1. SPS Accounts:
    Do you find yourself coming back time after time? Do you appreciate the ongoing hard work to keep this community focused and successful in its mission? Please consider supporting us by upgrading to an SPS Account. Besides the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from supporting a good cause, you'll also get a significant number of ever-expanding perks and benefits on the site and the forums. Click here to find out more.
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
You are currently viewing Boards o' Magick as a guest, but you can register an account here. Registration is fast, easy and free. Once registered you will have access to search the forums, create and respond to threads, PM other members, upload screenshots and access many other features unavailable to guests.

BoM cultivates a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. We have been aiming for quality over quantity with our forums from their inception, and believe that this distinction is truly tangible and valued by our members. We'd love to have you join us today!

(If you have any problems with the registration process or your account login, please contact us. If you've forgotten your username or password, click here.)

An Unwinnable War?

Discussion in 'Alley of Dangerous Angles' started by NonSequitur, Sep 13, 2004.

  1. NonSequitur Gems: 19/31
    Latest gem: Aquamarine


    Joined:
    May 27, 2004
    Messages:
    1,152
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi folks, long post ahead.

    Yesterday, after the third anniversary of the destruction of the WTC, The Australian ran a double-broadsheet spread on the progress of terrorist activity since 9/11 and what has been achieved by the "war on terror". The depressing conclusion that I came to was that despite thousands of deaths, billions of dollars and the capture or death of many high-level members of terrorist organisations, we really haven't achieved much. Dubya more or less said as much in as many words last week - that this isn't a war we can win; not in a conventional sense, at least.

    The struggle with terrorists cannot be expected to go the same way as conventional wars of the last century. We (and by we, I mean the Anglo-American world, although this is a global issue) are faced with an enemy that does not have interests of its own to defend, who has nothing to lose, who are not above sacrificing themselves to further their cause in as horrific and destructive a manner as possible. The fact that they cannot be pinned down, tied to any one nation-state or code of belief means that we will probably always be one step behind - unable to act without them revealing themselves first.

    Beslan is probably the hardest thing to deal with, for me. I didn't lose any friends or relatives in Bali or New York, nor in Beslan, but it stands out as being more vile, more evil, than anything else I've witnessed. There was no justification for this - targeting children for destruction so purposively is just cold, inhuman, and speaks of a rationality concerned only with the maximum return on investment of fear, revulsion and death. Under international law, it's technically a form of genocide. Bali was similar; the nightclubs and bars were hit because they would send happy, celebrating people home in body bags.

    I was saddened by what happened in Jakarta last week. The Australian embassy was bombed, and at least 9 people are dead - and not one of them is an Australian citizen. The security guards at the gate were just doing their jobs; they weren't even employed by the embassy, as they were paramilitary police. Over here, everyone is comparing it to the Sari Club bombing of October 2002, but I feel as though we've missed the point. The people who died last week weren't Australian; they weren't part of any "crusader force" that separated East Timor from Indonesia. They were just police officers doing their jobs, like any other cop or security officer anywhere in the world. And the people who killed them surely must have known this.

    9/11 was something different from this; it happened on US soil, and there was no real risk to anything the terrorists valued. Internal political turmoil and embassy bombings have been going on for centuries; this is nothing new. But until recently, the goal of terrorism has not included the mass killing of uninvolved people. It was always about the political message, to advance an agendum and elicit sympathy rather than pure horror, and it was this that made 9/11 so shocking and so easy. No-one expected them to sacrifice themselves; there was no precedent for it. And to justify these massacres, the organisations call on divine justification, of fighting the infidels, even as their spiritual brothers in other branches of Islam disown them.

    So here's the question: how do we deal with a quasi-religious hatred so poisonous that for its adherents, the collateral damage to those who are not its targets is completely irrelevant? How should we deal with it? Do we have to become what we behold, to fight at the same level? We stand back from bombing a mosque that is being used as shelter by armed insurgents in Iraq, yet cannot expect the same quarter. Can we resolve this politically? The political connections that some terrorist groups have mean that they are almost a private army - they can meet the goals and objectives of particular administrations while being separate from them. What can we do about these administrations? Do we just talk tough and fight the spot-fires of terror or do we take the Dubya-esque attitude of attempting to turn their country into a car park (a la Afghanistan and Iraq)?

    Is this a war we can win, that we can resolve to our satisfaction? If so, then can we do it without turning our backs on some of the things we value (diversity, freedom of choice and association, mercy, etc.)? And if not, then what sacrifices are we going to have to make?
     
  2. Harbourboy

    Harbourboy Take thy form from off my door! Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

    Joined:
    May 29, 2003
    Messages:
    13,332
    Likes Received:
    90
    I would be interested to know some statistics on how many lives have been lost in this "war" (if that's what you want to call it), compared to other wars such as World War I. I would also be interested to know how one would define 'victory' in this "war". How would you even know if you had won?
     
  3. NonSequitur Gems: 19/31
    Latest gem: Aquamarine


    Joined:
    May 27, 2004
    Messages:
    1,152
    Likes Received:
    0
    That's part of the point. I don't think that we can look at this as a "war", not in any traditional sense. Which is why I can't see how we could win it. On reflection, I didn't make that clear enough in the initial post. How would I define victory? It wouldn't be in military terms, certainly; I view terrorism as the last and most desperate refuge of the oppressed, or at least, I did - until the WTC towers came down. If there was a way to end this kind of radical terrorism, by whatever means, then I guess that's what I would call victory. I don't think that we will ever eliminate terrorism entirely (IMO, human beings are too deeply flawed for that), but limiting or stopping the kind of terrorism that espouses maximum destruction as an end in itself, that would be the only way to define "victory" in a "war against terror".

    But as a larger issue, and given the fact that a majority of people understand the issue of global terrorism (or megalomaniacal hyper-terrorism, as I've heard it called) as "the war on terror", I wanted to see how other people thought we might deal with it. Like it or not, it's something that has to be faced up to at some stage and we have to decide what to do about it. I guess that's what I wanted to get at. And I don't think we can win it alone, or with force of arms, or without engaging the enemy at the level where we both draw our inspirations for our actions and lives.
     
  4. Harbourboy

    Harbourboy Take thy form from off my door! Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

    Joined:
    May 29, 2003
    Messages:
    13,332
    Likes Received:
    90
    Where would your actions against the "war on terror" rank against the many other problems that face the world and cause people to die (e.g. cancer, starvation, drugs, heart disease, non-use of seatbelts in cars, civil war)? I would be interested to know the number of deaths in the world annually due to terrorism compared to some of these issues so that I can try and put this all into context. If I was a policymaker, I would be focussing my scarce resources on the areas where I can make the most impact.

    If, for example, 5,000 a year die from terrorism, and 900,000 died from not using seatbelts in cars, then I might have to make tough decision to spend more effort on road safety than fighting terror.
     
  5. NonSequitur Gems: 19/31
    Latest gem: Aquamarine


    Joined:
    May 27, 2004
    Messages:
    1,152
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think we may have our wires crossed, HB. I'm not asking if we should drop everything and blow the budget on anti-terrorism laws, equipment and policy, especially since it's a comparatively small issue in terms of fatalities. The issues you list are (I think) quite close to what I would suggest we looked at - primarily related to general health and welfare, and I'd add corporate malfeasance to that list as well. In the end, though, terrorism and our response to it are emotive issues that people are worried about, and policymakers don't have the luxury of being apolitical.

    As a global problem, terrorism ranks pretty far down compared to starvation, civil war, lack of medicines, the AIDS epidemic in Africa and even "diseases of affluence" such as cancer and type-two diabetes. The point is that debate about those issues is usually more cut-and-dried than this one. On top of that, providing cheaper medicine to under-developed countries isn't likely to be an election promise any time soon. While a far more worthy endeavour than the name-calling and bribery that goes on at election time, it doesn't strike home as hard. As far as most people are concerned, if the state isn't spending its tax money on doing something for them, then it's a waste of money on some bleeding-heart cause. We can attack the news media for that too, but it highlights the fact that policy is far from rationally determined and logical.

    People demand a response to terrorism. They want something more than just a clean-up crew; something has to be done about the source, because people generally don't want to live in fear of being bombed. This isn't meant to be a cheap shot, but consider what happened when the Rainbow Warrior was bombed - one person was killed, and NZ-French relations have remained chilly virtually ever since. While it's more complicated than that one incident, it still garnered a greater response than just a police investigation (like any other murder or property damage case).
     
  6. Abomination Gems: 26/31
    Latest gem: Diamond


    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2003
    Messages:
    2,375
    Likes Received:
    0
    Terrorisim - unlike disease, starvation and predictable disasters - is humans inflicting death on other humans for little or no reason. It affects America and her allies directly. Cancer and AIDS affect America too, but there is no cure for these afflictions so there is no temporary solution to the problem, only a future solution that involves the government throwing billions of dollars at the health research departments.

    It is also the only real threat to the 'upper classes' of nations since it is unlikely a rich man will die of starvation, a curable disease or a hurricane when compared to someone who has a lower financial situation. Considering rich people are the most influencial it is logical that they deal with a threat that they can 'prevent' to an extent. Whats more, if they do not then it can get out of hand, much like these epidemics in 3rd world countries.
     
  7. Taluntain

    Taluntain Resident Alpha and Omega Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2000
    Messages:
    23,066
    Media:
    494
    Likes Received:
    472
    Gender:
    Male
    A war that cannot be won, but the general population is convinced must be fought, is the best kind of war a leader could wish for. Led right, it could be extended nearly indefinitely, keep people frightened and afraid of straying from the path they believe gives them the most security, and give their leader practically free reign to do whatever he likes, provided he keeps the general population relatively safe. The only thing that will decide the outcome of the current presidential elections in the US is who the general population thinks can protect them better - constant false alarms and fear mongering on the part of the current US administration have turned the general US population into a herd which acts based on fear alone. And when someone keeps telling you for 4 years that you are in constant danger, but that they can protect you, it affects people on a conscious and subconscious level. For example, even though the war in Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism in general, Bush had the balls to go there and strike, "before they did it to us". That counts for a lot as well, and proves Bush's determination in the eyes of his supporters. It also managed to fool the majority of the population that he was doing this for their own safety.

    And, as we can plainly see, the general US population doesn't care much for the fact that the Iraq war turned out to be a sham. An interesting fact that was pointed out is how relatively few deaths can actually be contributed to terrorism. To use Harbourboy's example, people aren't afraid of driving around without their seatbelts on, even though this is infinitely more likely to get then killed than a terrorist attack.

    And yet, no one is going to win an election based on a campaign that would require you to have the seatbelt buckled up before you could start a car, but a campaign against terrorism successfully managed to cow the general population of the world's most powerful country into giving their president nearly absolute power to do whatever he wants in the name of security and "War Against Terror".

    Baffling what fear blown out of proportion can do, isn't it? And probably exactly what Osama bin Laden intended with the 9/11 attacks. That's the saddest and most scary part of it all. Bush is driving exactly down the path bin Laden laid down for him.

    [Edit to add:]

    Increasing security in the US to the max was justifiable. Keeping the population in perpetual fear with false alarms was not. A regime change in Afghanistan was justifiable. Doing the same in Iraq was not.

    It's all really very simple when you get down to it. Doing the right thing (in the eyes of most) boils down to doing what is justifiable. If you stick to the justifiable, you can convince your own people and the rest of the world. But if at some point you start doing what is not justifiable, but is still possible to do in the current political climate, you might get the majority of your people to still believe you (provided you brainwash them properly), but the rest of the world will see through it much faster.

    [ September 13, 2004, 11:11: Message edited by: Taluntain ]
     
  8. Faraaz Gems: 26/31
    Latest gem: Diamond


    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2003
    Messages:
    2,403
    Likes Received:
    0
    Unfortunately, I must say that it is a war that cannot be won. To further that statement, terrorism, is unfortunately, as much a part of our 21st century global society as drug abuse, or alcoholism.

    Its on a much higher scale of course, but I'm just trying to give an analogy here.

    Trying to eradicate that completely, by 'waging war' against it, is impractical; mostly because as has been mentioned before, we will always be one step behind it because of its very nature.
     
  9. joacqin

    joacqin Confused Jerk Veteran

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2001
    Messages:
    6,116
    Media:
    2
    Likes Received:
    121
    Perpetual war for perpetual peace.
    War is peace.
     
  10. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

    Joined:
    May 15, 2003
    Messages:
    12,434
    Media:
    46
    Likes Received:
    249
    Gender:
    Male
    I think it goes beyond just reacting to rather than pro-actively seeking out the terrorists for two main reasons:

    1. No one knows how many terrorist there currently are. You can't know if you've got them all, unless you know how many you need to eventually get.

    2. Terrorist organizations, as well as active members are constantly in flux, mainly because many give their lives to the cause, so new recruits are continually needed.

    Especially regarding point #2, this is why this war can never be ultimately won in a traditional sense. Now, in addition to seeking out all terrorists, you have to focus on groups and then more specifically people who are most likely to become terrorists. All things being equal, anyone who has a distaste for the U.S., or has had friends or family harmed by the U.S. military's attacks, or is simply a radical Muslim, is in turn a potential terrorist. Unfortunately, that includes nearly every person of Middle Eastern descent.

    Also, that is the problem facing U.S. troops right now. A terrorist in Iraq doesn't look any different from your average citizen, unless he happens to be aiming an AK-47 in your general direction. The soldiers (U.S.) have no idea who they are fighting, and they must treat everyone with suspicion as attacks can literally come from anyone, anywhere.

    Finally, I think the mere statement "War a Terrorism" is a fanciful name, seeing as how you are fighting a mindset, an ideology as much as you are fighting a group of people. In order to win this war you have to change the way people think, and that cannot be accomplished no matter how many soldiers, tanks, or smart bombs you have.
     
  11. Harbourboy

    Harbourboy Take thy form from off my door! Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

    Joined:
    May 29, 2003
    Messages:
    13,332
    Likes Received:
    90
    and

    These are excellent points. Despite my aim to approach this topic rationally, I still have to close by saying "Grrrrr, damn French", thus reinforcing my own point that the war on terror is more emotive than maybe it should be.
     
  12. Abomination Gems: 26/31
    Latest gem: Diamond


    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2003
    Messages:
    2,375
    Likes Received:
    0
    IIRC the Rainbow Warrior incident wasn't exactly terrorisim, it was espionage. Although someone was killed, that person wasn't scheduled to be there. The French Agents were assined a mission to sink or take the Rainbow Warrior out of commission. Killing people was not in the objective. It was an act of sabotague, not terrorisim.
     
  13. Harbourboy

    Harbourboy Take thy form from off my door! Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

    Joined:
    May 29, 2003
    Messages:
    13,332
    Likes Received:
    90
    Sneaky French agents! Why didn't they do it out in the open, like ramming the boat with their War Trireme or something, instead of skulking around at night with bombs? I say, invade France NOW!

    Or play cricket against them, whichever works better.
     
  14. Abomination Gems: 26/31
    Latest gem: Diamond


    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2003
    Messages:
    2,375
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think New Zealand is probably the only country with a good reason to hate the French. Yet they're so nice to us now... probably because they know they owe us.
     
  15. Gavin de Valge Gems: 3/31
    Latest gem: Lynx Eye


    Joined:
    May 28, 2003
    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    0
    On this point, I think Americans should look at Israel. Israelis feel threatened by all of their neighbors (which is neither surprising nor incorrect) and, because of that, they have created a state that is aggressive and heavy-handed. There can never be peace in the Middle East while such a state exists, simply because that state will use the fear as an excuse for further attacks on "terrorists". As a U.S. citizen, I look at the direction the my country is taking and at Israel and I wonder whether my country will end up like Israel. Fortunately, we are not surrounded by hostile nations. However, that doesn't really matter when everyone is afraid, does it?
     
  16. Harbourboy

    Harbourboy Take thy form from off my door! Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

    Joined:
    May 29, 2003
    Messages:
    13,332
    Likes Received:
    90
    The threat to a nation such as Israel from its neighbours is vastly greater than any threat to the USA from terrorists.

    Some Americans (not all) like to imagine themselves as if they were engaged in some heroic struggle; they long to bring the enemy to battle and annihilate him on primetime TV. Terrorists were actually so few and far between that the war party had to make do with Third World nations - Afghanistan and Iraq - as proxies for the wispy terrorists. The terrorists use terror because they are not capable of a real war...they may threaten republicans, in other words, but not the republic itself. Still, some Americans act as though they were on the verge of such Armageddon-like showdown. With whom? Why? Can they even be bothered to wonder?
     
  17. Gavin de Valge Gems: 3/31
    Latest gem: Lynx Eye


    Joined:
    May 28, 2003
    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    0
    @Harbourboy

    You made the point I was trying to make. I wasn't wondering whether my nation would end surrounded by enemies but whether the government would exploit fear and adopt policies similar to those of Israel.
     
  18. dmc

    dmc Speak softly and carry a big briefcase Staff Member Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2001
    Messages:
    8,510
    Media:
    88
    Likes Received:
    341
    Gender:
    Male
    Uhh, Gavin, Israelis feel threatened by the neighbors because they ARE threatened by their neighbors. Since the country was recognized as such by the UN they've been invaded fairly regularly by everyone from the Egyptians to the Syrians to the relatively newly dubbed "Palestinians." I'd say that wariness is a fairly healthy mindset to adopt, especially as their neighbors not only generally won't recognize them as a country, but have the stated goal of annihilation of Israel.

    They have had a 9/11 (based on the relative populations of Israel vs. the U.S.) fairly often for the last several years. If their state weren't aggressive, it wouldn't exist any more (and, as an added bonus, Saddam would have had nukes for this little war).
     
  19. joacqin

    joacqin Confused Jerk Veteran

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2001
    Messages:
    6,116
    Media:
    2
    Likes Received:
    121
    I do not think Gavin disputed the reality of the threat towards Israel. However, I do not think the threat towards Israel from the neighbouring countries is nearly as great as it have been. Isreal wupped their butts twice unprepared and largely unarmed and is probably more capable of engaging all the surrounding nations than the surrounding nations are capable of engaging Israel. Not to mention that Israel have a big big brother watching over its shoulder which without a doubt would come in aid and a bunch of smaller brothers in Europe who most likely would come in aid.
     
Sorcerer's Place is a project run entirely by fans and for fans. Maintaining Sorcerer's Place and a stable environment for all our hosted sites requires a substantial amount of our time and funds on a regular basis, so please consider supporting us to keep the site up & running smoothly. Thank you!

Sorcerers.net is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to products on amazon.com, amazon.ca and amazon.co.uk. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.