Needed: A New and Bolder Strategy for the War on Terror

The Bush administration’s response to terror is too limited in scope to solve a global problem and has spread our military too thin. Nothing is being done to address the root causes of terrorism, which would significantly reduce the continuing threat to the United States.

Al-Qaeda has grown stronger since the president misdirected the war on terror to Iraq. An independent survey found that al-Qaeda’s ranks have swollen to 18,000 in more than sixty countries. Up to 1,000 insurgents have infiltrated Iraq. Al-Qaeda is fomenting attacks around the world, and an attack is expected in the United States this summer.

A recent Asia-Pacific conference on security concluded that the world is losing the war on terror because the United States has expanded the sea of hatred and deep-seated rage in the Muslim world. The conference also deduced that the use of force itself cannot eliminate terrorist threats. In a New York Times article, top terrorism expert Richard Clarke also contends the United States is headed in the wrong direction. He claims that trying to impose democracy on an Arab nation at the end of an American bayonet as a policy is dead on arrival. To eliminate terrorism, he says, we must have the support of the moderate Muslim community.

The president’s idea that we can deal with each and every country that supports or harbors terrorists is domineering and impossible to achieve. Eliminating worldwide terrorism is a shared responsibility that requires leadership and cooperation from all heads of state. A global problem needs a global solution. This demands a more comprehensive and aggressive worldwide strategy. The strategy’s essential elements (costing a fraction of war expenses) are to:

– Mandate, through the United Nations, each nation’s responsibility to remove terrorist activities in their own country and help others do the same.

– Outlaw bomb-making nuclear material, inspect all countries that might give such material to terrorists, and enforce severe penalties for violations.

– Remove U.S. forces from Muslim countries and participate in peacekeeping through the UN and NATO.

– Sponsor a UN commission to identify the underlying causes of terrorism and determine remedies.

– Put as much U.S. power and prestige behind building a Palestinian state as was done in building Israel.

– Make energy independence one of America’s highest priorities.

– Encourage religious spokespeople around the world to stress the many similarities between the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religions.

The UN must declare war on terror worldwide with the full support of every member country, backed by their military power and intelligence. Each country needs a mandate to dismantle terrorism and to assist other UN countries as needed. Any country not relentlessly pursuing terrorists or which continues to support them should receive sanctions, be suspended from the UN, and be subject to military action. Periodically, the United Nations should hold progress meetings on terrorism with all heads of state. In parallel with the UN action, the United States should sponsor a UN commission to identify fundamental changes that would reverse the root causes of organized violent behavior in the world.

The United States gave birth to the United Nations to maintain peace in the world. Instead of demeaning and undermining it, the United States must strengthen that body and help it work effectively for all.

The time for change is now, while the U.S. military is stretched thin and the United Nations, Spain, and other countries are still recovering from their worst attacks in history. The status quo is unacceptable and endangers our national security.


* First appeared in ‘The Humanist’