“National Strategy for Combatting Terrorism” released

The White House has just released its 2006 National Strategy for Combatting Terrorism. The page on “Today’s Terrorist Enemy” again acknowledges that al-Qaeda has only transformed over the past five years from a tight cadre organization around Osama bin Laden to a “transnational movement”. Yet it says this while avoiding overt recognition of the obvious implication that this constitutes a massive expansion of al-Qaeda’s numbers, power and reach (if not of Osama bin Laden’s direct control), and that the Global War on Terrorism has only backfired horribly (if we are to accept its apparent aims as the intended ones.)

This is actually a fairly sophisticated piece of propaganda, and not only for acknowledging the reality of al-Qaeda’s expansion while seeming not to. More insidious is the skillful interweaving of lies and truth, all the better for making them pracitically indistinguishable to the slow-witted. The at least partial truth that terrorists “exploit Islam to serve a violent political vision” is coupled with the charge of a “false belief that the United States is the cause of most problems affecting Muslims today.” The weasel word “most” allows the document to avoid taking responsibility for legitimate Muslim rage against the US (for funding the occupation of Palestine, repeatedly raining death down on Iraq and finally seizing it, propping up oppressive regimes in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Pakistan, etc.) And of course the idiot left also falls prey to this deliberate confusion, deciding that if the “false belief” is a lie, then the harnassing of Muslim rage by totalitarian Islamism must also be a lie.

Today’s Terrorist Enemy

The United States and our partners continue to pursue a significantly degraded but still dangerous al-Qaida network. Yet the enemy we face today in the War on Terror is not the same enemy we faced on September 11. Our effective counterterrorist efforts, in part, have forced the terrorists to evolve and modify their ways of doing business. Our understanding of the enemy has evolved as well. Today, the principal terrorist enemy confronting the United States is a transnational movement of extremist organizations, networks, and individuals – and their state and non-state supporters – which have in common that they exploit Islam and use terrorism for ideological ends.

This transnational movement is not monolithic. Although al-Qaida functions as the movement’s vanguard and remains, along with its affiliate groups and those inspired by them, the most dangerous present manifestation of the enemy, the movement is not controlled by any single individual, group, or state. What unites the movement is a common vision, a common set of ideas about the nature and destiny of the world, and a common goal of ushering in totalitarian rule. What unites the movement is the ideology of oppression, violence, and hate.

Our terrorist enemies exploit Islam to serve a violent political vision. Fueled by a radical ideology and a false belief that the United States is the cause of most problems affecting Muslims today, our enemies seek to expel Western power and influence from the Muslim world and establish regimes that rule according to a violent and intolerant distortion of Islam. As illustrated by Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, such regimes would deny all political and religious freedoms and serve as sanctuaries for extremists to launch additional attacks against not only the United States, its allies and partners, but the Muslim world itself. Some among the enemy, particularly al-Qaida, harbor even greater territorial and geopolitical ambitions and aim to establish a single, pan-Islamic, totalitarian regime that stretches from Spain to Southeast Asia.

This enemy movement seeks to create and exploit a division between the Muslim and non-Muslim world and within the Muslim world itself. The terrorists distort the idea of jihad into a call for violence and murder against those they regard as apostates or unbelievers, including all those who disagree with them. Most of the terrorist attacks since September 11 have occurred in Muslim countries – and most of the victims have been Muslims.

In addition to this principal enemy, a host of other groups and individuals also use terror and violence against innocent civilians to pursue their political objectives. Though their motives and goals may be different, and often include secular and more narrow territorial aims, they threaten our interests and those of our partners as they attempt to overthrow civil order and replace freedom with conflict and intolerance. Their terrorist tactics ensure that they are enemies of humanity regardless of their goals and no matter where they operate.

For our terrorist enemies, violence is not only justified, it is necessary and even glorified – judged the only means to achieve a world vision darkened by hate, fear, and oppression. They use suicide bombings, beheadings, and other atrocities against innocent people as a means to promote their creed. Our enemy’s demonstrated indifference to human life and desire to inflict catastrophic damage on the United States and its friends and allies around the world have fueled their desire for weapons of mass destruction. We cannot permit the world’s most dangerous terrorists and their regime sponsors to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.

For the enemy, there is no peaceful coexistence with those who do not subscribe to their distorted and violent view of the world. They accept no dissent and tolerate no alternative points of view. Ultimately, the terrorist enemy we face threatens global peace, international security and prosperity, the rising tide of democracy, and the right of all people to live without fear of indiscriminate violence.

See our last post on the politics of the GWOT.

  1. Corrective perspective
    A sobering assessment is provided by the new Project on Defense Alternatives study, “Pyrrhus on the Potomac: How America’s post-9/11 wars have undermined US national security.” Among the findings:

    *The insurgency in Iraq is today conducting attacks at a higher rate than ever before. In Afghanistan, there has been a dramatic resurgence of Taliban activity, with the incidence of attacks up 74 percent from last year and the fatality rate up 140 percent, according to the Rand-MIPT terrorism database. There is little evidence of these problems abating.

    *Afghanistan is a “ten block democracy” where the writ of the central government barely extends beyond the capital before ceding to warlord rule. The country has become, once again, the world’s leading producer of opium poppy, now providing approximately 92 percent of the world supply. Production is higher today than ever before–59 percent higher than last year (UNODC, 2006). Eradication efforts have done little more than stimulate support for insurgency.

    *Iraq is characterized by anarchy in governance, national fragmentation, and civil strife. Insurgency and high-levels of intercommunal violence affect areas containing 50 percent of the population (if Basra is included). Death squads operate inside the security services and the penal system does not meet minimum human rights standards.

    The human cost of war in the two countries has been substantial. A reasonable estimate is that, at minimum, 70,000 Iraqis and Afghanis have died due to war-related violence (including excess criminal violence).

    *The rate of terrorism fatalities [worldwide, based on a RAND terrorism database] for the 59-month period following 11 September 2001 is 250 percent that of the 44.5 month period preceding and including the 9/11 attacks. This figure has been adjusted to account for the different length of the two periods and it implies an increase in average monthly fatalities of 150 percent. (Only in January 1998 did the database begin to include both national and international terrorism incidents.)

    *The rate of terrorist incidents for the post-9/11 period is 268 percent that of the period prior to and including 11 September 2001. This implies a 167 percent increase in what might be called the average monthly rate of incidents.

    *A fair portion of the increased activity is related to the war in Iraq–but not all. Removing Iraq from the picture shows an increase in the average monthly rate of terrorism fatalities of more than 10 percent for the post-9/11 period. The increase in the rate of incidents not counting Iraq is 75 percent.