The Washington Post ran an interesting article about a recent study by the Rand Corp that shows the problems with a “war on terror.”
The Bush administration’s terrorism-fighting strategy has not significantly undermined al-Qaeda’s capabilities, according to a major new study that argues the struggle against terrorism is better waged by law enforcement agencies than by armies.
The study by the nonpartisan Rand Corp. also contends that the administration committed a fundamental error in portraying the conflict with al-Qaeda as a “war on terrorism.” The phrase falsely suggests that there can be a battlefield solution to terrorism, and symbolically conveys warrior status on terrorists, it said.
“Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors,” authors Seth Jones and Martin Libicki write.
“In most cases, military force isn’t the best instrument,” said Jones, a terrorism expert and the report’s lead author.
The current war on terror has not disabled al-Qaeda. In fact, al-Qaeda has been more successful since September 11 than it was before.
Addressing the U.S. campaign against al-Qaeda, the study noted successes in disrupting terrorist financing, but said the group remains a formidable foe. Al-Qaeda is “strong and competent,” and has succeeded in carrying out more violent attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, than in all of its previous history.
If military solutions don’t work, what should we do?
The authors call for a strategy that includes a greater reliance on law enforcement and intelligence agencies in disrupting the group’s networks and in arresting its leaders. They say that when military forces are needed, the emphasis should be on local troops, which understand the terrain and culture and tend to have greater legitimacy.
In Muslim countries in particular, there should be a “light U.S. military footprint or none at all,” the report contends.
“The U.S. military can play a critical role in building indigenous capacity,” it said, “but should generally resist being drawn into combat operations in Muslim societies, since its presence is likely to increase terrorist recruitment.”