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Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

Blind War Will Not Fulfill Vision of Peace

Author: Ben Spitz

In his Oct. 10 opinions article, "Striking Back Against Soldiers of Terror Preserves Our Way of Life," Drew Pugsley '04 makes a less-than-persuasive argument in support of the United States-led attacks on Afghanistan. Without libeling Mr. Pugsley, I hope to comment on the naïveté and dangers in some of his broad and somewhat ill informed statements.

"The citizens of Afghanistan are convinced that western civilization and the United States in particular is truly responsible for their reprehensible living conditions." I would be curious to see the basis for this claim. Or is it merely a rationalization, a means to distance our human connection to a people whose suffering can only be amplified by our bombings? True, Mr. Pugsley expresses sympathy for the suffering and the incidental deaths of innocent Afghans. Yet he also manages to demonize these blameless people by presenting the issue of conflict — that they believe the United States is responsible for their misery. This view inherently creates a distinction between our two societies, that we are antagonists of one another. Regardless of the actual truths involved in such statements, an antagonistic distinction as such can reinforce the underlying sentiment of distrust between our cultures. Through this mindset, it is all the easier for us to dismiss the loss of human life as mere "collateral damage." However, it is hard for me to believe that the Taliban is overly concerned about the lives of the Afghan people, especially amidst accusations that they are intentionally placing military equipment in civilian areas. (On a side note, an interesting compilation, "Understanding Afghanistan," can be found at www.theatlantic.com).

"It seems to me that we don't want to wait until the next disaster before we go in and destroy this network. NATO, the United Nations, George Bush and his team all understand what we are dealing with. They get it. It's time everyone else does too." Well, well. Can anyone tell us what precisely it is that "they get," how we can be certain that they do in fact "get it" and how exactly we are supposed to "go in?" There was an interesting article in the July/August 2001 Atlantic Monthly, entitled "The Counterterrorist Myth," by Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA operative. Gerecht essentially illustrates the near-impossibility of penetrating the al Queda network. It is virtually impossible for the CIA to place or recruit agents in such a network, due to their extreme ideology and difficult way of life. A case officer is quoted in the article as saying, "The CIA probably doesn't have a single truly qualified Arabic-speaking officer of Middle Eastern background who can play a believable Muslim fundamentalist who would volunteer to spend years of his life with shitty food and no women in the mountains of Afghanistan." Another added, "Operations that include diarrhea as a way of life don't happen." I would also like to quote a personal e-mail conversation of mine with Alexis Debat, a former United States intelligence specialist from the French Ministry of Defense:

"…Bin Laden's organization has a very rigorous counter-intelligence capacity. For example, it voluntarily provokes 'leaks' on several of its networks to uncover eventual western intelligence's sources and methods. The CIA and Federal Bureau of Investigation always boast about uncovering such and such plots, but most of these are just counter-intelligence ploys."

So, what reliable intelligence do you suppose that our government has beyond what rudimentary reconnaissance it can manage? Furthermore, does anyone find it strange that our primary focus seems to be ousting the Taliban, when they are not even the perpetrators of the initial terrorist acts? Could it be because we don't have the proper intelligence to pursue other targets? I can only wonder where we will stand after we have finished bombing all of the Taliban's encampments and our country is still being infested with anthrax, to say the least.

I realize that I am not proposing any sort of alternative solutions. I personally cannot pretend to know what is the proper course of action. However, I am a proponent of prudence. I think we could all agree with Mr. Pugsley that the proverbial dye has been cast. Still, I will not so easily give our government and its actions the benefit of the doubt. What truly are our best interests, and how do they correspond with those of the international community as a whole? I sincerely doubt that such a seemingly blind war actually could eradicate the reality of terrorism in the world. For those who have not noticed, terrorism is by no means a new phenomenon, and it is rather ethnocentric to believe that America's struggle with it is unique. In recent history you need look only to Northern Ireland and the Basque Separatists of Spain for terrorism in Europe or else to Yugoslavia and Rwanda as examples of state-sponsored terrorism. It is rather naïve to believe that in our "New War" there is any hope of eliminating the roots of terrorism. Whenever and wherever there is something to disagree with, there will be a faction that disagrees.

I tend to wonder who are truly being the irrational idealists—those who seem to believe that misguided force will somehow change the dynamics of the world community or those who simply do not see this as a sensible solution?


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