Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ending the Long War

Is either Barack or Hillary committed to officially ending the so-called Long War, the concept that the so-called War on Terror could last for a generation? Leaving Iraq will not by itself end the Long War. I do not think Hillary is ready to make such a commitment, but I am not exactly sure where Barack stands. Unfortunately a willingness to "fight terrorists" is tantamount to making a commitment to the Long War.

What I am really looking for is a decision to revert to treating terrorism as primarily a law enforcement matter. Sure, we might occasionally resort to a surgical strike here or there for special threats, but what is really needed is to stand down and demobilize the very concept of a Global War on Terror.

So, now, the question is whether Barack is in favor of or opposed to such a demobilization and reversion to treating terrorism as a law enforcement matter.

I am thinking of something more along the lines of fighting drugs and organized crime, both of which have both domestic and international aspects. Sure, there are some war-like aspects to these efforts as well, and certainly intelligence gathering, surveillance, and undercover operations, but as far as the general public would be concerned, we would no longer be "at war."

I took a quick glance at his web site and could not get a quick and clear sense of his overall view of the "War on Terror." He did not have a separate issue bullet for terrorism, but terrorism comes up under several other bullet points.

There is a link to his speech entitled "The War We Need to Win", which suggests that he does still believe in the fight against "extremism" as a long war. He even mentions "taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan" and that "There must be no safe-haven for terrorists who threaten America", suggesting that although Iraq may have been a mistake, he does not view the overall War on Terror as something that he as president needs to declare an end to. He uses strong language to promote the U.S. as "the relentless opponent of terror and tyranny", but fails to back off from the now-entrenched support for the so-called Long War. When he uses language like "The terrorists are at war with us. The threat is from violent extremists", it is difficult to imagine that Barack opposes the so-called Long War. He also talks about sending more troops to Afghanistan, failing to recognize that military action is no more a solution in Afghanistan than it was perceived to be in Iraq. He also lapses into the rhetoric of "They are plotting to strike again."

Barack says that "When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world's most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland.", but that sounds a lot like a continuation of the Long War rather than a commitment to ending it in the near term.

I would also like to see the so-called Department of Homeland Security disbanded, with each of its organizational units reassigned to their former homes in the federal bureaucracy. Yes, we need better cooperation within and across agencies on intelligence and security matters, but those issues were not automatically resolved by tossing organizational units into one big soup bowl.

Now I know that Hillary is not committed to my vision, but is Barack really offering a vision that is that much better? It appears that the answer is no.

Declaring an end to the so-called and misguided Long War is an urgent need for the country, but it appears that none of the candidates for president are committed to pulling to plug on this dangerous diversion of blood and treasure and attention.

-- Jack Krupansky


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