View Full Version : Declaring Victory

09-16-2006, 11:51 AM
From The Atlantic Monthly, Sep 06: Declaring Victory (http://www.duke.edu/web/usp/Declaring-Victory.pdf)

The United States is succeeding in its struggle against terrorism. The time has come to declare the war on terror over, so that an even more effective military and dipomatic campaign can begin...

...Now we could use a leader to help us understand victory and its consequences. We are ready for a message like this one:

My fellow Americans, we have achieved something almost no one thought possible five years ago. The nation did not suffer the quick follow-up attacks so many people feared and expected. Our troops found the people who were responsible for the worst attack ever on our soil. We killed many, we captured more, and we placed their leaders in a position where they could not direct the next despicable attack on our people—and where the conscience of the world’s people, of whatever faith, has turned against them for their barbarism. They have been a shame to their own great faith, and to all other historic standards of decency.

Achieving this victory does not mean the end of threats. Life is never free of dangers. I wish I could tell you that no American will ever again be killed or wounded by a terrorist—and that no other person on this earth will be either. But I cannot say that, and you could not believe me if I did. Life brings risk—especially life in an open society, like the one that people of this land have sacrificed for centuries to create.

We have achieved a great victory, and for that we can give thanks—above all to our troops. We will be at our best if we do not let fear paralyze or obsess us. We will be at our best if we instead optimistically and enthusiastically begin the next chapter in our nation’s growth. We will deal with the struggles of our time. These include coping with terrorism, but also recognizing the huge shifts in power and resulting possibilities in Asia, in Latin America, in many other parts of the world. We will recognize the challenges of including the people left behind in the process of global development—people in the Middle East, in Africa, even in developed countries like our own. The world’s scientists have never before had so much to offer, so fast—and humanity has never needed their discoveries more than we do now, to preserve the world’s environment, to develop new sources of energy, to improve the quality of people’s lives in every corner of the globe, to contain the threats that modern weaponry can put into the hands of individuals or small groups.

The great organizing challenge of our time includes coping with the threat of bombings and with the political extremism that lies behind it. That is one part of this era’s duty. But it is not the entirety. History will judge us on our ability to deal with the full range of this era’s challenges—and opportunities. With quiet pride, we recognize the victory we have won. And with the determination that has marked us through our nation’s history, we continue the pursuit of our American mission, undeterred by the perils that we will face.

Different leaders will choose different words. But the message—of realism, of courage, and of optimism despite life’s difficulties—is one we need to hear.

Bill Moore
09-16-2006, 05:09 PM
An outstanding article, thanks for posting it.

I hope the author’s points are seriously debated in this forum. Fortunately he doesn’t focus excessively on Iraq except to point out the obvious blunders that we’re all familiar with. The important take away is that 9-11 almost destroyed al-Qaeda on the world stage of public opinion, while our mismanaged occupation of Iraq has resurrected them as ideological leaders. He didn’t criticize the rational for going into Iraq, simply the negative effects of doing so.

While discussing whether al-Qaeda or their imitators poise a existential threat with Kilcullen, Mr. Kilcullen said not by themselves, but that the al-Qaeda combined with our reaction to them could. He used the reaction to the assassination of Archduke Ferinand as an example of where a relatively minor action by a few anarchists led to a world war that destroyed civilizations. Are we currently going down that path?

The author states we declare victory in the war on terror and de-escalate the rhetoric because the terrorists can’t manage de-escalation. Then we focus on domestic protection, worldwide harassment and interdiction of al-Qaeda and their ilk, and implementing a robust diplomatic campaign. (It is important to note he separates the war in Iraq from the war on terrorism, so he is not advocating pulling out of Iraq for a number of complex reasons).

I generally concur with author. We cannot afford to engage in an endless war with no clear cut achievable military objectives. The return on our investment at this point is minimal, and one could argue actually in the red. I would offer that the money spent on these contingencies could be better spent in homeland defense (purchasing checked baggage and cargo scanners for every airport as one example). As Richard Clarke stated we’re already a lot safer simply due to the public’s awareness of the threat, but there are numerous areas that are currently under funded to prevent attacks and when that fails to execute effective consequence management (medical supplies, radios, training, etc.). Obviously another key to prevention is effective intelligence, and a lot of that intelligence comes from having “good relations” with other nations, relations that are being damaged by excessive and unneeded military adventurism. I sometimes wonder who is driving the strategy train, our Generals or Karl Rove? Unfortunately effective GWOT strategy may not sell well to the American public, which means we need leadership with moral courage to do the right thing anyway regardless of what six pack Joe thinks.

As for pursuing and pre-empting attacks, I would add denying safe havens, but not through military occupation, rather working through, by and with the host nation to improve their capacity politically, economically, and para-militarily (military, intelligence, police, etc.). It would cheaper, sustainable, and much more effective over the long run.

My only concern with declaring victory is that the short term response by the al-Qaeda would be an attack on U.S. interests, and then our reaction to that attack. The transition to declaring victory will have to managed with great skill and forethought.