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July 8, 2005
Strib Still Not Quite Getting It Again

The Minneapolis Star Tribune demonstrates in its lead editorial today that it still doesn't quite understand the terror war, even after the London bombings yesterday. The editorial board knows enough not to engage in its usual Bush-bashing, so it hasn't succumbed to its usual tone deafness. Yet they still use the occasion to not only argue against the war in Iraq, but also to argue contradictorily that the war on terror mainly amounts to a law-enforcement problem:

[T]here are ways to fight it. Some are better than others. Just days ago, Bush said again that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. He asserted that the United States fights terrorists there so it won't have to fight them at home. The London bombings illustrate the fallacy at the heart of that argument: Terrorists aren't a finite army that you can defeat on a battlefield and achieve victory. Ivo Daalder, international security expert at the Brookings Institution, said it well: "Today's terrorists are independent operators, beyond the control of any state. They roam relatively freely around an interconnected world -- striking when they are ready and we least expect it." ...

As Daalder also said, invading countries isn't the answer and often makes matters worse. What's needed is increased cooperation between nations in law enforcement, intelligence, security, financial tracking and other forms of aggressive counterterrorism. Perhaps it was fortuitous that this attack came as the G-8 leaders are meeting; this could possibly put more urgency into the international counterterrorism agenda.

Fighting terrorism is going to be a long, hard slog, more like fighting crime than anything else. Sometimes it will indeed involve military action. But more often than not, it will involve quiet, determined law enforcement and intelligence work -- to discover the nooks and crannies where terrorists hide as they plot their next outrage -- and then destroy them before they act.

Daalder misses a big part of the entire problem in this glib pronouncement. Sure, terrorists don't wear the insignia of a particular country, at least not since we squashed the Taliban; that's why we don't give them POW status at Gitmo, a point that the Strib also misses on a regular basis. What Daalder misses is that these groups would not present an existential danger to the West if not for the support they get from states such as Iran, Syria, and Saddam's Iraq.

Another fact that Daalder neglects is that while the terrorists don't have their own country, they have physical form that takes up space, and these countries allow them to build camps and conduct training within their borders. The Bush Doctrine speaks directly to that for a reason: it removes the rationalization that such states bear no responsibility for acts of war committed by their "guests". We deliberately tie their behavior to the state involved to provide the incentive for that state to eject its terrorists before they have a chance to do any further harm.

Another problem facing the West and fueling Islamofascist aggression was that the West would not take action to defend itself due to an inability to suffer casualties. This, as Osama said, was the lesson of Somalia. This is one of the reasons that finally resolving the twelve-year quagmire of Iraq had to be one of the first steps in the war. Militarily, the enforcement of the "box" kept significant military assets in Saudi Arabia on essentially the defensive, which as we saw in Lebanon in 1983, only invites attacks by terrorist lunatics. Politically, the issuance of resolution after resolution demanding compliance with the terms of the original cease-fire in 1991 that met with nothing but scorn from Saddam made the UNSC and the West look impotent and vulnerable. And while the intelligence on WMD from every major Western nation may have been outdated or flat-out incorrect, the data linking Saddam to terrorists was correct, and furthermore, the corruption of Oil-For-Food shows that the sanctions regime and its "box" were already rotting and close to full collapse.

Finally, all anyone has to do to understand why Iraq made a good front on the GWOT is to take a look at a map. It sits right in the transit corridor between Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, and on to North Africa, the perfect terrorist conduit. Cutting off that line of communication will make it that much more difficult for personnel and funding to reach those who want to kill us.

Moving away from Daalder's hopelessly simplistic arguments, the Strib still wants to argue for a law-enforcement approach, especially in its last paragraph. However, it then completely misdescribes how that approach works. Law enforcement doesn't "destroy them before they act"; it specifically exists as a reactionary approach that investigates crimes primarily after they've taken place. Gitmo has hundreds of people that the US scooped up, mostly before they had a chance to act on their plans to kill American citizens. Yet the Strib doesn't want them "destroyed", but given civil trials in American courts -- a violation of the Geneva Conventions, by the way.

Finding one's enemy through intelligence and detective work does not mean law enforcement. Military units do that work all the time. In fact, they have a decided advantage over police officers in that they don't have to establish probable cause to act, wait for grand juries to deliver indictments, and deal with lawyers afterwards. They can -- and do -- "destroy them before they can act," in other words, whenever and wherever they find the terrorists. The option that the Strib endorses leads to the American policy in the 1990s, when we failed to grab Osama bin Laden when offered to us by the Sudan because we didn't feel we could indict him.

The Strib still doesn't understand any of this, even after yesterday's bombing. They do appear to have toned down their rhetoric; perhaps greater understanding will come now that they've temporarily suspended the Bush-hatred.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 8, 2005 4:40 AM

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The theme that I will address in this article is the Daily KOSers this puts a lie to the well fight them in Iraq so we dont have to fight them here line. The whole premise of this argument is so flawed that it offends ones sensibilities. Any foo... [Read More]

Tracked on July 8, 2005 8:40 AM

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