Sunday, May 18, 2003

This is not your father's war

Steve Gilliard has a powerful post up on the DailyKOS that I recommend everyone read: Every time Bush makes one of his cowboy statements, Al Qaeda laughs. Osama and now Saddam know exactly what the limits of American power are and they operate outside of it. We cannot "hunt them down" or bring them to "American justice". They know this. They laugh at our words and know the weakness behind them, the squabbling and incompetence. The indolence and stupidity. The day we close Guantanamo, try those we think are guilty in open court and agree to an international tribunal for Osama and Saddam, will be the first day they will know we are serious. That we will no longer treat him as an exception and instead subject him to the true rule of law, in daylight and with protections. Not in the night of some jury-rigged military tribunal with laws created on the spot. As long as we remained captivated by the trauma of 9/11 and not the realities of an interconnected world, we will remain Osama's captives, trapped not only by his gaze, but by every idea and thought he issues. Until we can break free, accept our losses and fight Al Qaeda on our terms, in our way and accept a world of risk, we will continue to lose. Thank you Steve. Of course, it will be hard to convince the average American that whomping Saddam's military is not, in fact, going to make us safer. A good ass-whipping makes us feel so good at a visceral level, but in a war like this it accomplishes very little and produces many more problems then it solves. The American people, like so many in this administration, are still trying to force this war into an old mold. They are still trying to fight the last war. This is not a war that will be won on the battlefield. There may be times when we will have to resort to force, but this should be reserved only for those times when immediate threats have been identified. For the rest of the time, this is a war that will have to be fought in diplomatic courts, in board rooms, in churches and mosques, on trading floors and in the market square. It is like no other war we have had to fight before. It will make the "battles" of the "cold war" look like a bonfire on a hot day. It is a war that is in nearly every way, shape, and former completely contrary to the type of war that Bush wants to fight. The more he swaggers around on the world stage in his flight suit the more powerful the terrorists will grow. This is a war that America cannot and will not win on its own precisely because we think our military might is sufficient to keep us safe. The longer it takes us to realize this the longer this war will last and the bloodier it will be.


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