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Successes and setbacks in the "long war"

By David M. Huntwork
web posted February 5, 2007

A year ago the Pentagon released its Quadrennial Defense Review. It was essentially a strategy for a 20-year "long war" and a generational battle plan designed to prepare the military for a Cold War type struggle against the forces of militant Islam.  According to the official unveiling:

"Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, our nation has fought a global war against violent extremists who use terrorism as their weapon of choice, and who seek to destroy our free way of life. Our enemies seek weapons of mass destruction and, if they are successful, will likely attempt to use them in their conflict with free people everywhere. Currently, the struggle is centered in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we will need to be prepared and arranged to successfully defend our nation and its interests around the globe for years to come."

It is apparent that the United States and its assorted allies are still seeking to adequately define its enemy, reach a consensus on tactics, and achieve some sort of victory in (or graceful exit from) Iraq. In this age of round the clock news and information it is easy to get caught up in the crisis of the moment. But it is also important that we examine the big picture in the War on Terror and take the time to look back at some of the successes and setbacks experienced since 9-11.

Successes

  • The United States exposed and virtually eliminated the Pakistani Khan Nuclear Proliferation Network which peddled nuclear weapons designs and related technology, as well as delivery systems, throughout the world. Client states included Iran, Syria, North Korea and Libya as well as attempted sales to Saddam's Iraq.
  • Libya abandoned its advanced nuclear weapons program after the Khan network was exposed and the US successfully toppled the Baathist regime in Iraq."I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid."- Khadafi
  • Successful suppression of the Abu Sayaf terrorist group in the Philippines. US Special Forces and US training helped the Philippine army to achieve significant success against this small, but extremely violent, al-Qaida affiliate.
  • The Ethiopian army defeated the Council of Islamic Courts in Somalia. The US not only provided diplomatic cover, political support, and intelligence but also monetary support and ammunition replenishment to the effort.
  • The disruption and prevention of dozens of large scale, Islamic terrorist attacks worldwide. There has also been the elimination or capture of a significant portion of al-Qaida's leadership as well as serious disruption of its command and control structure.
  • In an impressive display of coordination, air power, and tactics, the United States and its Northern Alliance allies toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and eliminated it as a sanctuary state that allowed the al-Qaida network to train, recruit, and launch attacks from with impunity. In its place a friendly government was created in Kabul and an indigenous army raised that has been used as a surrogate in the continuing fight against Islamic militants in the region. NATO forces have killed thousands of Taliban insurgents in that important ‘hot spot' in the War on Terror.
  • The US, despite what you've heard, has assembled a large cast of active allies in the Global War on Terror. From Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia in Africa to the UK, Italy and a number of Eastern European countries (who have recent memories of what it is to suffer under the boot of a totalitarian ideology), as well as Australia and Canada. There are many regional allies in different parts of the world such as the Philippines, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, and several of the small Gulf States. Many others have provided behind the scenes help that they do not want publicized do to internal political dynamics. And lastly, there are those ‘on again, off again' allies such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia whose internal power struggles, ideologies, and precarious holds on power have sometimes made them as much a hindrance as a help.

Setbacks

  • The al-Qaida network and its allied jihadist organizations have morphed into a ‘franchise' cell structure that is still successfully recruiting, planning, and funding operations throughout the world. The Jihadist movement is attempting to go ‘toe to toe' with the West and challenge its perceived influence and hegemony across the globe.

  • The semi-autonomous tribal areas of Pakistan have become a sanctuary for Islamic militants, a resurgent Taliban, and al-Qaida leftovers. It is also the probable safe haven for Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and the one eyed Mohammed Omar.  Like the Viet Cong sanctuaries in Cambodia during the Vietnam War, these Islamic militant havens are also ‘off limits' due to political sensitivities and the precarious hold on power exercised by the Pakistani generals led by President Musharaff.

  • Iraq is a stalemate with no true resolution, or outright victory, in sight. The steady drip of casualties and spectacular civilian massacres by one faction or another has made the Iraq war increasingly unpopular as well as fodder for critics on the home front. The Iraq war has become both a focal point, and a distraction, in the War on Terror. The increased jockeying and use of surrogate forces among the regional countries, including Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, has muddled the already deteriorating situation. It increasingly appears that Iraq is sliding into a three was civil war between Sunni elements, US backed moderate Shia's and Kurds, and radical Shiite militias.

  • The West's continued commitment in the War on Terror is shallow and subject to the whims of popular opinion and distraction by partisan politics. Since when are wars won by opinion polls and focus groups? The enemy's dedication to ultimate victory cannot be questioned, while the will of the West and its allies to achieve final and complete victory is continually undermined by internal distractions, an unwillingness to sacrifice, and entire political movements dedicated to appeasement, self-blame, retreat, and capitulation.

  • The Leftist ideology of "Tolerance, Political Correctness, Diversity and Multiculturalism" continues to paralyze, demoralize, and severely undermine the ability to both fight and win the ideological, cultural, and religious war in which the United States, and Western Civilization as a whole, is currently embroiled.

President George Bush addressed the War on Terror in his 2007 State of the Union Speech:

"A thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics, and in 2006 they struck back. In Lebanon, assassins took the life of Pierre Gemayel, a prominent participant in the Cedar Revolution. And Hezbollah terrorists, with support from Syria and Iran, sowed conflict in the region and are seeking to undermine Lebanon's legitimately elected government. In Afghanistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters tried to regain power by regrouping and engaging Afghan and NATO forces. In Iraq, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shi'ia Islam – the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This atrocity, directed at a Muslim house of prayer, was designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shi'ia – and it succeeded. Radical Shi'ia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads. The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day."

Portions of the War on Terror have been pursued brilliantly while others have been poorly implemented with disappointing results. The dynamics are fluid and the unconventionality of the war has resulted in unexpected and unforeseen setbacks. It is a conflict where adaptability is a constant necessity and a long term vision and sense of context is essential.

The citizens of the United States and their allies around the globe must realize that they are engaged in a "Long War" for which there are no easy answers or quick victories. The battles and foes they face differ from conflict to conflict and from region to region. Perseverance, understanding and patience will be just as important as military and political victories in this struggle. It is imperative to not forget the dramatic successes that the West has accomplished, and to remember and learn from the setbacks that it has experienced. We are still at the beginning of this war, not the end, and the strategies, successes and setbacks we face in the future will be shaped and determined by what we have both achieved, and failed to achieve, in the past. ESR

David Huntwork is a conservative activist and freelance columnist in Northern Colorado, where he lives with his wife and three young daughters. You may view his bio and past columns at http://DavidHuntwork.tripod.com. Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions at DaveHuntwork@juno.com.

 

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