Bill Arkin on the "Long War"
Now, I haven't read the Pentagon's Quadrennial Review. I don't plan to, either. The Washington Post's Bill Arkin has, however, and responds to the theory that we're in the early stages of what the document calls, ominously, "Long War." That's right, no longer War on Terror, but Long War. A twenty year military engagement confronting "extremist nextworks," according to Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Let's turn it over to Arkin:
Let me be clear that there are two reasons I reject the long war characterization: I think it is intellectually shallow to compare terrorists, "extremist networks," Islamic Jihadists, or radical Islam with our enemies during the Cold War or the Second World War, who could have indeed destroyed our societies. Intellectually shallow sounds like a pretty weak attack, but I mean to suggest that this administration has the wrong vision of both the severity of the threat terrorists present to our societies.Not only is Long War a vague exercise against an amigious string of enemies against which victory could hardly be quantified, but its time-frame can only be acknowledged as arbitrary to the point of meaningless: does the expiration of the 20 years mean the total eradication of extremism from the face of the earth, or is it merely a tool to further rationalize the increasingly militaristic, secretive and mendacious executive branch? Arkin has his own theory:
Terrorists can not destroy America. Every day we articulate a long war, every time we pretend we are fighting for our survival we not only confer greater power and importance to terrorists than they deserve but we also at the same time act as their main recruiting agent by suggesting that they have the slightest potential for success.
The Bush administration has been in panic mode since 9/11, and though it has tripped upon sometimes improved articulations of what it is doing to respond to the scourge of modern terrorism, it has both the wrong vision of the severity of the threat and it has shown itself, in four years of fighting, that no matter how much it articulates that the United States and the world must use all aspects of their power to thwart and defeat terrorism, the Bush administration is only comfortable with the military response, and it is only really happy with secret operations.
This is bureaucratic sleight of hand to make the Iraq war seem as if it was somehow planned all along, a kind of losing Philippine campaign of the big long war where modern day MacArthur's can not only exclaim that they'll be back but that they are nimble enough to come back in the course of the same battle.Giblets has finally taken over the DoD.
Here is another danger of staying fighting in Iraq: It provides the fuel to foolishly retool our military to fight the last war while stupidly allowing the administration to abuse the military institution by saddling it with the mission of solving all problems, even ones that are self-created.