blogenlust
12.14.2004

Bingo


Writing in Foreign Policy magazine, Moises Naim examines the ideological casualties of war "that lie buried in the sands of Iraq." He notes that a large problem has been the disconnect between the worldview this Administration creates with its rhetoric and the worldview that drives its policy:
More fundamental, disappointments in Iraq also dealt a blow to a worldview that, for all its references to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as an epochal event, still hearkens back to the Cold War. Consider the two primary responses to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon: Instead of concentrating all energies and resources to fight the strange, stealthy, and stateless network that perpetrated the attacks, the United States launched military assaults against two nation-states. First, it rightly attacked Afghanistan, a country whose government had been the subject of a friendly takeover by such networks. The second was Iraq, a country with a standing army and a dictator evocative of the Cold War era. Iraq offered a target more suited to the mindset of U.S. leaders and military capabilities than the more complicated terrorist networks operating inside powerful states, including the United States itself. In other words, facing the prospect of waging a new kind of war against a new kind of opponent, the Bush administration chose instead to fight a familiar enemy whose face and address it knew. Yet U.S. troops quickly found themselves fighting not enemy soldiers but what Pentagon lawyers now call “unlawful combatants”—fighters with nationalities as fuzzy as they are irrelevant to determining their leaders, their chains of command, their loyalty, and their lethal willingness to die for their cause.
One of the major consequences of September 11 is the emergence of non-state entities as major international players. The Bush Administration is correct to treat these non-state entities as significant threats, but they have incorrectly approached the situation In order to truly understand the problem you first need to understand how the problem began. In the case of these non-state entities (in militarese- "assymetrical threats"; in Bushese--"terrorists") you have to look at military globabilization. By this I mean the extension of the war system, or global arms trade, from nation-states to non-state entities. This extension creates a number of serious problems. First, terrorist organizations have become as plugged into the global arms trade as nation-states, enabling them to be similarly armed. As a result, these entities are now in equal competition for weapons of mass destruction, but don't face the same types of consequences if they choose to use them (i.e. MAD, etc). This brings up a second problem. Since terrorist organizations are not sovereign entities, it is extremely difficult (almost impossible) to destroy their operational source. In contrast, when a nation-state attacks another nation-state, there are clear targets and a (relatively) limited battlefield, and victory is more definable. Of course there are other problems, like compliance with international rules of war, but I think the two mentioned sufficiently serve Naim's point. As Naim points out, the Bush Administration talks like they understand the problem, but their actions don't. This failure arises out of a tendency to apply a realist worldview to the effects of liberal interconnectedness. Or, in other words, by attacking nation-states while aiming at non-state entities, they not only fail to accurately respond to the threat, but they actually make things worse. Exhibit A: the war in Iraq. There has been a lot of discussion over the past few weeks about how the Democrats need to come up with a strategy for the war on terrorism. I think that Naim's point is one for Democrats to ponder because it provides a simple and effective alternative to the Republican's percieved strong points--security and foreign policy. The Democrats must be able to show how and why the Republicans are wrong on security and they need to show how they will do things better. This is certainly easier said than done, but I think Naim is pointing in the right direction for where Democrats can find an answer to their foreign policy problems.