February 16, 2006
AQAM and the 'Long War'
Brendan Miniter has a piece up at OpinionJournal that discusses the long war we find ourselves in versus terrorism. It will take persistent efforts on several fronts to defeat this foe. I just hope and pray that Americans still have the intestinal fortitude to persevere and win this fight.
Food for thought.
I've reprinted it in the extended entry below.
The Pentagon's vision for the "Long War."
BY BRENDAN MINITER
Tuesday, February 14, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
At a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington recently, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sized up the progress of the war on terror, compared it to the struggle against Nazism and communism, and noted this struggle will take years to win. It was similar to remarks the president, the vice president and other top administration officials have been repeating for years. And it also is the line of reasoning that the press corps has largely dismissed as hyperbole. Many in the media simply don't accept the comparison of Osama bin Laden to Hitler.
But looking over the Defense Department's plans for remaking the military, it quickly becomes clear that that comparison isn't dismissed inside the Pentagon. The recently released Quadrennial Defense Review, which reveals long-term military planning, shows a top brass worried about the ideology of hate preached by imams across the Islamic world. This ideology, though twisted, is somewhat coherent and calls for using terrorism to create a "caliphate," a unified Islamic state, stretching from Afghanistan and Iran all the way to Spain and including most of North Africa. For a lack of a better term, some American military planners call this ideology "bin Ladenism."
Gen. Douglas Lute, director of operations for U.S. Central Command (which oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East), dropped by the offices of The Wall Street Journal recently. He noted that bin Ladenism has deep roots in many Islamic countries and that bin Laden isn't the only terrorist leader trying to appeal to populations oppressed by dictators. There are some 18 terrorist organizations that are part of what the military calls al Qaeda and Affiliated Movement. The military, he said, even has an acronym for it: AQAM.
To counter bin Ladenism, the military is planning a two-stage war. The first is being fought in open battles in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere and looks a lot like the kind of war most Americans assumed we'd wage on al Qaeda and terror-sponsoring states after the Sept. 11 attacks. The second stage is what senior military planners--including Mr. Rumsfeld--call "the Long War." It involves countering one set of ideas with another.
It is this stage of the war that President Bush, Mr. Rumsfeld and other members of the administration worry isn't well understood by most Americans and therefore is in danger of being lost after Mr. Bush leaves office. At the Press Club, Mr. Rumsfeld reminded the journalists in the audience that al Qaeda and its affiliates have "media relation committees." "Think of that--they get up in the morning, have committee meetings and think about how they're going to manipulate the world's press to their advantage," he said. It's not just that al Qaeda members watch CNN or the Fox News Channel for tactical information, but they have "proven to be highly successful at manipulating the world's media here in this country."
The good news is many Americans have a healthy skepticism when it comes to the media, and, as in the Cold War, the U.S. is well positioned to win the long war on terrorism. What that will require is a better understanding of what such a war involves. For starters, it requires not withdrawing from Iraq. Spreading freedom is the best way to appeal to oppressed people and therefore is essential to undercutting bin Ladenism. It also involves making the military more flexible and able to respond to natural disasters and other crisis in unstable regions. The help America's armed forces delivered after Pakistan's devastating earthquake last year might have done more to build goodwill with ordinary Pakistanis than anything else in the past 50 years. The same is true for tsunami relief in Indonesia and other countries.
The military is laying the groundwork in other countries as well, in hopes of turning indigenous populations away from bin Ladenism. One area that has largely escaped media attention is the Horn of Africa, and in particular the small country of Djibouti. Bordering Somalia to the north, Ethiopia to the east and directly across the Red Sea from Yemen, Djibouti has an impoverished population that may find terrorism appealing if it promises the glory involved in helping build a grand Islamic state. And Djibouti historically has served as a passageway for trade into the heart of Africa. Shortly after 9/11 the U.S. set up a base of operations in Djibouti to help stabilize the region and build schools as well as infrastructure. At one point nearly 2,000 Marines were on the ground there. Military officials tell me Djibouti is a success story that hasn't made it into the news because U.S. soldiers aren't getting killed there.
The military can't win the Long War on its own. To defeat bin Ladenism, Americans must use every institution at their disposal--including the State Department and United Nations--to put pressure on those who spread the ideology of terrorism while not being timid in making the hard decisions necessary to confront rogue regimes. Iran cannot be allowed to build nuclear bombs, because it is a terror sponsoring state. Likewise Syria must be compelled to behave like a civilized country. Hamas won the Palestinian elections, but its leaders cannot be accepted by Western countries until they renounce terrorism and their desire to wipe Israel off of the map.
The Quadrennial Defense Review points out that the U.S. now has a window of opportunity to shape the world to bolster American security. Undercutting bin Ladenism now, before it gains the strength that Nazism and communism once had, will be much easier before another superpower (presumably China) emerges. America's long-term security depends on it.
Mr. Miniter is assistant editor of OpinionJournal.com. His column appears Tuesdays.
[Used with permission from OpinionJournal.com, a web site from Dow Jones & Company, Inc.]Posted by USAdave at February 16, 2006 05:54 AM | TrackBack