Winning: June 20, 2005

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Its difficult to keep track of whos winning the war on terror when so many other issues are getting mixed up with an already complicated situation. Winning the war takes on new meanings when it comes to the war on terror. A more conventional war also presents rather murky scorecards at times. While looking at a map, and noting whose forces are advancing, gives you an idea of how the war is going, its not over until its over. And as we discovered in Korea, where the front line didn't  move for over two years, everyone eventually declared it a draw. In Vietnam, the U.S. declared victory and went home. That victory lasted for several years until the other side decided that guerilla war wasnt working, and just came across the border with tanks and divisions of infantry. They did that twice. First time (1972), it didnt work. Second time (1975), it did. People kept saying the U.S. lost that war, but American troops were long gone by 1975. Even during World War II, when it was obvious that Japan was defeated, they still would not surrender. Their fleet was sunk, their cities were bombed to rubble, but they would not surrender. Two atomic bombs, and Russians charging into Japanese occupied China finally changed their minds. But by then, it was still something of a surprise. It seemed that the Japanese would require a massive invasion of their home islands, and would keep fighting to the end, as they had done on the smaller Japanese island of Okinawa. It's not over until it's over, but you can often see how it's going to end, when it eventually does.

Now we have the war on terror, where there arent even any front lines. How do you measure progress? The problem is more complex than that, as there is much dispute over exactly who the enemy is. If you examine all the people involved in Islamic terrorism, you will see some pretty strange patterns. Basically, Islamic terrorism is an effort by Sunni Moslem purists to impose their version of Islam on everyone. Starting with fellow Moslems, this has created a lot of violence against non-Sunni sects. While Sunnis make up over 90 percent of all Moslems, Islamic radicals are only a small percentage of Sunnis. But these radicals are violent and determined to get their way. Islamic radicals have been persecuting other Moslems for centuries, and their radical ideas do not represent the feelings of most Moslems. This can be seen in the opinion surveys conducted in Moslem countries. The complaints of most Moslems have to do with bread & butter issues, especially the shabby performance of their own leaders, and the violence of Islamic radicals. But when these Islamic radicals are around, you speak ill of them at great personal peril. 

Islamic radicals have also been at war with the West for centuries, and the current spasm of terrorism has been going on since the early 1990s. But it was a police matter for the West, until September 11, 2001, when it became war. The police approach wasnt working, because many wealthy Moslems in Saudi Arabia were providing lots of cash for the spread of Islamic radicalism, which led to more Islamic terrorism. These wealthy Saudis could believe, if they wished, that they were not supporting violence, only the spread of conservative, and rigorous, Islam. But young men indoctrinated with these militant, and intolerant, ideas, often turned to violence. They were on a mission from God, a God that demanded martyrdom and blood. 

Fortunately, militant Islam doesnt demand a lot of deep thought or attention to discipline and detail. Most Islamic terrorism is inept, and doesnt come off. You hear a lot about the successful attacks, but not the much larger number of ill-conceived and bungled efforts. While many educated (in the Western sense) Moslems are attracted to Islamic radicalism, most of the manpower has the typical low levels education so common in Moslem countries. But these guys make for great street theater, as it is easy for religious leaders to gather an angry crowd, and shout about how all the local problems are the fault of distant infidels. 

Poor leadership, poor planning, poor training and poor material to work with means that the Islamic terrorists have not done so well since September 11, 2001. A few hundred American troops invading Afghanistan, and defeating the local Islamic dictatorship in two months, was quite a shock to Islamic radicals the world over.  But the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a chilling reminder of what supporters of Islamic terrorism were up against. The Sunni Arab governments in the region were all against the Iraq operation. While none of these governments openly supported Islamic terrorism, the majority of the people in Arabia cheered the ability of their boys to carry out such a daring terror attacks against the West. Its become popular in the Moslem world to blame the West, or infidels (non Moslems) in general, for all thats wrong with Islamic countries. Changing this attitude is a crucial battle in the war on terror. 

After two years in Iraq, Moslems now admit that Islamic terrorism is evil, mainly because of the ruthless terrorist attacks on Moslems, as terrorists brought the war "home" in an attempt to get American soldiers out of the Middle East. Moreover, the enthusiastic support of democracy, and self-rule by Iraqis, made it obvious who the enemy was, and where the solutions are to be found. 

Islamic terrorists do back some popular ideas, namely the poor governments found in nearly all Moslem nations. Al Qaeda preached against Moslem government before it turned its full attention to infidels. Al Qaeda found itself unable to overthrow the existing governments in Islamic countries, and noted how popular terrorist attacks against infidel (Western) targets was. 

It was long a popular myth in Moslem countries that the backwardness and poor government they suffered was somehow caused by the West. Much to the dismay of Islamic terrorists, coalition operations in Iraq show how false this is. While people are reluctant to admit they have been duped, many Moslems are now admitting that the problems in Moslem countries are internal, not some infidel conspiracy to keep the Moslems down. Changing attitudes like this cuts off the flow of recruits for Islamic terrorist groups. This is a war that is not followed via troops dispositions and casualty counts, but by opinion polls and election results.

 


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