The Shifting Battlefront

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4. Unilateralism is not a four-letter word. Contrary to the campaign rhetoric or the media mantras, the Bush administration did not “go it alone” in Iraq or Afghanistan. But President Obama did in Pakistan, and he was right to do so. However, it’s ironic that the president chose this course of action. After all, as a candidate Obama strongly criticized the Bush administration for acting unilaterally, alienating allies and launching military operations without UN permission.

In other words, the bin Laden strike failed to meet any of the standards Obama placed on his predecessor. It was not authorized by the UN. In fact, it has drawn strong criticism from some allies in Europe and the Middle East; some observers have even condemned it as illegal. It infuriated and humiliated the Pakistani government, which was notified of the operation only after U.S. forces had left Pakistani airspace. And it was completely unilateral. Pakistani forces didn’t even participate in the operation, which, it pays to recall, happened just miles outside their capital city. In fact, contingencies were in place for the U.S. strike team to fight its way out of Pakistan, against the Pakistani military.

This is not to criticize the operation, but rather to highlight two important truths. One, high-minded campaign rhetoric has a way of evaporating when confronted by real-world crises. Two, sometimes the only way to address a threat is through unilateral action. In this instance, the exigencies of speed and timing made UN pre-approval impossible; Pakistan’s duplicity made involving the Pakistani military and intelligence services risky; and the U.S. military’s unique capabilities made allied involvement unnecessary.

5. The war on terror really is a war. Some bristle at the “war on terrorism” phraseology, which took root during the Bush era. For instance, the Obama administration initially encouraged use of “overseas contingency operations” instead. Obama’s secretary of homeland security even went so far as to use the Orwellian phrase “man-caused disasters” rather than call terrorism by its name.

We cannot defeat “terrorism,” the critics argue, because it is a condition or method. Hence, a war on terrorism is a misnomer at best and would be futile at worst. Yet the civilized world has, in the past, defeated, marginalized or consigned to history uncivilized behavior and methods. “Terrorism,” as historian John Lewis Gaddis suggests, “must become as obsolete as slavery, piracy, or genocide.”

Truth be told, the Bush administration itself struggled with what to call its post-9/11 campaign. Almost three years after 9/11, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asked, “Are we fighting a global war on terror? Or are we witnessing a global civil war within the Muslim religion…Or are we engaged in a global insurgency by a minority of radical Muslims?”

The answer to each question is yes, which means the language of war is appropriate. And it seems Obama now agrees. In his address announcing the strike on bin Laden’s compound, Obama tellingly used the word “war” eight times.

To be sure, the war on terror enfolds far more than military operations. Intelligence agencies, law enforcement, trade and development, homeland security and diplomacy play important parts as well. However, these are supporting parts because al Qaeda and its kindred movements have defined this as a war, and wars are waged by military forces.

We can quibble about what to call the thing we’re in the midst of—a war on terror, a global guerilla war, a worldwide police action—but one thing is beyond debate: The jihadists know they are at war with us. In 1996, bin Laden called on his foot soldiers to focus on “destroying, fighting, and killing the enemy until…it is completely defeated.” In 1998, he declared, “To kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it.” For good measure, he added, “We do not differentiate between those dressed in military uniforms and civilians; they are all targets.”

That became clear on 9/11, when al Qaeda’s war reached our shores. Even if that was the jihadists’ high-water mark—and let’s hope it was—they are not drug dealers, mobsters or scofflaws. They remain tenacious military adversaries. The desire by some policymakers to approach global terrorism as a criminal matter—or worse, to dismiss this as something short of war—is counterproductive. As former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White has argued, “We plainly need more comprehensive measures and, most especially, a strong and continuing military response.”

If indictments and prosecutions were effective at combating terrorism, the World Trade Center would still be standing. It pays to recall that the man behind the 1993 attempt to take down the World Trade Center was arrested (in Islamabad) and then imprisoned—and that bin Laden was indicted in 1998. That didn’t stop him from waging war on the West, but SEAL Team 6 did.

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security issues.


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  • Chezwick_mac

    "Winning" is impossible until we acknowledge and confront the ideological elements in this conflict. We are in a war between freedom and tyranny, between civilization and barbarism, between empiricism and irrationality, in short, between the West and Islam. Unfortunately, Europe is gradually morphing from the former into the latter.

  • johnwp61

    I have long held that the "war on terror" is a misnomer designed to appease the PC element of our society. We are in a war for the survival of western ideals against a 1400 year old political philosophy promulgated by a decadent pedophile. Call it the war on Islam or call it the war on Islamic Jihad. But let's start calling a spade a spade.

  • StephenD

    How long before you can't call it anything? I'm surprised that we are still able to discuss this openly. Aren't there efforts afoot to begin scaling back our right to speak on this by calling it "hate speech?"

  • Amused

    Get the hell out of Afghanistan .Declare Victory and LEAVE . The ONLY reason we even talk to pakistan is for use of its territory to resupply Ours and nato forces in Afghanistan . Cut off aid which is only a waste of money . Leave the Pakistanis and afghanis to their own devices with a PRECISE WARNING THAT IF A TERROR ATTACK ON THE US OR ITS INTERESTS ORIGINATE FROM EITHER OF THOSE CESSPOOLS we bomb the hell out of them . Too much Blood and Treasure has been spent on these ingrates .

    • ster

      you can't declare victory because you are not winning

      • tagalog

        You're right about us not winning in Afghanistan and Iraq. The things that it would take to win are things that far too many of our people can't tolerate. Too bad.

        I agree that if we are putting our peoples' lives on the line for a conflict that we are not going to try to win, we should get out and bring the fight to an end.

  • Amused

    The taliban is dispersed , their regime destroyed , Bin laden is dead with #'s 2 and 3 soon to follow . That's good enough . Afghanis have been killing each other for the past 200 years , let them have at it . And YES , we can declare victory , it's as easy as saying the word and leaving . If Afghanis want to live like animals again under the heel of religious fanatics , then let them invite those morons back , if they plot terror against the US , bomb them , no boots on the ground , their not worth it .

    • Chip

      Islam ideology of 'submission' transcends boarders. It is not one centrally located area. It is as much a battle for the heart, mind and soul of people. We must actively call out the Islamists for who they are, find them, go on the offensive and make it very hard for them to propagate their lies and intentions. Our Universities should be bastions of freedom and ground zero for rallying individuals to go out and engage the untruths of the world. Instead they are places which foment hatred of what is good and true. People are equal, ideologies are not! Truth is mutually exclusive and must have apologists willing to call 'spades' what they are!

  • ObamaYoMoma

    Pakistan is neither friend nor foe

    Again, I hate to rain on your clueless neo-con parade Allen, but Pakistan, like all Islamic countries in the world and also like all devout Muslims living throughout the world, are our enemies simply because they are believers and we are unbelievers. In addition, for those of you who are extremely concerned that Pakistan’s nukes may fall into the hands of the so-called radicals, I have news for you, for all intents and purposes those nuclear weapons have always been in the hands of the so-called radicals, but because you neo-cons refuse to study the texts and tenets of Islam, you guys will never understand that.

    It’s simply impossible to believe that Pakistani military and intelligence personnel in the area—or government officials in nearby Islamabad—were unaware that the most wanted man on earth was living next door.

    According to Hillary Clinton and the illustrious US State Department, there is no evidence to suggest that the Pakistani government had fore knowledge. So the Jizya spigot will remain open no matter how unhinged and suicidal it is. The reality is, per this Jizya, the USA has been unwittingly financing the jihad being waged against us in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while at the same time also helping to finance Pakistan’s massive nuclear weapons program. Indeed, between delusional leftists like Hillary Clinton and you oblivious neo-cons, we have the blind leading the blind.

    Afghanistan is no longer the central front of this war. Reasonable people can disagree about the need to continue the nation-building effort in Afghanistan. On one side, there is growing sentiment in Congress to declare victory and bring the troops home. With more than 1,580 American troops killed, $444 billion spent and nearly a decade of commitment fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, America has already made an enormous sacrifice and built many of the institutions necessary to enable Afghanistan to resist the impulses to jihadism.

    Yeah right…a Sharia state that prosecutes blasphemers and apostates even while we stupidly prop it up will miraculously somehow resist the impulse of jihadism instead of advocating for it. I don’t know what you and your fellow neo-cons and leftists are smoking Allen, but whatever it is, it is indeed extremely strong.

    In any event, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but nevertheless the fantasy based nation-building missions in Afghanistan and Iraq that you neo-cons were responsible for have been the two biggest strategic blunders in American history, and if you weren’t completely delusional, you would realize it.

    By the way, Allen, Iraq has announced even before the final 47,000 troops have been withdrawn that it will seek much closer ties with Iran’s military to make the region much more secure. Yet, for some odd reason, you still can’t see the writing on the wall. Is that what Americans were being killed and maimed for? Do you still consider the surge and war in Iraq to be a success?

    On the other side, there are the ghosts of 1988, when the Red Army was defeated in Afghanistan and America stopped caring about this broken land—until September 11, 2001.

    Uhm…if you think we were attacked on 9/11 because “America stopped caring about this broken land,” then you are far more self-hating, leftwing, and unhinged than I previously had realized.

    Rep. Jane Harman, an expert on intelligence issues, warns, “We’re much more likely to be attacked in the U.S. by someone inspired by, or trained by, people in Yemen than anything that comes out of Afghanistan.” In fact, the past 30 months have seen a series of Yemen-linked terror attacks and near misses.

    Uhm…you are quoting Jane Harman, a Dhimmicrat and a leftwing loon, damn…no wonder you are so damn delusional and oblivious. If you weren’t so ignorant of Islam, you would stop obsessing only on terrorism, which, by the way, isn’t really terrorism, but instead violent jihad, and start focusing more on the non-violent varieties of stealth and deceptive jihad, which not only is exponentially employed far more prevalently by the Islamic world, but thanks to oblivious leftists and neo-cons also takes place completely below the radar of scrutiny and as a result totally unchallenged.

    Here’s the truth that the federal government and the lamestream media avoid like the plague, the 9/11 terrorist attacks would have been completely impossible if it were not for the millions of stealth non-violent jihadists already living in America with their thousands of mosques and madrassas. Hence, if we didn’t have millions of stealth and deceptive non-violent jihadists already living in America, we wouldn’t have to worry about AQ on the Arabian Peninsular™ taking over Yemen as for as the threat of terrorist attacks on the homeland are concerned.


  • ObamaYoMoma

    Likewise, lawless Somalia provides an ideal environment for al Qaeda and its kindred movements.

    Like I said stop obsessing about AQ, as stealth and deceptive non-violent jihad represents a far greater threat to us in the long-run because they are living within our midst, and if not for this 5th column being welcomed with open arms because delusional leftists and neo-cons alike are totally oblivious, AQ and other so-called terrorists, that are really violent jihadists and not terrorists, would only represent a minor threat.

    Finally, we should keep an eye on Saudi Arabia. Even though the U.S. withdrew virtually all its forces from the kingdom in 2003, the U.S. is helping build, equip and train a 35,000-man security force to protect Saudi oil facilities, the largest of which was targeted in a failed al Qaeda attack in 2006. If the jihadists hit the Saudi oil fields, we will long for the days of $4-per-gallon gas.

    If the West weren’t totally oblivious thanks to delusional leftists and unhinged neo-cons, it would unite together to not only ban and reverse all Muslim immigration to the West simultaneously, but also to seize all the oil fields and the immense wealth of the Saudis and the Gulf States. Without oil to hold the West over a barrel and oil wealth to finance and fund permanent and perpetual jihad, the Islamic world would quickly become too weak and feeble to wage jihad on a worldwide scale.

    Winning will take time. We know that bin Laden is dead. But “bin Ladenism” is not.

    If we keep bankrupting ourselves chasing hydra-headed terrorists that are really violent jihadists without going after those that finance and fund it, while continuing to try to win the hearts and minds of Muslims who are obligated to have nothing but enmity in their hearts for unbelievers, we will ultimately be defeated and the world will enter a new Dark Ages it may never climb out of. Again, I know you are pretty delusional Allen, but Afghanistan and Iraq are not victories. In reality they are the two biggest strategic blunders in American history.

    Those inspired by bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, as the 9/11 Commission warned in 2004, “will menace Americans and American interests long after Osama bin Laden and his cohorts are killed or captured.”

    Uhm…they are not inspired by OBL, they are obligated to wage jihad against all unbelievers for the spread of Islam by the Koran. To the degree that OBL is admired, it is only due to the fact that he was a pious Muslim and a jihadist. Now, he is also a Shahid.

    “Our battle against terrorism,” Clinton predicted, “will be a long, ongoing struggle.”

    Clinton was also an ignoramus like Bush. The reality is Bush, a stealth leftist and neo-con, was so confused that he declared war against the tactic of terrorism. However, Bush couldn’t even get that part right, as violent jihad is not the same thing as terrorism. Moreover, violent jihad is just one of many tactics that Muslims employ to wage jihad, as they employ the non-violent stealth and deceptive varieties of jihad exponentially far more prevalently. Yet, Bush and as a consequence the USA are completely oblivious of stealth and deceptive non-violent jihad, which represents a far greater threat to us than the violent variety.


  • ObamaYoMoma

    How long? In 2001, Admiral Michael Boyce, then-Chief of the British Defense Staff, compared the battle against terrorism to the Cold War, warning that the post-9/11 campaign of campaigns “may last 50 years.”

    He’s right in a way; it is the new Cold War. However, we are not at war with a tactic, which you guys can’t even construe correctly. Instead Islam is at war with all unbelievers, as Islam in reality is a totalitarian ideology that masquerades as being a religion to dupe gullible useful idiots like you leftists and neo-cons. Indeed, Islam is far closer to being a totalitarian ideology like Communism than it is to being a religion, as exactly like Communism Islam seeks world domination and the end result of Islam exactly like Communism is totalitarianism.

    Yet, during the Cold War the West didn’t allow millions of Communists to immigrate and infiltrate their countries because that would have been suicidal. However, today millions of stealth and deceptive non-violent jihadists are immigrating to the West and because you leftists and neo-cons are so oblivious we are welcoming them with open arms. Not only that but also thanks to you leftists and neo-cons, we have also even doubled the size the federal government, ostensibly to protect the homeland from terrorist attacks, but really to continue accommodating mass Muslim immigration with all of its excess baggage, and never mind the fact that Muslim immigration to the West really is a form of stealth and deceptive non-violent jihad.

    The answer to each question is yes

    Nah…not really. If you neo-cons understood Islam, first of all, you would understand that there is no such thing as radical Islam and radical Muslims, as mainstream orthodox Islam obligates all mainstream orthodox Muslims to wage jihad against all unbelievers for the spread of Islam, and because only a few Muslims are violent jihadists while the vast overwhelming majority of Muslims aren’t violent jihadists, doesn’t mean that those non-violent Muslims are peaceful and moderate Muslims. First of all, it means that you gullible leftists and neo-cons don’t have a clue, and second it means that they are non-violent stealth and deceptive jihadists, as again the non-violent variety of jihad, in which you leftists and neo-cons are completely oblivious, is employed by the Islamic world exponentially far more prevalently. Hence, the notions that there is a civil war within Islam or that only a tiny minority of extremist Muslims are hijacking the so-called Religion of Peace™ are utterly absurd.

    • WilliamJamesWard

      The very presence of Muslims in our society is enough of and indication that
      we will one day find ourselves in a bloody war, last stand Americans against
      the subverted fellow travelers of the left and the weak, cowardly trained
      government school citizens. The true answer to the problem is one that is
      so enormously forceful it may now be beyond our reach, force all Muslims
      out of America and Western Nations, quarantine the problem, never trade
      with them and disallow their presence in any and all associations worldwide.
      As Presidents are quite often to soft, the Pentagon should conduct our war
      for survival without political influence. The odds against us with Obama or
      his ilk or a RHINO Republican are a million to one but we may have a chance
      as there are some Marines in the house…………………………………….William

  • alex

    Excellent analysis and so depressingly obvious!!!

    Just one example of Fifth Column operating in the USA, and no they are not muslims – total defeat of Nuclear Power generation by the left.

    What would Saudis eat and drink, how would they pacify their own and how would they support global Islamic assault on the Western democracy? Obviously, a facetious question….

    From suicidal muslim immigration to thugs of the TSA to unions to gluttonous government – if we parish, it will be done from the inside by our “own”.

    • alex

      Obviously, my comment was re. ObamaYoMoma reply.