NEWSROOM
Commentary Articles
In The News
News Releases
Experts



Media Inquiries

Kim Cloidt
Director of Marketing & Communications
(510) 632-1366 x116
(202) 725-7722 (cell)
Send Email

Robert Ade
Communications Manager
(510) 632-1366 x114
Send Email


Subscribe



Commentary
Facebook Facebook Facebook Facebook

Contribute
Your participation will advance liberty. Join us as an Independent Institute member.



Contact Us
The Independent Institute
100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621-1428

510-632-1366 Phone
510-568-6040 Fax
Send us email


Interested in working with us?  Click here for more information.

Commentary

A Not-So-Global War on Terrorism?


     
 Print 

There is more to President Bush’s speech on Thursday night than meets the eye. While the president strongly expressed America’s resolve to fight a war against terrorism, he also seemed to imply that the battle might not be as sweeping as earlier reports had indicated. If so, it’s a wise move, for America cannot police the entire globe. But America can take some actions to find and stop the major terrorists and the entities that assist them.

Following his address to Congress, the media focused much of their attention on the tougher aspects of Bush’s speech. For example, they noted the president’s demands that the Taliban deliver Osama bin Laden and all other terrorists, close their training camps, and allow the United States full access to verify that they have been shut down. But the more important threads in Bush’s remarks must be teased out from the “stand tall” rhetoric.

Making comprehensive demands that the Taliban could not fulfill even if it wanted to (ensuring that every terrorist has been handed over), or would result in national humiliation (allowing the personnel of a foreign nation on Afghan soil to verify the shutdown of the camps), sets the stage for a strong military strike against Afghanistan. The American people will not be content with bin Laden being turned over to U.S. authorities. The president knows that Americans also want to see punished those in Afghanistan who have harbored bin Laden.

Yet the real news buried in the speech was some retreat from an ill-advised worldwide war on terrorism, which would likely fail and make the terrorism problem worse by helping to recruit future terrorists. Someone in the administration more knowledgeable than the president about the difficulties of fighting such a global war--perhaps Donald Rumsfeld, who recently has been playing down the “war” rhetoric--must have provided wise counsel to Bush to define his objectives more narrowly. For instance, in his speech the president stated that the war on terror “will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.” The revealing phrase here is “of global reach.” It implies limitation. It may mean that the administration is limiting the terrorist groups it is pursuing to those affiliated with bin Laden.

In addition, the president implicitly gave states that have been past sponsors of terrorism amnesty if they cease supporting terrorism. He said: “From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.” The operative phrase here is “from this day forward.”

Such statements by the president give the administration flexibility in the battle against the primary enemy--bin Laden, the al Qaeda organization that he heads, and his protectors in Afghanistan. They also keep the administration from biting off more than it can chew. For example, Iran, a state-sponsor of terrorism and also a sponsor of the Afghan opposition to the Taliban, might provide valuable intelligence on the whereabouts of bin Laden and the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan. In addition, why target the Hezbollah, an effective terrorist group sponsored by Iran that operates mainly in Lebanon? Such targeting might stir the hornet‘s nest and induce attacks on the American homeland. Why needlessly aggravate other players such as those? Bush’s speech allows him to keep his “eyes on the prize”--retaliating against a horrific terrorist act--while perhaps avoiding an unwise and even counterproductive wider war against terrorism.


Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He is author of the books Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, and Recarving Rushmore.

New from Ivan Eland!
NO WAR FOR OIL: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East

The grab for oil resources has been a major factor behind many conflicts and military deployments because of its perception as a strategic commodity. This book debunks the notion that oil is strategic and argues that war for oil is not necessary to secure the flow of petroleum. Learn More »»






Home | About Us | Blogs | Issues | Newsroom | Multimedia | Events | Publications | Centers | Students | Store | Donate

Product Catalog | RSS | Jobs | Course Adoption | Links | Privacy Policy | Site Map
Facebook Facebook Facebook Facebook
Copyright 2014 The Independent Institute