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Retired Info Tech Project Manager. Born in the British Empire. Educated in Physics. Worked inn Information Technology. Interests - Writing, Theater, Bicycling, Rowing.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

War on Error

The Five Front War: The Better Way to Fight Global Jihad
Daniel Byman
Wiley, Hardcover 320 pages US $25.95
A comprehensive look at the War on Terror and the best way to a safer future

Reviewed by Jonathan Inchley, Washington Pest

In his new book The Five Front War, Dr. Daniel Byman shows us yet another way to look at the war on terror. This book attempts to present the big picture, in terms that are comprehensible to the average citizen.

Dr. Byman is a scholar, not a politician. He faults the main approaches to combating terrorism, offered by our political leaders - military intervention and attempts to spread democracy in societies that tend to commit terrorism, especially against us. He urges us to pursue two other fronts, instead – hit them hard with counter terrorism operations and pressure our allies to enact reforms that give their citizens more ownership in the respective countries.

Daniel Byman (Washington, DC) directs the Security Studies Program and the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University. He is a Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and also served on the 9/11 Commission. He regularly writes about terrorism and the Middle East for the "Washington Post", "Slate", and other publications.

Some of his arguments are well founded. After all, there is no basis for believing democracy to be an effective antidote to terrorism. In fact, it has not even been demonstrated that democracy is incompatible with terrorism. After all, President George Bush was democratically elected, at least in 2004.

Secondly, if the people in a society are consumed by mass hysteria – such as a political “ism” or a religious militancy – the spread of democracy in that society will only server to empower the latent terrorist impulses of such a people. Freed from grievances against their own government, the people would be free to direct all their attention, resources and suicide bombers against the United States.

The book does not stress what is obvious to this reviewer, and perhaps to you, Dear Reader. We need to disrupt a terror-generating society in such a way as to render it impotent; and then withdraw. Nation-building is for the birds; nation-demolition, for nations that act against us, is all we should be concerned about.

True, Dr. Byman does have a point regarding counter-terrorism operations. Knocking off the leaders of the terrorist groups can be helpful – if done consistently and comprehensively. We may need to “neutralize” ten percent or more of the membership of a terrorist group – in order to be sure the targets include all those capable of leading the group effectively – before we see an appreciable reduction in acts of terrorism. But, are we capable of such an effort, especially on a sustained basis?

The first thing that usually torpedoes our counter-terrorism efforts is that somewhere some group of civilians are hit, either in addition to, or even in place of, the intended targets of terrorist. This is just a case of collateral damage; it should not deter us from persisting in our operations until we see the desired results. Instead, we apologize, look for the guilty and set about hobbling ourselves. After all, the civilians provide food, shelter, money and other resources to support the terrorists. There is nothing wrong in taking action to reduce the sources of support for any group that acts against us.

The author is right to urge that we form strong alliances in our fight against terror. But the allies we need are not the governing classes, but the criminal classes. Think about it. If the terror-generator society gets addicted to debilitating drug use, that can only help us; the more of their young men, and women, are zombied out, the fewer there will be who are capable of committing terrorism.

Similarly, we should encourage the young men and women of such societies to freely engage in wild orgies, discarding all inhibitions. This would provide a number of benefits. “Make love, not war” – implemented in this manner – is a very viable solution.

Longer term, such behavior weakens the authority of traditional authorities – be they religious, political or cultural. Since the terrorism usually owes much of its sponsorship to traditional authorities, weakening their grip on young men and women can be the first step in our war on terror.

In the absence of such steps, ours can only be a war on error. It is a pity that this well-written book does not follow an enlightening analysis with such brilliant solutions.

Jonathan Incley’s e-mail address is inchleyj@wahingtonpest.com

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