In an article that appeared in the July 10-16, 2010 issue of New Scientist Magazine, Metin Basogly, director of the Istanbul Center of Behavior Research and Therapy in Turkey, clearly explains why the United States cannot win the war on terrorism using the military/political tactics we are currently using. He says, “The psychology of vengeance explains much about the state of the world and suggests the ‘war on terror’ can never succeed.”
Deftly he points out, “People (interviewed) who felt the strongest desire for vengeance were those whose loved ones had endured captivity, torture, rape, or violent death.” Further on in that article, he wrote, “The effects of trauma (from war) don’t just lead to tit-for-tat violence. They can radicalize ordinary civilians and can even lead to their engagement in suicide terrorism.” Also, “Weapons dropped from the sky in the name of national security create a desire for vengeful action.”
The only war the United States won decisively in the past hundred years (World War II) required the annihilation of the enemy up to the moment of unconditional surrender. Civilians and soldiers of the aggressors were considered enemies. Aerial bombing targets included supply lines, factories, military bases, infrastructure, and adjacent homes of civilians.
But our modern leaders didn’t learn anything from that victory. They don’t understand nor agree that the conditions aren’t right in the U.S. now for the use of preemptive wars and half-hearted drone attacks that enemies correctly interpret as bluffing or as military exercises aimed at coercing foreigners to surrender quickly to our threat of the further use of military power.
Sad as the truth is, U.S. and Allied military forces are being deployed in military maneuvers that will not settle the issues that have led to initiating military action to fend off serious objections to our country’s economic and political imperialism. Those of us against the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan are considered unpatriotic and unwary “peaceniks.”
Our leaders don’t realize that the Sunni in Iraq are not finished with the temporary solution in Iraq or that the Taliban are not going to yield to short term military excursions in Afghanistan. They will end up killing local sympathizers with the Allied Forces when we withdraw our troops.
Nothing has been gained in either country but death, destruction of infrastructure, and the waste of money in waging war on the other side of the globe. The desire for long term vengeance among enemy leaders, who act as if they are not afraid of dying for whatever cause that motivates them, has increased many fold!
Yet, our leaders are dallying about what to do overseas, since the public in America is sick of war, death, injuries, and spending money that must be borrowed from uncooperative and unreliable sources. The root causes of the desire for vengeance that leads to terrorism are not being addressed. We simply don’t have the tools to win a psychological “war” with elements comprised of people who hate our foreign policy and lust for vengeance.
National Security is a very complicated issue, and its illusive objective of protecting over 300 million humans from violence and criminal behavior is impossible. Homeland Security is much more than checking underwear, metal belt buckles, and shoes and riffling through the carry-on baggage and purses of all the passengers who fly commercial airlines!
Obviously, any country with over 10 million illegal aliens roaming about has porous borders, a lax enforcement policy of identifying and deporting unwelcome strangers, and a government that isn’t particularly interested in capturing potentially dangerous foreign interlopers. The federal government’s attitude about the new law in Arizona to check out the legal immigrant status of persons breaking the law in that state shows that our bumbling federal government isn’t all that serious about excluding potential terrorists and illegal aliens from our shores.
What America should do about containing external terrorism without pursuing a hopeless war to a disappointing end is a topic for another article. Declaring war on social problems like illegal drugs, poverty, and terrorism is futile and juvenile. Those leaders who take such action show how little they respect the intelligence of the common man and woman who live in the U.S. If we study WWII as an example, we can readily see that wars are won with a total commitment on the part of everyone and a belief that the enemy must be crushed economically, physically, and militarily.
Such unity is rare in the U.S. about any venture. Should we use nuclear weapons to silence annoying, bully dictators like those who run Venezuela, North Korea, Burma, and Iran? Is it our business to intervene in Somalia, the Sudan, and Zimbabwe? How far should we go to eliminate the leaders of al Qaeda? Invade the space of supposedly friendly regimes like Pakistan where the opposition hates our imperialistic intervention?
Does anyone whose children might become subject to a draft want new imperialistic military engagements – especially when the country is reeling from a recession and high unemployment? Can a continuous invasion of faraway lands which need our financial aid, not our destruction, make sense to voters who are tired of political Orwellian “Newspeak” propaganda about military success in distant lands where daily bombings are killing local people and some of our soldiers?
In a polarized democracy such as ours, voters can’t expect results that please a simple majority. A decision to take a new tact in Iraq and Afghanistan can only come with the disgust of the vast majority of the media and the people. Frankly, I’d like to see more roads re-paved, more bridges shored up, and the oil spill in the Gulf contained rather than exposing young men and women to danger in wars that have little chance of winning friends and influencing corrupt governments!
But I am only one voter who served his country in Libya during the first Suez War in 1956 when the U.S. politely refrained from supporting England. Remember that short episode of the erosion of the English Empire? It’s all or nothing in wartime, and we seemed to have forgotten that basic principle for winning a war.