Not Your Dad's Realpolitik
Fred Kaplan at slate.com states that the only reason to stick around Iraq any longer is "the destruction of al Qaida in Iraq." He further states that this goal is necessary for our national security--that it is actually achievable.
This is a simplistic misunderstanding of the actual threat to American interests and unfortunately seems to be in sync with the beliefs of GWB and the Congress of the U.S. But this misinterpretation and faulty threat assessment misses the true nature of the threat facing our society.
Spending $10 Billion a week fighting al Qaida in Iraq is a tragic waste of money and lives, an action which enhances neither the U.S.'s long- nor short-term security issues.
Before discussing al Qaida and The Troubles, I will digress and consider historical examples of terror activities and how the perpetrators interacted with elected governments. Negotiation, even in an apparently intractable conflict, is a window which must necessarily be left open.
GWB is terribly misled when talking of suiciders, and throwing all "evil men" in the same pot. But it plays well to his garden of good and evil base.
In almost all cases, when conducted through an "unaffiliated" intermediary, negotiation allows for the agenda of the terrorist group to be given political voice, which is the ultimate aim of terrorism traditionally. It behooves us to leave the current scenario in order to gain perspective.
Consider the Irish Republican Army, which Ranger has long espoused as an historical analog to the current situation the U.S. faces vis-a-vis al Qaida in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The IRA started as a national resistance movement and became terroristic with the goal of a national sovereign identity for Ireland.
Their use of terror was a tool even after the movement evolved into a quasi-military formation. A large following permitted the IRA to become a truly nationalistic organization, with all the hallmarks of an army.
The IRA was and is a terror organization and was clearly the military arm of the Sinn Fein party. The plausible denial and cover story was that Sinn Fein was distinct and separate from the IRA. This is a fiction that was in everybody's interest to accept as true, because it allowed British authority to achieve dialog via a plausibly legitimate mediator. It allowed everybody to save face while attempting negotiations.
The British response was military to the IRA and political to Sinn Fein, and rightly so. This bifurcated policy seems to have led to a successful cease-fire in present day Northern Ireland. President Clinton also played along with the game plan when he invited Gerry Adams, former IRA soldier and later Sinn Fein leader, to the White House.
While U.S. policy does not officially espouse feting terrorists, sub rosa, there is always a channel of communication. Cowboy ethics have now institutionalized the "U.S. doesn't negotiate with terrorists" line, to the detriment and downright curtailment of possible diplomatic efforts.
At one time, bringing Rabin and Arafat together on the White House lawn was considered a hopeful start toward negotiations, and allowed for the signing of the Declaration of Principles of Peace between those ever-embattled Mid East states. (Unfortunately, a failure on Arafat's part to participate in the negotiation give-and-take allowed for the cessation of the dialog.)
And that dinner with Adams eventually led to the current cessation of hostilities in Northern Ireland. So much for the U.S. policy of not dealing with terrorists.
Pragmatically, governments have always dealt with the legitimate fronts of terrorists organizations to achieve coordination for cease fires, prisoner exchanges, etc. It was in everybody's interest to maintain the fiction and follow politically expedient initiatives via these terrorist proxies.
Enter 9-11 and GWB in all his cowboy bravado sweeps aside historical reality and proclaimed, "If you ain't with us, yore agin us." Now the U.S. government has lost all nuanced responses and has lost all possible legal means of approaching the "unapproachable." As a political force, we have rendered ourselves impotent.
In this new black-and-white paradigm, aid societies gathering funds to medically treat al Qaida fighters now are targeted for collusion with terrorists and are vulnerable to all of the illegal responses to terrorism, to include kidnapping, assassination and rendition, and we consider this a solution to the problem in our new penitentiary societal model.
The military arm of al Qaida did not fly into the WTC. Assuredly, al Qaida recruited, funded, and executed the attack, but it was not the military wing which executed it.
The military wing of al Qaida was a tool of former U.S. policy-cum-the devil. Rather than play al Qaida off on the Iranians as we did with the Russians, the present U.S. policy prefers that the U.S. military face both threats in a balls up manner. A money-and-manpower to burn mindset has prevailed, despite contrary evidence that all is not well in the heartland, and funds are despeartely needed here at home.
The military wing of al Qaida is not a threat to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria or Lebanon--only to Iran. Why would we remove this natural balance of power in the region? When did realpolitik become decommissioned as a suitable approach to global relations for the U.S.?
As a balancing power, al Qaida could have a legitimate sphere of influence within Afghanistan since they balance the Northern Alliance Shia propensity. This approach would address the realities of the world, versus the dreams of GWB. It would also help if we had a Secretary of State who understood statecraft.
Present U.S. policy is so blind and wrong-headed that everything is seen as a threat. That is how it goes when one operates in the dark, and everything is unknown, because everything is a projected construction, rather than an understanding. And we are fed paranoiac pap that there are secondary and tertiary levels to this malevolence--unknown unknowns.
U.S. policy must address what is, rather than what appears to be. An old military maxim is that the main attack should address the enemy's main force, or collaterally address this threat.
Present U.S. policy incorrectly defines the threat and squanders combat power fighting threats that don't exist at any realistic level.
We have failed to identify the main force.