Terrorism On The Run?

President Bush’s State of the Union Address:

“There are days when the American people do not hear news about the war on terror … The war goes on, and we are winning … To date we have arrested, or otherwise dealt with, many key commanders of al-Qaida … They are no longer a problem for the United States and our friends and allies … We have the terrorists on the run, and we are keeping them on the run.”

After the recent Saudi bombing I’m wondering if this statement (and others) by the President have a different ring to it to Fellow Dopers then it did when he originally made it. To me it had the tone of “We have controlled the Al-Qaida threat, so rest easier America”.

Are we really winning or just trying to break even?

Whistling in the dark. For each terrorist caught there’ll be a dozen new ones radicalised by perceived injustices.

Perhaps if an equitable solution to the Palestinian issue can be found then there’ll be less of a pool to recruit from but until them I expect terrorist attacks to continue no matter how many are killed or arrested.

Few terrorist groups are defeated purely by counter-force, certainly not those with a huge base of at least tacit support.

Neither. Mostly, ‘we’ are trying to get re-elected. The strategy we’re seeing is mostly about looking like you’re doing everything you can, and probably also acting upon people’s feelings of anger, fear, etc. The most logical and effective course of action might be less satisfying.

Anyway, I think there have been several attacks since the Bush speech you quote. He’s not going to change his tone, regardless of what happens.

However, it should be noted that the recent attacks are kind of “close to home” for AQ, and there have been none in the U.S.

It is not an either-or proposition. Bush could very well have been speaking the complete truth–even beyond the political considerations. The war on terror is not going to end in flourish with the other side spectacularly beaten–as in August, 1945 or on the highway leaving Kuwait City twelve years ago. The nature of such a war prevents that from ever happening.

On the other hand, the very nature of such a war, waged with an arrest here, a broken financial supply there, is going to mean that it will not get the kind of newsplay that people will recognize. If the war is ongoing, the people need to be aware of it. It is the president’s job to apprise the people that it is progressing.

He may wish to make political hay on the subject, but as the serving president, it is both his obligation to pursue the campaign and his privilege to take credit for its success. (In an ideal world, he would also accept responsibility for its failure, but that is why we ostensibly have a free press and an opposition party.)

If you hearken back to his statements on 12 September, 2001, you will recall that he described the war as one that would require a long time to pursue. In the course of that war, we can expect the “other side” to launch attacks, and even achieve victories. (Look at the reports of the Battle of the Bulge prior to Christmas Day, 1944: and this at a time when Germany was clearly bound for defeat. Look at the casualty figures from Okinawa.) Looking at any particular “successful” attack by terrorists as a “failure” of the war is true–but only in a limited tactical sense. No individual attack should be seen as a rebuke to his general statements regarding the campaign against terror unless he stands up and declares that al Qaeda is broken and that we have nothing left to fear, following which they launch a truly devastating attack on a new target.

Mind you, some of us have a somewhat different concern: that the war of terror will become a new war on (people using) drugs, in which individual arrests (like "$10,000,000 COCAINE BUST"s) will become simply fuel to continue proclaiming that the war needs more funds because we’re being “successful,” despite there being no true reduction in terror/drugs over years of wrongly spent funds to eradicate them. However, it is too soon in the war on terror to know that it has already become a “drug war”-like boondoggle.

The assumption of the hawks seems to be that an aggressive and intransigent U.S. foreign policy will frighten the terrorists into submission. My take on this is that such a strategy is doomed to failure, because it makes the erroneous assumption that our aggression will cause terrorists to make a reasoned decision to back down. But human nature is such that aggression begets more aggression. I question how much effect our sabre-rattling and “showing our muscle” can have on people who are already willing to die for their cause.

At what point will we concede that it’s not working? Sadly, I suspect never. And for those who would argue that it’s too early to tell, let me point out that the Bush Administration has already been crowing about the alleged success of the war on terrorism. It seems hypocritical to now say that it’s too soon to know.