Evaluating the War on Terror

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A War on Terror was officially declared by U.S. President George W. Bush on 20 September 2001. Has it made the U.S. and international populations more or less safe?

Foreign and domestic aspects of the War on Terror are examined separately in this article using the broad political discourse template.

Foreign policy and the War on Terror[edit | edit source]

Two aspects of foreign policy are considered here:

  1. Whether states that receive more assistance from the U.S. are more or less democratic than ones that receive less.
  2. Whether the War on Terror has increased or decreased the risk of Blowback from nations with substantive U.S. military occupation.
heterodox research needed orthodox
Is the War on Terror merely the latest Marketing strategy for a policy of U.S. support for state terror in support of U.S. international business interests? There is a body of evidence that supports such a hypothesis.

For example, Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has described U.S. support for democracy in foreign countries as "inconsistent". He has stated that countries receiving the more support from the U.S. tend on average to be less democratic than countries that receive less help from the U.S.[citation needed] Noam Chomsky insists that this "inconsistency" is consistent in that the U.S. has favored its international business interests over supporting democracy in nearly all cases.[citation needed]

This "consistent inconsistency" can be traced to 1791, when President Washington sent U.S. tax money to plantations owners in Haiti trying to suppress a slave rebellion during the French Revolution.[1] The only exceptions to this "consistent inconsistency" were allegedly when public interest and knowledge in the U.S. of a specific country was sufficient to prevent substantive U.S. government action, overt or covert, in opposition to democracy.

This Carothers-Chomsky "consistent inconsistency" hypothesis should be tested. Evaluations of civil and political rights in countries around the world have been published each year since 1972 by Freedom House; similar assessments are available from other sources for earlier periods.[citation needed]

Freedom / democracy scores could be merged with data on US financial aid, transfers of U.S. military equipment and security training.[citation needed] The published figures would exclude any funds hidden in the Congressional Black Budget[2] and funded in other ways like portions of the Iran-Contra affair and use of drug trafficking to fund CIA assets.[3] Any anti-democratic actions funded by secret money would likely reduce the level of democracy without a comparable increase in the published U.S. assistance. This in turn would likely make it harder to detect any correlation between official U.S. support for the country and democracy. However, if Carothers' claim is correct, the effect could still be large enough to find using data from published sources.

Quote Presidents G. W. Bush and Obama on the need for the War on Terrorism.[citation needed]
Is Al-Qaeda or any other non-state terrorist organization a major international power capable of threatening the internal security of the United States?

The justification for the War on Terrorism should explicitly balance the risks of international terrorism with the costs. These cost should include both increased risks of blowback[4] and the opportunity costs incurred because the money spent on the War on Terror was not available for other, more productive uses such as public health and education (considered with "Domestic policy" below).

Perhaps the clearest evidence of blowback appears in the data on suicide terrorism compiled by Robert Pape. His Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism (CPOST)[5] combed news in many languages for reports of suicide terrorism. The earliest instances they found since the Kamikaze of World War II were part of a campaign by initiated in 1982 Hezbollah against Israel, the U.S., France and the Lebanese militaries that convinced the U.S. and France to leave Lebanon in 1984.[6]

The abrupt withdrawal of U.S. and French forces after that attack inspired dissident groups all over the world to organize similar suicide attacks. CPOST researchers found 2022 suicide attacks between 1980 and 2009.[7] Roughly 98% of them were attributed to a foreign occupation supporting a government that lacks domestic legitimacy. Suicide terrorism spiked in Iraq and Afghanistan when local control seemed threatened and fell when the occupiers made greater efforts to involve local governmental authorities in defending their own interests.[8]

Pape's data could be augmented with indexes quantifying the presence of foreign occupations and, with greater difficulty, some measures of the local perceptions of legitimacy of governments supported by the occupation in countries with and without suicide terrorism. Also, similar analyses could be conducted of non-suicide terrorism. Pape's research has been criticized for the lack of a control group.[9]
Some observers claim that Al-Qaeda can seriously damage the U.S. only if the U.S. damages itself by committing major crimes while attempting to combat terrorism.[10]

On September 12, 2001, Al-Qaeda was all but dead. Millions of individuals all over the world participated in vigils, declaring, "We are all Americans." This included official condemnations from traditional enemies like Iran, Cuba and Afghanistan. If the U.S. had pursued this as a law enforcement issue, people all over the world would have reported suspicious activities, Al-Qaeda would have received few new recruits, and its surviving activists would have had much greater difficulties finding supplies and safe houses for further terrorist attacks. If the Taliban in power in Afghanistan had refused to cooperate with a criminal investigation, they would likely have lost more of the limited support they had.

The mainstream commercial media in the U.S. has often ridiculed international law,[citation needed] and the U.S. government has resisted many efforts to strengthen the rule of law internationally.[citation needed] The reasons are simple: All politics is local and virtually the only constituency for international relations anywhere are people with family and financial dealings outside the country.[11] In a large country like the U.S., this is a very small portion of the population. Those with major financial interests outside the country have a disproportionate influence over foreign policy and related media editorial policies, because they typically control major advertising budgets and political campaign contribution budgets.

Before the November 2000 election, leading members of the Bush team including Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and other members of the Project for a New American Century had called for "a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity", but complained that without a "New Pearl Harbor", the U.S. public might not eagerly support that. The September 11 attacks became the justification for an increase in U.S. support for authoritarian regimes[citation needed] and greater government secrecy.[citation needed]

Evaluate the evidence alleging extraordinary renditions and allegations of the use of torture by the U.S. government and whether it has made the U.S. more or less safe.[12]

Also evaluate the major international security treaties that are still pending in terms of whether each has been approved by the U.S. and the possible reasons for delay in ratification. One set of reasons is the current gridlock in Washington as analyzed by Lawrence Lessig in Republic, Lost.

Quote the media and leading U.S. public officials on extraordinary renditions, torture, and international law.

Domestic policy and the War on Terror[edit | edit source]

Has Homeland Security increased safety for the residents of the U.S. in two areas:

  1. Do the activities of Homeland Security pose a bigger threat to most U.S. citizens than al-Qaeda and other non-state terrorist organizations? The public support for Edward Snowden suggests that many people are questioning whether the information being collected by the National Security Agency and various branches of Homeland Security might on average pose a bigger threat to law-abiding citizens than non-state terrorists, with a chilling effect on democratic participation
  2. Might the public benefit more if that money were spent in other ways, e.g., for public health?
heterodox research needed orthodox
Trevor Aaronson's 2013 book The Terror Factory documents claims that there have been very few actual Muslim terrorist attacks in the U.S. since September 11, 2001. Nearly all that have come to light have been the product of entrapment that provided the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with terrorist attempts that were instantly caught, prosecuted and publicized as victories in the War on Terror.[13] Serious independent evaluation is needed of the record of actual terrorist attacks, government claims of foiled plots, and how they compare with predictions of the levels of terrorist threats due to Pape and others mentioned above.

Also, research is needed to evaluate how the War on Terror has impacted the level of democratic participation, especially among the Muslim community in the U.S.

Quotes from leading public officials on this issue including comments in famous cases like the Holy Land Five and Sami Al-Arian.
The opportunity costs can be evaluated in part by comparing the 2,997 deaths from the suicide mass murders of September 11, 2001 with the numbers of deaths due to other causes in the U.S. That number, almost 3,000, is roughly equal to the number of people killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. every month.[14]

Similarly, more people die on average every 3 days in the U.S. from tobacco smoking-related disorders.

A cost-benefit analysis can be done of the domestic costs and benefits of the War on Terror. Quotes from public officials justifying the budget for the War on Terror and Homeland Security[citation needed]
Public health should be one of the primary lines of defense anywhere. Florence Nightengale became famous in part by helping to establish that the British Army lost 10 times as many soldiers to disease than to battle wounds in the Crimean War. A vigorous, effective public health program could identify quickly an outbreak of disease such as from a biological warfare agent and respond appropriately, thereby minimizing the number of people killed and otherwise affected. Research could help quantify the benefits to society generally from improved public health and compare with loses to plausible terrorist attacks with chemical and biological warfare agents. Need quotes from the press and public hearings on bills for budgets for public health.[citation needed]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Alfred Hunt, Haiti's Influence on Antebellum America, p. 31
  2. Patton, Phil (2004), "Exposing the Black Budget", Wired, retrieved July 15, 2013 Salla, Michael E. (February 5, 2004), The Black Budget Report: An Investigation into the CIA’s ‘Black Budget’ and the Second Manhattan Project, Center for Global Peace, School of International Service, American University, retrieved July 15, 2013
  3. McCoy, Alfred W. (2003), Politics of heroin : CIA complicity in the global drug trade : Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, Central America, Colombia, Lawrence Hill Books, ISBN 1556524838
  4. See also Blowback, leaks, and U.S. national security
  5. Pape, Robert (ed.), Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism (CPOST), retrieved July 17, 2013
  6. The most decisive event in this period was the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings, in which two truck bombs killed 296 U.S. and French military personnel plus 6 Lebanese civilians and led to the withdrawal of U.S. and French military from Lebanon in 1984.
  7. Pape, Robert, Search the Suicide Attack Database, Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, retrieved July 23, 2013
  8. Pape, Robert; Feldman, James K. (2010). Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It. University of Chicago Press. pp. 28, 34, 36-39,333. ISBN 978-0-226-64560-5. 
  9. Ashworth, Scott; Clinton, Joshua D.; Meirowitz, Adam; Ramsay, Kristopher W. (April 2008), "Design, Inference, and the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism", American Political Science Review, 102 (2): 1–5, retrieved July 17, 2013
  10. e.g., Scahill, Jeremy (2013), Dirty wars : the world is a battlefield, Nation Books, ISBN 9781568586717
  11. In small countries like Monaco and Liechtenstein, this includes virtually everyone.
  12. Wilkinson, Tracy (July 19, 2013), "Ex-CIA chief's Italy saga began with 2003 kidnapping", Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, retrieved July 20, 2013 "Former CIA bureau chief returning to US", Al Jazeera, July 19, 2013, retrieved July 20, 2013
  13. Aaronson, Trevor (2013), The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism, Ig Publishing, ISBN 978-1935439615
  14. Per List of motor vehicle deaths in U.S. by year, an average of 89 people were killed on U.S. roads each day of 2011; motor vehicle deaths averaged 111 per day in 2001. Divide 3,000 killed in the September 11 attacks by 100 per day to get 30 days.