Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” –Sun Tzu, The Art of War
We are in a perpetual, self-declared War on Terror, with no end in sight. North Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Middle East are more unstable now than they were when the U.S. was attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001. Terrorist recruitment continues, and we’ve given radical leadership plenty of material to feed the Jihad recruit machine.
The U.S. Special Operations war machine has been honed sharp after a decade of fighting, but it is becoming increasingly dull by the day, in large part due to the stresses placed on U.S. Warfighters and their broken families. I’ve spoken with over a dozen junior and senior Special Operations Operators about this, and they have told me that they’re worn out and not sure what they’re fighting for anymore.
Washington owes them this much, in my opinion.
In the book “Tree of Knowledge,” the authors discuss the biological roots of human understanding, and explain how we develop into the individual human beings we are, and the cultures we become a part of. We are who we are today based on the environments and experiences we grew up with. Environments shape us into the human beings we are, for good or bad, and there is a lot of bad going on these days.
This is why prison rehabilitation rarely works. How can you rehabilitate someone when you surround them with hardened criminals with the same, or worse, problems as they have individually? If anything, prisons are factories for worse behavior.
What does this have to do with foreign policy? This will become clearer to you as you read on, and realize that we need to focus on certain environments.
Are We Promoting Good in the World, or Feeding Bad?
A true litmus test of the viability of our foreign policy is to ask three very simple questions.
- Do we feel safer at home now than after the September 11th attacks?
- Are we leaving Afghanistan and Iraq better than we found them?
- Have we embraced Muslims throughout the world and rallied them towards what’s good, or do we continue to isolate them with racial profiling?
If you answered yes to any of these you can stop reading here.
If you’ve read Jeremy Scahill’s book “Dirty Wars,” you might think we are smack dab in the middle of the Golden Age of Islamic Radicalism. We kill first and ask questions later. This works sometimes, but it should not be the White House standard operating procedure that it now seems to be.
And we continue to stoke the fires of radicalism, instead of eliminating the fuel source. This is because our current plan, if you can call it that, is only focused on treating the symptoms of radical Islam. This is why it is no surprise to me that we will continue to experience terrorist activities on U.S. soil.
Hypocrisy with No Limits
Washington needs to stop talking out of both sides of its mouth, because it’s a loosing long-term strategy. One minute we are at war with terrorists, and the next we are funding our own terrorist student of the month in Iran. MEK ring a bell, anyone? Those Iranian scientists aren’t spontaneously blowing themselves up.
In Somalia, we supported the overthrow of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). It can be argued that the ICU created one of the most stable and productive periods in Somalia during its rule. But the CIA didn’t like the ICU, so we helped the Ethiopians dismantle it and its leader, Sheik Sharif Ahmed. As a result, radical factions of the ICU splintered off independently (al-Shabaab anyone?).
Then we push to install the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). And guess who we backed to become President of the TFG? Sheik Sharif Ahmed, the former leader of the same ICU that we overthrew by proxy. It’s really quite maddening to those who are paying attention.
The Found & What Needs to Happen
Good people in government need to start taking a stand for what’s right. Make some noise. It’s sometimes uncomfortable and takes guts. Washington cover-ups and smoke & mirrors have become the new normal. We need to demand accountability from our elected officials, and not let Washington polarize us into their corner of choice.
U.S. foreign policy makers need to learn how we can promote slow and meaningful change for good in the world. Ask these questions: What are the social and political environments that are producing the terrorists of tomorrow? How do we change these environments for the better?
American citizens need to call for a coherent foreign policy strategy that we all understand. Good leadership means developing a clear plan that can be understood by everyone, from the bottom up.
Our foreign policy strategy should be shaped by uncompromising ethics and the same values that this great country was founded on. These values are what I fought for overseas, and now they are now being tossed away like stale chewing gum. Eroding our civil liberties (Patriot Act) and engineering around the U.S. Constitution (GTMO) when it becomes inconvenient is a loser’s game, and the noise before defeat. And I don’t know about you but I believe we are better than this, and that America can win.
Featured Image Courtesy: NYPD