There is No “War on Terrorism”

There must be a “War on Terrorists and the Nations that Harbor and Support Them”

Why the distinction?

There must be a “War on Terrorists and the Nations that Harbor and Support Them”

Why the distinction?

Because wars against ideologies or personal behaviors (i.e., drug abuse) have no clear definition and no standard for victory. We didn’t go to war against National Socialism. We didn’t ask every German whether he believed in Nazism. We didn’t ask Nazis to stop believing in racial purity. We went to war against Hitler and his army. We took away the Nazi military’s ability to control territory, control lives, and threaten others. The war was over when the Allies made the rules. Any ideological Nazis that remained knew better than to march in Berlin.

World War II was won. The War on Drugs and the War on Poverty, by contrast, were un-winnable because they were un-definable. A War on Terrorism is un-definable. A war against terrorists and the nations that harbor and support them can and will be won.

President Bush, in his 20 September address to Congress, used pointed and precise formulations, more in the mode of 1941 than 1971.

Of the terrorists, he said, “We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions — by abandoning every value except the will to power — they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism.”

And of the war to come, “We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”

Based on the President’s definitions, with which we agree, victory in this war would be achieved when governments from the Mediterranean to Afghanistan and from Central Asia through the Indian subcontinent find it in their interest not to provide financial, territorial or political support to violent Islamic fundamentalists.

The condition of victory does not presume what the boundaries of any country will look like in the future, or what any government will look like in the future. The definition does not propose any necessary American control of territory, nor does it preclude Islamic governments – it precludes only those that sponsor and support organizations that conduct war against the US and Western allies.

We would, of course, hope for and work for a string of pro-Western, free-market, civil libertarian, forward looking countries with representative legislatures, constitutions, free media and friendly relations with their neighbors and others. But as in the 1940s, first we will have to simply ensure that people do not have the resources to threaten us and our way of life.