Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Police Work Not War Is Way to Deal with Terrorists

With the exception of Afghanistan which had a government in 2001 that refused to deal with its Osama bin Laden problem, the most effective way to deal with al Qaida terrorists or their offshoots is through police work. George Will has a column on the subject in The Washington Post:
The London plot against civil aviation confirmed a theme of an illuminating new book, Lawrence Wright's "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11." The theme is that better law enforcement, which probably could have prevented Sept. 11, is central to combating terrorism. F-16s are not useful tools against terrorism that issues from places such as Hamburg (where Mohamed Atta lived before dying in the North Tower of the World Trade Center) and High Wycombe, England.

Cooperation between Pakistani and British law enforcement (the British draw upon useful experience combating IRA terrorism) has validated John Kerry's belief (as paraphrased by the New York Times Magazine of Oct. 10, 2004) that "many of the interdiction tactics that cripple drug lords, including governments working jointly to share intelligence, patrol borders and force banks to identify suspicious customers, can also be some of the most useful tools in the war on terror." In a candidates' debate in South Carolina (Jan. 29, 2004), Kerry said that although the war on terror will be "occasionally military," it is "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world."

Immediately after the London plot was disrupted, a "senior administration official," insisting on anonymity for his or her splenetic words, denied the obvious, that Kerry had a point. The official told The Weekly Standard:

"The idea that the jihadists would all be peaceful, warm, lovable, God-fearing people if it weren't for U.S. policies strikes me as not a valid idea. [Democrats] do not have the understanding or the commitment to take on these forces. It's like John Kerry. The law enforcement approach doesn't work."

This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional. But perhaps such rhetoric reflects the intellectual contortions required to sustain the illusion that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism, and that the war, unlike "the law enforcement approach," does "work."

The specific problems of the Middle East (meaning Israel, the Palestinians and their immediate neighbors) primarily require heavy duty diplomacy and a broader dialogue; Israel can still take care of itself but the United States has to focus on the longterm solution rather than caving in to Israel's failed methods and internal politics. Israel has the right to defend itself but it has tried too often to pursue security while allowing policies for domestic reasons that in the long run undermine its security and undermines not just the ability of the United States to aid Israel but also the tentative willingness of other countries in the region to come to terms with Israel.

Bush also needs to stop using a bizarre vocabulary that is designed for domestic political purposes but that in the end only muddles our foreign policy. Even amorphous, unhelpful terms like terrorists, Islamofascists, jihadists, Baathist dead-enders, insurgents, evildoers and so on do nothing to clarify the situation on the ground that may require different solutions in different places. Also the new Republican logic of bringing up every grievance of the last 25 years or 50 years falls apart if we start talking of the grievances of the last 75 years or 100 years or 200 years and so on. Diplomacy is about working forward and not settling old grudges. And if military force is needed, the goals of a military mission have to be narrow enough to be clear to everyone and narrowly limited in time to be effective; changing the mission every six months or the targets every six months is a sure way to create a fiasco.


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