).

Those who have been covering the Mumbai terrorist attacks that thus far have claimed nearly 200 lives have already called this "India's September 11th". It is not a September 11th in any way, shape or form. Far from being the blitzkrieg of the real 9/11, the siege began the day before Thanksgiving and the last of the terrorists were killed by Indian commandos just today.

However it was no coincidence that the well-coordinated attacks took place in India's financial capital. The al Qaida terrorists assumed to have carried out 9/11 primarily hit the World Trade Center, to many in the Muslim world the very epicenter of American finance. They knew where to strike us where it would hurt the most: Close to Wall Street. For good measure, the Pentagon was also hit while our Defense Secretary was in the building.

The tactics and the role-players were different. Unlike 9/11, Jews, Americans and British citizens were targeted by the insurgents. But the mindset was essentially the same. Divide through terror without apparently any thought at all about an exit strategy or delusions of survival.

President-elect Obama, with the aid of his advisors, has to completely rethink the American response to terrorism, which would essentially amount to a paradigm shift in a crucial facet of American foreign policy, one given priority only by fits and starts with the current administration that has curiously shown a shocking lack of consistent commitment toward getting a firm and capable handle on the terrorist threat.


At November 30, 2008 at 11:01 AM, Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

counter terrorism really hasn't changed all that much since gaius marius in spain, pompei magnus in africa, or julius ceasar in gaul. if you can mount something close to an adequate defense to make the people you're trying to protect reasonably safe and couple that with vigorous pursuit and prosecution of attackers you will tend to win.

guerrilla movements flourish in the dire conditions of slums and other various backwaters. the attack on the opulent hotels was born in those hideous slums.

people respond to governments that attempt to make the lives of the people better. american terror will be coming from two places that i can see bubbling and ready to spill over. the white trailer parks of the south, where they will fly their "symbol of heritage" stars and bars as they pound their rage out upon the only targets they can manage, those of darker skins and differing faiths. the other will be those tried and true breeding grounds of violence and despair, the city slums. one rising will provoke another.

obama has the chance to slow this down. we can only hope he makes some progress.


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