Fighting Yesterday's War, Today
Bush's strategy for fighting his "war on terror" (the very term is irritating in its vagueness: how do you make war on a tactic
?), even were it not based on the absurd, tragic, and illegal invasion of Iraq, would still be misguided and ineffective. Why? Because Bush continues to focus on nation-states as targets. And even if Bush managed to act sensibly and turn his attention more towards, say, Saudi Arabia, he still would be fighting yesterday's war.
As reported in Time yesterday:
Last week, CIA director George Tenet told the Senate that al-Qaeda has morphed into a loose and expanding association of regional terror cells linked less by chains of command and communication than by a common vision of jihad against the U.S. The growing embrace of the movement's goals and tactics by terror cells with no direct operational connection to bin Laden's network, said Tenet, means that "a serious threat will remain for the foreseeable future, with or without al-Qaeda in the picture."
When terror outrages from Madrid and Casablanca, through Istanbul and Baghdad, to Bali and Jakarta, are described as the work of "al-Qaeda," the name describes a broad franchise of terrorist jihad against the U.S. and its allies adopted by scores of local Islamist groups.
The attack in Madrid seems to underscore Tenet's point strongly. Yes, the US needs to do everything it can to apprehend terrorists planning attacks and yes, the US needs to work hard to disrupt the systems by which terrorists acquire money and weapons.
However, the primary factor fueling the "war on terror" is this "common vision" among those who oppose America. If there is no chain of command, you cannot disrupt the chain of command. To defeat this opponent, we have to break up the "common vision." We have to provide reasons NOT to attack the US; instead, we invade other nations. And the occupation of Iraq, whatever else it does, most certainly provides plenty of reasons TO attack the US, on a daily basis.
Update: The anti-West forces in Iraq, however, seem to be doing a very good job of fighting today's war. As Juan Cole writes
The recent bombings seem to me driven by a strategy of harming the investment climate in Iraq. This strategy becomes important to the insurgency precisely because the Coalition Provisional Authority is gearing up to spend $5 billion of the $18 billion in reconstruction money that Congress authorized last fall. Many CPA officials are convinced that this huge influx of cash will turn the situation around in Iraq, providing employment and stimulating the economy, and draining support from the guerrillas. But the CPA can't disburse the money into the economy if contractors and subcontractors are afraid to operate in Iraq. The al-Jihad al-Islami of Ayman al-Zawahiri had pursued a similar campaign in Egypt in the 1990s, aimed at destroying the tourist industry, which is a big source of foreign exchange for the Mubarak government. The similarity in methods does not prove that the hotel bombings are being done by foreign jihadi fighters, since it is an obvious strategy for anyone who wanted to disrupt Iraq. Whoever is behind it is using terror to wage economic warfare against the CPA and its Iraqi allies.