FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Tough Talk May Backfire

Although tough talk from the president may seem reassuring, the Bush administration’s confrontational posture is likely to exacerbate the threat of terrorist attacks.

The diplomatic ultimatum — “either you are with us or you are with the terrorists” — is alienating existing and potential allies, and feeding into resentment of American unilateralism. Since the bombing of Iraq in 1998 and the Kosovo war, Europeans have complained about the United States’ cowboy diplomacy — with the French inventing the term “hyperpower” to describe America’s disquieting role in the world. In the Middle East, resentment of U.S. policy has grown steadily since the Gulf War.

Despite the Defense Department’s dumping of the name “Infinite Justice” and Bush’s apology for use of the term “crusade,” there is an air of Christian fundamentalism in the enterprise. This makes life even harder for governments in the Islamic world — already caught in a difficult position between increasingly militant populations with substantive grievances against U.S. policy and the U.S. steamroller on the other.

Bush’s declaration that we will target not only bin Laden’s terrorist network but all terrorist organizations of “global reach,” their “support networks,” the Taliban — and all others who don’t submit to U.S. demands — is already creating new enemies. If large-scale military operations start and civilians are killed, those enemies will multiply tenfold.

Meanwhile there is talk about “freeing” the CIA to do more “human intelligence” work, which seems to forget that Osama bin Laden and other Afghan extremists are products of CIA operations in Afghanistan in the 1980s to thwart the Soviet occupation there.

Despite all the talk about a new war for the 21st century, these tactics sound distressingly familiar.

What’s one definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

There is another path, which requires asking what we really mean by “national security.” Do we choose the meaning it has had for 56 years — essentially domination and protection of the U.S. right to have its finger in every pie? Or do we mean the physical safety of the American people in their own country?

A poll asking Americans to choose between extending U.S. power or providing for the safety of Americans likely would find an overwhelming majority choosing the latter.

Once that decision is made, our choices seem clearer.

It is natural to hate foreign domination, and the people of the Islamic world perceive that they are dominated by the United States. For the overwhelming majority of them, that hatred of domination does not translate into hatred of the United States, much less of ordinary Americans.

But that hatred of domination is what provides terrorist networks like bin Laden’s their cover. An example from Iraq is instructive. In 1988 at the end of its long, bloody war with Iran, Saddam Hussein was hated by most of the population. But 11 years of economic sanctions have dramatically increased support for Hussein, now perceived as standing up to the United States.

Similarly, any response — whether massive bombing or peremptory demands to turn over people without evidence of guilt — that is based on U.S. domination and the threat of force will give bin Laden and others like him support they otherwise could never have dreamed of.

Instead, we must say to other countries, “We will work with you to find out who is guilty. We will reconsider controversial policies of ours and submit them to the judgment of international bodies. BUT you must help us to find these people who want to kill American civilians.”

In Afghanistan nothing could shake the power of bin Laden or the Taliban more than an dramatically expanded — and non-politicized — offer to feed the people and help them rebuild their war-torn country. UN sanctions on Afghanistan have strengthened the Taliban, as they control the meager international relief available. Likewise in Iraq, economic sanctions have harmed ordinary people and reinforced the political control of Hussein’s regime.

Unfortunately, the United States is pressing for food distribution to be carried out ”in a manner that does not allow this food to fall into the hands of the Taliban,” according to Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state. The Taliban elites will not go hungry; it will be ordinary people who suffer.

The “war on terrorism” the Bush administration plans to wage will increase the chances of reprisal attacks against us. A criminal investigation, with genuine international cooperation, would dramatically decrease the threat, especially if accompanied by a change in overall U.S. foreign policy.

President Bush and his advisers know this. It is time to ask why they are not serving our primary national interest — our safety. CP

Rahul Mahajan serves on the National Board of Peace Action. Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas. Both are members of the Nowar Collective. They can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu or rahul@tao.ca

November 15, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Ukania: the Land Where the Queen’s Son Has His Shoelaces Ironed by His Valet
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Spraying Poisons, Chasing Ghosts
Anthony DiMaggio
In the Wake of the Blue Wave: the Midterms, Recounts, and the Future of Progressive Politics
Christopher Ketcham
Build in a Fire Plain, Get What You Deserve
Meena Miriam Yust
Today It’s Treasure Island, Tomorrow Your Neighborhood Store: Could Local Currencies Help?
Karl Grossman
Climate of Rage
Walter Clemens
How Two Demagogues Inspired Their Followers
Brandon Lee
Radical Idealism: Jesus and the Radical Tradition
Kim C. Domenico
An Anarchist Uprising Against the Liberal Ego
Elliot Sperber
Pythagoras in Queens
November 14, 2018
Charles Pierson
Unstoppable: The Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and NAFTA
Sam Bahour
Israel’s Mockery of Security: 101 Actions Israel Could Take
Cesar Chelala
How a Bad Environment Impacts Children’s Health
George Ochenski
What Tester’s Win Means
Louisa Willcox
Saving Romania’s Brown Bears, Sharing Lessons About Coxistence, Conservation
George Wuerthner
Alternatives to Wilderness?
Robert Fisk
Izzeldin Abuelaish’s Three Daughters were Killed in Gaza, But He Still Clings to Hope for the Middle East
Dennis Morgan
For What?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Government is Our Teacher
Bill Martin
The Trump Experiment: Liberals and Leftists Unhinged and Around the Bend
Rivera Sun
After the Vote: An Essay of the Man from the North
Jamie McConnell
Allowing Asbestos to Continue Killing
Thomas Knapp
Talkin’ Jim Acosta Hard Pass Blues: Is White House Press Access a Constitutional Right?
Bill Glahn
Snow Day
November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail