By Guy Maynard for The Register Guard
“We’re at war,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told Congress on Dec. 1.
They don’t call it the War on Terror anymore, but it is the same war: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Iraq again, and drone warfare and special operations in places many of us have never heard of.
We have been at war since Sept. 11, 2001. Trillions of dollars have been spent, thousands of American soldiers have been killed or wounded, and hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed.
And that war has failed. Not only has it failed, but it has done exactly the opposite of what it intended. It has spread terrorism to an extent unimaginable even as the ashes of the World Trade Center still smoldered.
According to U.S. State Department figures, in the years 2001 to 2003, when we invaded Iraq, the number of annual terrorist attacks around the world averaged 254, with 1,548 deaths yearly (which includes the 2,977 killed in the Sept. 11 attacks). In the decade between 2005 and 2014, there were an average of 11,424 terrorist attacks per year and 17,539 people killed each year.
We’ve lost the War on Terror. Terror is winning.
Recent horrific and despicable attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have sent understandable shockwaves of fear around the world and given demagogues an opening to preach hate and call for even more militarized solutions, more bombs, more troops, more death and destruction, pouring gasoline on the raging blaze of Middle East conflict.
These zealots are doing the Islamic State’s work for them.
The Islamic State is clearly the enemy of humanity — the enemy of decency, tolerance and the values at the core of all the world’s religions and spiritual traditions, including Islam. It must be defeated.
But to defeat these jihadis, we must understand what they want.
Islamic State fighters want a battle of civilizations, pitting their distorted brand of medieval, oppressive, violent Islam against the infidels of the world. They want it to be Us against Them. They want U.S. troops killing Muslims in the Middle East. They want U.S. bombs and drones to destroy Muslim villages and kill civilians. They want Western countries to isolate, alienate and persecute Muslims. They want Muslim refugees to be herded like cattle.
They need good material to fuel their frighteningly effective propaganda machine, to drive disaffected and alienated Muslims to join them. Any good marketer knows that claims must have some kernel of reality to resonate with target audiences. Unfortunately, the United States and its allies keep handing them exactly the sort of sound bites and videos they need.
And the Western demagogues of more war and racial hatred just want to give them more.
The Islamic State believes it can win that War of Civilizations — or at least is more than willing to die trying. We know no one wins that war.
It’s time to end the failed War on Terror. That doesn’t mean surrender; there is an alternative: an all-out aggressive, stop-at-nothing Offensive for Peace.
Xenophobes and militarists scoff at such a notion. And people driven by fear are all too willing to support the knee-jerk response that only violent force can defeat violent force.
But we need to say it one more time: war has failed, and it will continue to fail.
We can win the peace. But we need to invest the same energy and resources, as well as the United States’ standing and prestige as a leader in this peace offensive, as we have done for war.
Here are some elements of that offensive:
Stop bombing. Withdraw all troops in Iraq and Syria. Stop sending weapons into this war zone.
Wage a new diplomatic offensive. Build on the successful Iran nuclear negotiations. Support current negotiations in Vienna to get all outside parties currently supporting factions in Syria (including “allies” such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia and “enemies” such as Russia and Iran) to suspend all such support. Encourage local cease fires in Syria.
Put economic pressure on the Islamic State by cutting off murky funding flows from Saudi Arabia and others and oil revenues from international energy corporations. Put pressure on Turkey and other neighboring countries to cut off border passages for Islamic State recruits.
Engage in and help fund a massive United Nations-coordinated humanitarian effort for devastated communities in Iraq and Syria and for the millions of persons displaced by these wars.
Start at home. Send a clear message — from our mayors and councils and commissioners — that our Muslim brothers and sisters are valued members of our communities and that we are eager to do our share and more to assist and welcome any refugees.
More war means more terrorism. To truly overcome terrorism, we must stop the violence, pursue bold diplomatic initiatives and build broad humanitarian coalitions to help the peoples of the Middle East rebuild their lives and communities.
Guy Maynard is a member of the Progressive Responses Committee of the Community Alliance of Lane County. This essay also is signed by committee members Carol Van Houten, Dan Goldrich and Michael Carrigan. This op-ed appeared in the December 13th 2015 issue of the Register Guard.