What legendary German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer lamented about mankind in general applies to the U.S. counterterrorism establishment in particular: “The good Lord set definite limits on man’s wisdom, but set no limits on his stupidity.”
Nearly 14 years of constant global warfare after 9/11 and the expenditure of trillions of dollars, the threat of international terrorism has waxed. Yet our professed counterterrorism wizards insist on pursuing more of the same stupid, counterproductive counterterrorism strategy, i.e., global intervention and warfare on behalf of corrupt, despotic, sectarian, tribalist governments and political cultures as backward as Neanderthal Man in a mad quest to change the DNA of mankind from devilish to angelic. President George W. Bush emblematically elaborated in his Second Inaugural Address that our post-9/11 counterterrorism objective was to end “tyranny in our world.”
That stupendous stupidity is making us less safe at vast cost to ourselves — the very definition of idiocy.
Our counterterrorism gurus and pundits resist acknowledging the obvious to preserve their alluring compensation packages, media appearances, and political stature. The United States has done and is doing things that fuel international terrorism which should be immediately terminated. Ending our counterterrorism stupidity will diminish the risk of terrorism while saving vast sums — a win-win strategy. But the counterterrorism establishment continues to pursue its lose-lose strategy which lessens safety at staggering expense by blinding itself to our serial failures. As Upton Sinclair taught, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
In recent congressional testimony, Director of National Intelligence James H. Clapper maintained that international terrorism trend lines were darker “than at any other point in history.”
Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata, commander of U.S. Special Operations forces in the Middle East, believes that the Islamic State (IS) has leapfrogged over al Qaeda as greater danger.
Michael Morrell, former deputy director of the CIA, doubts that he will live to witness the end game for al Qaeda and its progeny: “This is long term. My children’s generation and my grandchildren’s generation will still be fighting this fight.”
Another former deputy director, John McLaughlin, has acknowledged that the counterterrorism problem has metastacized in the past few years: “[Terrorist organizations] have never had territory of this magnitude. Never had this much money. Never this much access to Western passport holders. Never had the narrative they have now.”
These grim assessments are generally correct.
Afghanistan is a corrupt, tribalist, sectarian, despotic, opium producing, misogynist state. It is unable — without United States troops and money — to sustain itself from Taliban attacks. The Afghan government will crumble the instant our remaining 10,000 troops depart. Taliban will be restored to power where it was on 9/11. Our counterterrorism strategy of predator drones and nation building in Afghanistan costing us approximately $3 trillion and the lives of more than 2,200 American military personnel has proven a stupendous failure indistinguishable from the Vietnam War debacle. The high water mark of our lunacy was the CIA’s payment of $1 million to then President Hamid Karzai which was then delivered to Osama bin Laden as ransom in exchange for a kidnapped high-level Afghan official.
Iraq is also a pervasively corrupt, lawless, tribalist, sectarian, despotic, failed state dominated by Iran — arch enemy of the United States. Iraq is de facto partitioned or segregated between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Its palsied Shiite-dominated government helped to midwife IS by persecuting and slaughter Iraq’s Sunnis. Our Iraq counterterrorism strategy of nation building, predator drones, and exhortation to Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites to reason together despite 1,000 years of continuous Shiite-Sunni conflict and implacable enmity has made the United States less safe at a cost of $3 trillion and more than 3,500 American military personnel killed.
Our counterterrorism strategy of nation building and predator drones in Yemen has yielded a sectarian, tribalist, civil war, a breeding ground for terrorists, semi-anarchy, a sanctuary for al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, and the ascent to power by Iranian-backed Houthis featuring the slogan “Death to America.” Yemen was absurdly touted as a model by President Obama for destroying IS. Hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons sent to the Yemeni government are now probably in the hands of our enemies.
Our counterterrorism strategy of nation building and gratuitous warfare has also calamitous in Libya. It has given birth to hundreds of sectarian, tribal, or ethnic militias, two rival governments, the capture of Muammar Gadaffi’s conventional weapons by Islamic extremists, and the growth of IS auxiliaries. Our strategy has transformed Libya from a bulwark against international terrorism to a breeding ground for it.
Our counterterrorism strategy of nation building and predator drones in Somalia has accomplished nothing other than exciting Somalian exiles in the United States to join the Al-Shabab terrorist organization. The writ of the tribalist, decrepit Somali government does not extend beyond Mogadishu.
Our counterterrorism strategy in Nigeria has failed to dent the growth of Boko Haram, which is now allied to IS.
Our counterterrorism strategy of nation building and predator drones against Syria and IS is delusional. Approximately 50 percent of the entire Syrian population has been displaced. A vicious civil war is ongoing between President Assad, IS, Syrian Kurds, Syrian Sunnis, and Alawites. All of the participants exhibit ruthlessness and bigotries that promise conflict and strife for the indefinite future. Our bombs — as in Vietnam — are accomplishing nothing in the long run except awakening a desire for revenge by IS.
In sum, the counterterrorism strategy of the establishment for the past fourteen years has achieved no successes and huge failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Nigeria. Even a dunce could deduce that a new strategy is urgent. But our counterterrorism self-anointed geniuses are urging more of the same at additional expense, reminiscent of General William Westmoreland’s request for 200,000 more troops after the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War.
They should all be fired for incompetence and their counterterrorism strategy jettisoned. We should replace it with a policy of Aggressive Self-Defense, which would redeploy and redirect all of our military resources and financial aid in the Middle East back to the United States to defend our borders and to exterminate any state or non-state actor with the temerity to attack us. Aggressive Self-Defense will be elaborated in more detail in a future column.
For more information about Bruce Fein, visit www.brucefeinlaw.com.
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