Thursday, August 10, 2006

War on Terror, in a nutshell

Q. What is the War on Terror, as frequently mentioned by President George Bush?

A. It is a slogan that ostensibly labels a Bush administration policy toward various groups it considerers to be terrorists. The policy encompasses the occupation of/war in Iraq, the partial occupation of/war in Afghanistan, the hunt for Al-Qaeda boss Osama bin Laden, and all other measures -- both offensive and defensive -- that have been undertaken by the USA since the 9/11 attacks to respond to those attacks. It also now means supporting Israel in its struggles with its Arab neighbors.

Q. Does America’s War on Terror concern itself with terrorism in Northern Ireland, or terrorism by Basque separatists, or in South America?

A. No. At present it seems directed only at groups of an Islamic persuasion?

Q. When did terrorism start?

A. It depends on who one sees as a terrorist. Terrorism has been used by various groups, usually underdogs, in history dating back to the Roman Empire. Others trace its origins to the Crusades or the mid-1800s in Europe. The American guerillas of the Revolutionary War who shot at the British from behind trees, rather than stand in columns, were seen by the Brits as using shameful tactics no civilized people would employ.

Q. What has spawned most of the terrorism in the modern era, since World War II?

A. Disputes over land stemming largely from invasions/occupations of Third World territories by First World powers, which have led to grievances, then to grudges, then to violence, etc. Thus, one man’s terrorist can be another man’s guerilla style freedom fighter.

Q. What makes an explosion terrorism, as opposed to other ways of characterizing it?

A. As a tactic, terrorism’s violence frequently targets civilians. It is meant to send a harsh message to civilian populations in order to wither their support of policies of their governments. Usually, when a government uses terror as a tactic it is not called “terrorism,” but it works the same way, in that its aim is to coerce civilians to call for change.

Q. Since terror has no address, it’s been around so long and has been used by so many groups, how can any country hope to win a war on a tactic? Moreover, acting without the total support of most other countries in the world, is Bush's policy mostly a shell game?

A. Both are good questions. So far, the Bush administration’s answer is just to restate the slogan.

Note: Following the example of Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, both questions and answers are by SLANTblog.


Bob Griendling said...

Very good summation.

And somehow violence against the same civilians, who may have legitimate grievances, by us or our allies is supposed to win this "war on terror."

Go figure.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

It's a good summation and very well done. But al Qaeda isn't fighting for land and many of its members are not from an oppressed group. Many members of al Qaeda are actually from educated middle and upper class families. Unlike Hamas, Hezbollah, and the PLO, they are not dispossessed.

They are fighting for religious and ideological reasons. They want to spread their brand of Islam, Wahabbiism, throughout the Middle East.

Wahabbiism is a particularly austere and puritanical brand of Islam that is practiced mostly in Saudi Arabia, so it's not a coincidence that a majority of al Qaeda members also are Saudis.

It's also similar to the form of Islam that the Taliban enforced in Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda members are not noble guerrillas. They are intolerant terrorists and shouldn't be compared to Palestinian groups although they may make common cause with them, but for their own gain.

F.T. Rea said...


Your point is well-taken. From what I read about Saudi Arabia its seems the widespread teaching of Wahhabism is at the heart of much trouble. The irony there is that apparently during the Cold War, America saw no harm in it being taught throughout Saudi Arabia, our ally, because it was seen then as an anti-communist thing.

Anyway, I think there’s a good chance al Qaeda, as directed by bin Laden, et al, ultimately wants to overthrow the Saudi royal family and take over running of the country. So, in the long run it still may be about land.

Howling Latina said...

Love your points and snark.

I, too, decided to reference Rumsfeld's conversation with himself and frame the terrorist meme as typical con job.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Chamberlain, your analysis is spot-on. The terrorists just need a big hug and everything will be all better.