Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense

August 7th, 2008:

Terrorism a threat for decades?

I have mixed feelings about a report by Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week. It makes me uneasy, but the quotes that I read seemed pretty rational. Things like this…

“Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says that even winning the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will not end the “Long War” against violent extremism […]”

I think what I like is the acknowledgement that “winning” in Iraq and Afghanistan won’t “win” the fight against terrorism. I think what makes me uneasy is the use of the term “Long War.”

Another bit that sounds good…

Gates embraces the “Long War” term that his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, invoked to equate the fight against terrorism with struggles against Soviet communism and Nazi fascism. His strategy, however, departs from Rumsfeld’s focus on preemptive military action and instead encourages current and future U.S. leaders to work with other countries to eliminate the conditions that foster extremism.

Eliminating the conditions that foster extremism sounds like a much better plan to me than “blowing them up.” However, again there’s the “Long War” term. It strikes me as very Crusade-like… as in “The Crusades.” As long as there are opposing religions in the world, you’re going to have this situation. Eliminating the “conditions that foster extremism” would probably lessen the amount of extremism, but it will never be eliminated as long as there is religion… and religion isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I’m not talking about any particular religion, either. Just religion in general.

One more quote from Gates…

“Success in Iraq and Afghanistan is crucial to winning [the war on terrorism], but it alone will not bring victory.”

This gives me more conflicting feelings than the other quotes. First, as I stated earlier, it’s good that he recognizes that “winning” in Iraq and Afghanistan won’t solve the problem. However, the idea that a “war on terrorism” can ever be won… period… just seems absurd. We haven’t even won the “war on drugs” and that problem is just based on greed. How can you expect to win a “war on terrorism” which is based on fanatical faith?

I don’t have a perfect solution, but getting a realistic and rational perspective on the issue is the first step to finding one. Making enemies by blowing people up and occupying a country (or two or three) isn’t going to help. Maybe Gates is on track with his idea of eliminating the conditions that cause extremism, but I doubt he’s including religion in his idea of “conditions.” Taking care of the other “conditions,” however, is a great start and I hope he gets to run with that plan.

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