... What War on Terror?

Sep 15, 2006

In this fickle Canada of six-month business plans and two-year governments influenced by the latest polls or stock-market prices, and where “second quarter results” are used as an indication of long term profitability, and “reality” TV is ­distracting us from the dangerously true reality, are we ready for a necessary, ­difficult and prolonged commitment to... anything? Is there the pragmatic ­realization that we are now at war… really?

Are we still so anti-Bush and anti-American as to naively believe that it is their fault that Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and other radical terrorists continue to ­conduct suicide bombings and other indiscriminate terrorist acts around the world? Do we really think that, by being passive and hypercritical of the U.S., we will be immune to similar acts of ­violence? I could list the incidents before and since September 11, 2001, but many Canadians would still believe we are safe, and that our closest neighbour, our most important trading partner, and the most powerful democratic nation in ­history has “brought this all upon itself.” Utter balderdash! Irresponsible and un­informed thinking!

Prime Minister Tony Blair of the UK stated earlier this year, with regards to the present struggle in the world, “it is not just about security but about values and modernity – whether to be at ease with it or enraged by it. There is a need to win the battle of values. This is more than a struggle against those who hate us, but with those who question motives – and whether values are applied selectively. There is a need for a global alliance in support of those values. Terror won’t be defeated until it is acknowledged that it has deep roots, and that it assumes that democracy is a Western concept being forced on an unwilling Islam. Iraq and Afghanistan are struggling to be free of oppression, ­stagnation and servitude. Muslims need to clearly say that democracy is as much their right as ours – so that people of different cultures and faiths can live together. To support such shifts requires an active foreign policy. It is not always easy working with U.S. – but anti-American feeling is madness when set against long term interests of the world we want. The danger with [the] U.S. is that they might chose to ­disengage.”

There are still some in the USA with a strong penchant towards the Monroe Doctrine that would see the U.S. isolate itself. This would be tragic, as it was in WW2 when it delayed American involve­ment at a time when their support was vital. Their involvement is still as vital in this war, as I suggest is ours.

Remember that following 9/11 we, along with all other members of NATO, unanimously applied Article 5 for the first time in its history, and agreed “that an armed attack against one was considered an attack against all.” All agreed to ­exercise of the right of collective self-defence, recognized by Article 5 of the Charter of the United Nations. All NATO nations recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan as an aggressor for its harbouring and support of Al Qaeda, the terrorists who downed the Twin Towers. Were we at war then… did we know it? Was it made clear, or was the truth a little inconvenient at the time? What kind of war is it?

As J.R. Dunn wrote in March 2006, “What happened on 9/11 was not an earthquake, over and done quickly, but a long, slow and complete reshuffling of the tectonic plates that comprise human civilization; something comparable to the deaths of empires and the passing of eras. Such events are not over in a day, or a year, or a decade. They take their time. And when it ends at last, the world will be a different place, in ways that we now have no way of knowing. But the part we have played in it will, in some shape or form, match our position when it’s all over, American or European or Arab, Muslim or Christian or Secular.”

We are still amid early days, roughly the days of Midway and Guadalcanal and El Alamein in a previous great struggle. “Not the beginning of the end,” as Churchill put it, “but the end of the beginning.”

This “reshuffling” is taking place at all levels. From the way operations are conducted against an enemy who uses the suicide bomb at the tactical level and destroys his own citizens to discredit authority and impose a medieval regimen on his people that violates the basic UN Human Rights Charter, to the grand ­strategy level of countering the radical extremist aim of world dominance. What would result from weapons of mass destruction and major energy resources in the hands of such people? What causes people to do these things? Is it not in our interest to counter this threat to our very values and prosperity? In a recent workshop (Dissuading, Deterring, Defeating and De-legitimizing the Suicide Bomber Threat) conducted at the U.S. Central Command, it is interesting to note the ­following conclusions submitted to the Commander, General Abizaid:

“Suicide terrorism is a relatively new tactic, but Islamists believe it has proven to be a highly successful tool for pressuring the United States. Pointing to the fallout from the 1983 U.S. Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, and the 2004 Madrid bombings, the terrorists see what they believe is a pattern of U.S. and allied withdrawal from conflict as a result of unacceptably high casualties and the domestic outrage they prompt. Suicide terrorists believe that the level of casualties produced by suicide attacks and the high profile such attacks are afforded in the local and international media will eventually trigger a U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East. Remaining firm, not retreating militarily, avoiding major policy shifts in response to suicide attacks, and empowering Islamic moderates with the tools they need to get their case persuasively across, therefore, is the only way to demonstrate that suicide terrorism will not achieve the goals desired by the Islamists.”

Contrary to the “shock and awe” and “quick in and extraction strategy” of others in recent times, this very realistic deduction was also contained in the report:

“In the aftermath of Operation Enduring Freedom, it has become apparent that the United States needs to think more carefully, as well, about “stability operations” and “nation-building tasks,” both of which many military planners have viewed as diversions from their primary missions… including the building of schools, providing electricity, clean water, and sewage systems, and fostering local business development, employment, and infrastructure improvements, (that) could be initiated and broadened, and used to reduce the terrorists’ appeal.”

Have Canadians been affected? Indeed they have. To understand our government’s stand on terrorism, one can read the August 1, 2006 testimony of the Honourable Peter McKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, speaking before the Parliamentary Committee on the crisis in Lebanon, where 13,052 of a possible 40,000 were evacuated:

“The people of Lebanon must not be held hostage to the actions of extremists from an organization that many nations have designated a terrorist group. Hezbollah and those who support it must recognize the desire of everyone in Lebanon to lead normal and secure lives” … “Let me be clear. It’s not our intention to shift the blame from the extremists who caused this violence and [those] who want it to continue. Hezbollah – listed in this country as a terrorist organization, a terrorist army – which is the party that started this crisis, has a minimum obligation to now cease its actions, its assaults on Israeli positions, and return those soldiers. Everyone agrees there has to be an end to the bloodshed and the carnage in Lebanon. It appears there is no one who wants this to continue, with the exception of the terrorists. They initiated the violence and they oppose peace in principle.”

Yet on 15 August, masses celebrated in Syria and Iran the UN cease-fire as a Hezbollah victory, just as they cheered the downing of the Twin Towers and drummed up death threats over cartoons.

Are we officially at war against terrorism? Though Canadians and their government are loath to admit such a depressing reality, reticence will not make the situation any less real or pressing. Though all would wish to see the situation in the Middle East resolved by negotiation and robust oversight, one must realize that this does not account for the actions of terrorists elsewhere in Indonesia, India, Chechnya, Somalia again, Europe, and even in Canada.

Democracies of the world are at war against fundamentalist terrorism. Formal recognition of this fact will make it easier to obtain support from Canadians for the protection of our people, values and interests. It will be a long war and will require commitment and support from all democratic states of the world. Our children need this commitment as much as health care for their future well-being. It is important to know who we are fighting against, yet it is more critical to know what we are defending, and how.

I welcome the Minister of Foreign Affairs to voice the opinion of our Gov­ernment regarding this “war” in our next edition of FrontLine Security.

Clive Addy, Executive Editor FrontLine Security magazine
© FrontLine Security 2006