War on Terror logic

Trying to solve terrorism with more bombings is like trying to cure lung cancer by smoking more

Topics: Pakistan, Washington, D.C.,

(updated below)

The U.S. war in (against) Pakistan continues to escalate, as Pakistanis attacked NATO tankers carrying fuel through their country to soldiers in Afghanistan last night, killing three people, an attack that was in retaliation for vastly increased U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan this month, which were ordered in alleged response to reports of increased Terrorist threats aimed at Europe, which, in turn, were in retaliation for the escalating wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (as evidenced by the large numbers of individuals of Afghan descent involved in these plots).  Jim White — in a post this morning entitled ”Stuck in Feedback Loop: Drone Strikes Provoke Terrorists Who Provoke More Drone Strikes” — documents exactly the process at play here:

The situation in Pakistan appears to have reached a point where a positive feedback loop prompts continued escalation on both sides. The US sees drone attacks as its primary weapon and has stepped up such attacks in the belief that they will create more security for military actions in Afghanistan and disrupt planning of terrorist attacks on the West.  Instead, the attacks appear to enrage the surviving targets, recruit more to their ranks and lead to more attacks.

What a surprise:  bombing Muslims more and more causes more and more Muslims to want to bomb the countries responsible.  That, of course, has long been the perverse “logic” driving the War on Terror.  The very idea that we’re going to reduce Terrorism by more intensively bombing more Muslim countries is one of the most patently absurd, self-contradicting premises that exists.  It’s exactly like announcing that the cure for lung cancer is to quadruple the number of cigarettes one smokes each day.  But that’s been the core premise (at least the stated one) of our foreign policy for the last decade:  we’re going to stop Terrorism by doing more and more of exactly the things that cause it (and see this very good Economist article on the ease with which drones allow a nation’s leaders to pretend to its citizenry that they are not really at war — as we’re doing with Pakistan).



Speaking of counter-productive U.S. actions in Pakistan, this Washington Post article from Friday discusses the possibility that a coup could be engineered in that country to overthrow the current Government and replace it with one that is friendlier to U.S. interests:

U.S. officials pointed to recent signs that Pakistan’s powerful army and opposition parties are positioning themselves to install a new civilian government to replace President Asif Ali Zardari and his prime minister in the coming months. . . . U.S. officials indicated that the administration has begun to contemplate the effects of a change, engineered through Zardari’s resignation as head of his political party, the dissolution of the current coalition government, or a call for new elections under the Pakistani constitution, rather than any overt action by the military. Some suggested that a new, constitutionally-approved government that was more competent and popular, and had strong military backing, might be better positioned to support U.S. policies.

The article does not say that the U.S. is actively involved in those efforts, but it’s very difficult to imagine American military and intelligence officials simply sitting passively by as a coup is underway in a country (like Pakistan) where we are so invested, just keeping their fingers crossed that it results in a new government “better positioned to support U.S. policies.”  Whatever else is true, it’s very easy to imagine how such a coup — resulting in a more U.S.-friendly government — will be perceived in that country and around the Muslim world.  That perception is unlikely to help reduce the threat of Terrorism.

For more on the growing U.S. war in (on) Pakistan, watch this quite good Rachel Maddow monologue from Thursday night:

 

UPDATE:  Here’s a reminder of what a 2004 Task Force convened by Donald Rumsfeld said about the actual causes of Terrorism and, specifically, the effects on Terrorism from our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  The whole Report is worth reviewing, but among the highlights:  (a) the “underlying sources of threats to America’s national security” are grounded in “negative attitudes” towards the U.S. in the Muslim world and “the conditions that create them”; (b) what most exacerbates anti-American sentiment, and therefore the threat of Terrorism, is “American direct intervention in the Muslim world” — through our “one sided support in favor of Israel”; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, “the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan”; and (c) “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.”

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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