A Progressive Solution: How to Win the War on Terror without Being Terrified


The attempted Christmas day terror attack has thrust the issue of terrorism back into the spotlight. Here is how the US can battle al-Qaeda without giving into fear and changing who we are.

First, know that terrorists will succeed in murdering Americans along the way. Politicians aren’t allowed to say that. We can, but I’ll have more on this later.

Second, we use every tool in the box.


These are insanely complex issues that have arisen over generations. They will take generations to fix. Just breaking even after the tragedy we created in Iraq, while another horrible mess was brewing in Afghanistan and Pakistan, may itself take generations.

We must acknowledge our own role in all this. That’s not just a blogger laboring under the strain of liberal guilt. Terrorism starts with our imposition of and support for bloodthirsty dictators. We overthrew a democratically elected prime minister in Iran to institute the murderous reign of the Shah (and Savak).

We propped up Saddam Hussein, a despot so evil that we were compelled to depose him just a few years later, and commit torture in the process. We’ve supported Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, where he, himself, rules by terror and has not held a free election in 28 years. Then, of course, there’s Israel. Even Dick Cheney concedes our support for Israel is one of the “true sources of resentment.” Forget the platitudes. They don’t “hate freedom.” Rather, “The United States is attacked for what it does, not what it is.”

The United States has, finally, declared war on an entity – not a tactic (terrorism), a result (terror), a religion (Islam), nor a race, region or jingoistic cliché (Islamofascism). We are at war with al Qaeda. We’ll prosecute this war as aggressively as possible. Given that there are no actual enemy nations or battle lines, and there’s no real ground to capture, this too will take every tool in the box – including force. However, every time we consider using force, we must calculate whether we’re going to take out more murderers than we’re bound to create.

Now don’t get jealous. I, and probably not you, spent hours this weekend listening to lengthy interviews and Q & A’s with the likes of Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs, and Richard Holbrooke, the State Department veteran who heads our civilian efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I heard the recent press conference given by Obama’s head of counterterrorism, John Brennan, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano.

I caught panel discussions concerning just about every geopolitical aspect of the Middle East with various historians, economists, intelligence pros and retired military – complete with listeners calling in. (Fact is, I was driving close to a thousand miles this weekend where only satellite radio is available, and it did not carry the wildcard games.)

I believe people in this administration are asking the right questions. I believe they are making reasonable decisions based upon the answers. I also believe that Americans will die. Even if the administration makes a perfect decision every single time, the terrorists will get lucky and Americans will be murdered.

Sorry – it’s just a fact. (“True fact” in Bush-speak.) Others have died in bloody scores almost everywhere over the last 50-60 years that the United States of America has imposed or propped up dictatorial regimes — most certainly including hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners, Africans, Asians, and Central and South Americans. Also recall that we’re asking our volunteer soldiers to risk death. Some of us who are not volunteering are going to die too. Call it karma if it helps.

“Hey!” you say, “You promised answers.” So I did. Let me take this opportunity to say that one of the answers is to delegate the details to experts. (Whew.) That said, here’s what else we do.

Outside of our borders:

• Find where al Qaeda is gathering and training, and kill everyone there. We either are at war, or we’re not. I’m afraid we are.

• Quit helping despots that do not share our democratic ideals. You know who you are. (Sorry, Egypt.) Israel, we have some serious talking to do.

• Increase support to countries that do share our democratic ideals, or at least come close. Create a Peace Corps the size of the U.S. Army. It is so very much harder to hate someone with a face, especially a smiling face with a brow sweaty from the effort of constructing water systems, roads, schools and clinics.

• Struggle with the near impossible task of what to do with failed nation states, and those on the verge. (That’s all I got on this one. It’s why we have experts.)

At home:

• Focus on the most effective means of national security. Have adults conduct counterterrorism and gather intelligence. Do not waste valuable time playing games with “profiling” or defending the use of our sometimes magnificent civilian justice system. Let the cynical, paranoid neo-con chicken hawks give interviews and write editorials. Children must have something to do while the grownups are working.

• Deal with the fact that, no matter what else, Americans will be murdered in America for being American.

What specifically do we do when a suicide bomber strikes or a plane goes down? No need for experts here. It’s simple enough even for Dick Cheney.

Remember we are Americans. We value rights and liberty. We value an open society.

Think how the Brits responded as one in WWII during the London blitz. Or, at least until others used it to cover their lies, how America, practically the entire world for that matter, came together after 9/11. Do not remember the opportunistic politicization since Christmas of almost every imaginable trivial issue by some very unpatriotic Americans.

We’ll pick up the pieces and fix what went wrong. Above all, we’ll remain Americans, because, as soon as we let the terrorists change who we are – they have won. We have lost. That’s the whole bloody point of terror. We shall not let them win. It’s still true: all we have to fear is fear itself. Let us be brave – American brave.

8 Replies to “A Progressive Solution: How to Win the War on Terror without Being Terrified”

  1. Demand Israel quit expanding their settlements into the West Bank or NO MORE $$$. The enemies of Israel are not necesssarily OUR enemies. Arab peoples are PISSED and are willing to sacrifice themselves and even their children. Now THAT’S the desperation of a people who have nothing to lose. We should palaver with them; it doesn’t mean we have to give away the farm.

    Get out of Afghanistan. Just declare victory and get the hell out. We’re going to lose anyway, at least in the long run. Lets cut our losses NOW. EVERY OTHER COUNTRY has lost in their invasions of Afghanistan, why will it be any different for the U.S.?

    Quit threatening Iran. Instead offer resources to help them with their nuclear energy program, and help them pump and refine their oil by building new refineries in exchanges of a percentage of their oil which could greatly benefit both countries. Remember what Caesar said; keep your friends close and your enemies closer. They may not turn out to be enemies after all.

  2. We should be harder in Israel.

    On Iran, Bush’s approach was lunacy. I don’t have much heartburn over Obama’s attempts to enable the progressives — without getting so involved as to unite the entire country against the USA. As an old guy, I can remember how the Shah’s overthrow sort started the spread of anti-western militancy in the M.E. We obviously don’t want a murderer like the Shah again. But, maybe, perhaps, hopefully … a more progressive regime there could be a starting point for the spread of more progressive attitudes elsewhere….?

    On Afghanistan, there are a million reasons why the build up shouldn’t work, and a million and one more why it’s looking more and more like Viet Nam.

    But it isn’t about Afghanistan any more. It’s about Pakistan. The neighbor with nuclear bombs. Without the US in the region to support the Pakistan government, slimey though it may be, and to give the populace enough hope to resist the horrible terror being spread by the Taliban, it could become the next lawless state.

    I was way wrong about whether the “surge” would do any good in Iraq. I’m hoping I’m wrong to doubt the build up in Afghanistan. Because if it doesn’t work, and we’re forced to bail in a few years, we could be in very very big trouble. I just don’t see any easy answers to this one.

  3. I really enjoyed this. You’ve broached a complex problem with nuance and honesty.
    ~~Sarah J (a fellow writer here)

  4. This is a strong and intelligent article. President Obama is a thinking man with a vision. None of the other politicians, pundits or strategists get anywhere near this analysis. I do believe we have to keep troops near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border because we don’t want the nuclear weapons to get in the hands of the terrorists. We need a smarter approach without risking the lives of our troops or innocent civilians. Everything else I totally agree with especially your views on Israel.
    Israel is creating huge issues for the US with the Muslim world. As the President works on our international relations, the leaders of Israel keep the recruitment of new al Qaeda members ongoing.

  5. […] A Progressive Solution: How to Win the War on Terror without Being Terrified http://www.politicususa.com/en/Pace-Terrorism – view page – cached The attempted Christmas day terror attack has thrust the issue of terrorism back into the spotlight, while the cynical, paranoid neo-con chicken hawks have looked to exploit the issue for political gain. Here is how the US can battle al-Qaeda without giving into fear and changing who we are. […]

  6. While I will agree with most of your points you miss the bigger picture, first it is all about money, the war on terror is nothing more than a profit making endeavor. Until you take away the motive for money on both ends you will never win or reduce it. Next I do not fear terrorist, they cannot scare me why you ask I live in America were at any time and for no reason a fellow American can kill me. Greensburg Tribune Review on Sept. 12 2001 front paper was the attack page 8 was an article on a mentally ill woman who killed her two children her estranged husband and her mother, terrorist no, scary hell yes it.

  7. I don’t see evidence of Obama being motivated by any fairly immediate financial gain in trying to get out of Iraq, and amp up our presence in Afghanistan. Unlike Bush and Cheney, we don’t see stories about no-bid contracts going to business buddies, and it’s not like we get any oil out of Afghanistan or Pakistan.

    Longterm – certainly. We all benefit if a region is politically and financially stable.

    Given the growing budget deficits, I’m guessing Obama would love a little peace dividend right now; but he’s not going to see one as long as he’s putting more soldiers and resources into Afghanistan.

    Are you seeing something else?

  8. Terrorism is a tough problem to solve. I think you over sell your solutions. Your answers are at best incomplete and, at worst, impractical.

    * Al Qaeda gathers in locations where killing everyone is deeply problematic. Broad statements about “killing everyone there’ are too Cheneyesque.

    * Yes, the task of what to do with failed states is a near impossible task. Experts have been struggling with this problem for a very long time. Odds are it will not be solved anytime soon. Although continued struggling is certainly warranted, it is a weak cornerstone for any proposed solution.

    * Create an army size peace corps building global infrastructure? Interesting suggestion but wildly impractical.

    * Hurling insults at the previous administration and parts of the intelligence community is fun sport but not a solution.

    You promised, “A Progressive Solution . .. To Win The War” but did not deliver the goods. It may be more helpful to admit that a the way forward can not be found in six bullet points and a few hundred words. The nasty problem of terrorism will take decades to solve and require practical answers.

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