War on Terror, War of Attrition

I never bought Bush's rhetoric on the "War on Terror."  How do you fight an intangible?  There are no guides from the past to help us: the very definition of 'war', a violent between two states, is confounded by the fact that terror is national and state lines were defined by Westerners in a post-colonial fashion irregardless of such fine points.  (I think I need to get over this whole colonial-hating thing, but it's so very easy to blame so many problems on it.  In high school, I had a hypothesis that what Africa really needs to modernize is its own phase of massive expansion and colonization.)


The recent attacks on Mumbai (god...now would be a time to let them know that they need to stop hating each other...) make me think that a new phase in this protracted mess is beginning.

For the past seven years, things have been fairly one-sided; yes, the U.S. isn't making physical advances in Iraq (or *cough* Afghanistan *cough*)--and god yes there are losses and death on both sides; but terror is a thing of symbols, and Western democracy has symbolically taken those regions away from the fundamentalist reactionaries.  They're not standing for this anymore.

The metaphorical battlefield: ideology, conviction--strength of argument--symbolized in madrassas and videos and propaganda on both sides--is finally being taken to reality by the others.  Granted, I wasn't expecting this sort of thing, but it really shouldn't have been that much of a surprise.  India is burgeoning both economically and population-wise; the liberality and increasing popularity of Mumbai make it an ideal target for exposure on the American media channels, which spreads virally thanks to the competitive, capitalist nature.  (The BBC has less to worry about because it's government funded.  I'm not sure that either version of media is better.)  China would have been a target if it weren't so regulated; ironically, Xinhua's monopoly is partially protecting places like Shanghai and Beijing.

I'm meandering.  So:

We have to be ready for the establishment of a new battleground.  We have to be ready for urban warfare, for the knowledge that the people fighting will do anything that they think they have to do because they have no tangibles to lose.  This is the power of the grassroots, first truly recorded and named when Napoleon tried to take Spain.  They believe they have nothing left to lose, and that's when they are truly dangerous.

But all of this is pointless without some solution: how does one make the terrorists less desperate, less convinced of the ultimateness of their condition?  Negotiation is out of the question.  From a realistic perspective, it would make sense to give them just enough legitimacy to create a state that could be threatened, but this is practically impossible.  The debates showed that.

The real option the West has is to stop being so aggressively determined to push the idea of progress in everyone's faces.  Don't claim to have the "right" ideology or the right form of government--just be there as an alternative.  Let countries develop uniquely; Russia had a huge phase where the Slavs attempted to define a 'uniquely Slavic' form of growth.  Things were screwed up by the importation and misinterpretation of Marxist ideology; but can you imagine a democracy there?  Democracies are effective when there is an established infrastructure either due to a previous government (Europe) or to a trade-heavy system (the U.S.).

Move beyond the Cold War ideologies.  Support, don't lead.  It's time to be the sibling, not the overanxious, bumbling parentpolice.

No comments: