President Bush's invasion of Iraq will be a strategic mistake with catastrophic consequences for the United States. So concludes a report [pay archive] by William S. Lind of the Free Congress Foundation.
Lind argues that the U.S. is attempting to confront terrorism by applying "Second Generation" warfare—essentially the application of firepower to targets—to a "Fourth Generation" conflict. This is a fatal strategic error, because Fourth Generation conflict is war conducted outside the state structure by people whose primary loyalty is not to the state.
Overthrowing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein does not win Fourth Generation conflicts. Indeed, it stirs up Islamic insurgents and exacerbates the crisis of legitimacy of secular states in Muslim countries, putting our coalition of "pro-American regimes increasingly at risk."
The result is to undermine the U.S. strategy of allying with as many Middle Eastern governments as possible, while attempting to isolate terrorists. Those governments that line up with the U.S. are scorned by determined elements of their own populations, increasing the possibility of those governments being swept aside by Islamic revolution throughout the region. The U.S. ends up isolated instead of the terrorists.
Lind notes that the American state itself may be beginning to come apart. Cultural Marxists have successfully used "multiculturalism" and a de facto open immigration policy to create minority and ethnic loyalties that are stronger than those felt toward the American state. By adversely impacting our constitutional liberties, the various internal measures being implemented to counter terrorism can undermine even patriotic elements' loyalty to the American state.
Lind argues that our government's strategy for dealing with resurgent Islam rests on little more than hubris. He cites the belief that the whole world wants to be like us (and would be if it weren't for tyrants preventing them) and the belief that the U.S. is the only superpower and, thereby, the world's policeman, if not an empire.
The extraordinary confidence with which neoconservatives urge the American government to reconstruct the entire Middle East (socially, politically, and religiously) contrasts with the political correctness that makes airport security a joke. The same government that wants to invade Iraq is too intimidated by political correctness to provide homeland security by profiling terrorists. The government's feeble efforts to protect our own perimeter spreads fear and erodes loyalties by telling patriotic citizens that their own government does not or cannot differentiate between patriots and terrorists.
A policy, the unintended consequence of which could be to aid the resurgence of militant Islam, should be seriously debated before it is implemented. Lind writes that debate is silenced by Washington's court politics: "At court, the outside world is an unwelcome intrusion. What really counts is the world of court itself."
Any new thought is unwelcome in a community absorbed in itself. In Washington, everyone is comfortable with the permitted debates and how the debates relate to their interests. Left-wing TV pundits are comfortable with the predictable arguments of those on the right, and vice versa. Strategic thinkers are happy crossing swords within the permissible bounds of argument. Editors are circumspect to keep published opinion within the bounds of court politics. Any disturbance that could threaten budgets, power, influence and prestige is unwelcome even if the country's life depends on it.
Court politics, Lind says, works to benefit the people at court. Only arguments and ideas that don't threaten court interests are permitted.
Regardless of the motives and intentions of the Bush administration, Lind notes that its policies are resulting in a vast increase in the power of government. He writes:
"The combination of a strategy that incites non-state entities all over the world to launch attacks on America with tactics that make our defenses against such attacks only marginally effective is tremendously powerful as a 'force multiplier' of government power, resources and intrusion. Government does not grow when it succeeds; it grows when it fails. Each new attack on American soil will bring demands that 'government must do more,' to which government will happily respond by doing more of what does not work. We will find ourselves soon enough with 1984's permanent state of war, and perhaps with other elements of 1984 as well."
In olden days, kings would kill the messenger. In Washington, messengers are not permitted.
Paul Craig Roberts is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice.
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