Successes and Setbacks in the ‘Long War’

A year ago the Pentagon released its Quadrennial Defense Review. It was essentially a strategy for a 20-year long war and a generational battle plan designed to prepare the military for a Cold War type struggle against the forces of militant Islam.

According to the official unveiling:

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, our nation has fought a global war against violent extremists who use terrorism as their weapon of choice, and who seek to destroy our free way of life. Our enemies seek weapons of mass destruction and, if they are successful, will likely attempt to use them in their conflict with free people everywhere. Currently, the struggle is centered in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we will need to be prepared and arranged to successfully defend our nation and its interests around the globe for years to come.

It is apparent that the United States and its assorted allies are still seeking to adequately define its enemy, reach a consensus on tactics, and achieve some sort of victory in (or graceful exit from) Iraq. In this age of round the clock news and information it is easy to get caught up in the crisis of the moment. But it is also important that we examine the big picture in the War on Terror and take the time to look back at some of the successes and setbacks experienced since 9-11.


* The United States exposed and virtually eliminated the Pakistani Khan Nuclear Proliferation Network which peddled nuclear weapons designs and related technology, as well as delivery systems, throughout the world. Client states included Iran, Syria, North Korea and Libya as well as attempted sales to Saddam’s Iraq.

* Libya abandoned its advanced nuclear weapons program after the Khan network was exposed and the US successfully toppled the Baathist regime in Iraq. “I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid.”- Khadafi

* Successful suppression of the Abu Sayaf terrorist group in the Philippines. US Special Forces and US training helped the Philippine army to achieve significant success against this small, but extremely violent, Al-Qaeda affiliate.

* The Ethiopian army defeated the Council of Islamic Courts in Somalia. The US not only provided diplomatic cover, political support, and intelligence but also monetary support and ammunition replenishment to the effort.

* The disruption and prevention of dozens of large scale, Islamic terrorist attacks worldwide. There has also been the elimination or capture of a significant portion of Al-Qaeda’s leadership as well as serious disruption of its command and control structure.

* In an impressive display of coordination, air power and tactics, the United States and its Northern Alliance allies toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and eliminated it as a sanctuary state that allowed the Al-Qaeda network to train, recruit and launch attacks from with impunity. In its place a friendly government was created in Kabul and an indigenous army raised that has been used as a surrogate in the continuing fight against Islamic militants in the region. NATO forces have killed thousands of Taliban insurgents in that important ‘hot spot’ in the War on Terror.

* The US, despite what you’ve heard, has assembled a large cast of active allies in the Global War on Terror. From Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia in Africa to the UK, Italy and a number of Eastern European countries (who have recent memories of what it is to suffer under the boot of a totalitarian ideology), as well as Australia and Canada. There are many regional allies in different parts of the world such as the Philippines, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, and several of the small Gulf States. Many others have provided behind the scenes help that they do not want publicized do to internal political dynamics. And lastly, there are those ‘on again, off again’ allies such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia whose internal power struggles, ideologies and precarious holds on power have sometimes made them as much a hindrance as a help.


· The Al-Qaeda network and its allied jihadist organizations have morphed into a ‘franchise’ cell structure that is still successfully recruiting, planning and funding operations throughout the world. The Jihadist movement is attempting to go ‘toe to toe’ with the West and challenge its perceived influence and hegemony across the globe.

· The semi-autonomous tribal areas of Pakistan have become a sanctuary for Islamic militants, a resurgent Taliban and Al-Qaeda leftovers. It is also the probable safe haven for Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and the one eyed Mohammed Omar. Like the Viet Cong sanctuaries in Cambodia during the Vietnam War, these Islamic militant havens are also ‘off limits’ due to political sensitivities and the precarious hold on power exercised by the Pakistani generals led by President Musharaff.

· Iraq is a stalemate with no true resolution, or outright victory, in sight. The steady drip of casualties and spectacular civilian massacres by one faction or another has made the Iraq war increasingly unpopular as well as fodder for critics on the home front. The Iraq war has become both a focal point, and a distraction, in the War on Terror. The increased jockeying and use of surrogate forces among the regional countries, including Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, has muddled the already deteriorating situation. It increasingly appears that Iraq is sliding into a three was civil war between Sunni elements, US backed moderate Shia’s and Kurds, and radical Shiite militias.

· The West’s continued commitment in the War on Terror is shallow and subject to the whims of popular opinion and distraction by partisan politics. Since when are wars won by opinion polls and focus groups? The enemy’s dedication to ultimate victory cannot be questioned, while the will of the West and its allies to achieve final and complete victory is continually undermined by internal distractions, an unwillingness to sacrifice, and entire political movements dedicated to appeasement, self-blame, retreat and capitulation.

· The Leftist ideology of “Tolerance, Political Correctness, Diversity and Multiculturalism” continues to paralyze, demoralize, and severely undermine the ability to both fight and win the ideological, cultural and religious war in which the United States, and Western Civilization as a whole, is currently embroiled.
President George Bush addressed the War on Terror in his 2007 State of the Union Speech:

“A thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics, and in 2006 they struck back. In Lebanon, assassins took the life of Pierre Gemayel, a prominent participant in the Cedar Revolution. And Hezbollah terrorists, with support from Syria and Iran, sowed conflict in the region and are seeking to undermine Lebanon’s legitimately elected government. In Afghanistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters tried to regain power by regrouping and engaging Afghan and NATO forces. In Iraq, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shi’ia Islam – the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This atrocity, directed at a Muslim house of prayer, was designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shi’ia – and it succeeded. Radical Shi’ia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads. The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day.”

Portions of the War on Terror have been pursued brilliantly while others have been poorly implemented with disappointing results. The dynamics are fluid and the unconventionality of the war has resulted in unexpected and unforeseen setbacks. It is a conflict where adaptability is a constant necessity and a long term vision and sense of context is essential.

The citizens of the United States and their allies around the globe must realize that they are engaged in a “Long War” for which there are no easy answers or quick victories. The battles and foes they face differ from conflict to conflict and from region to region. Perseverance, understanding and patience will be just as important as military and political victories in this struggle. It is imperative to not forget the dramatic successes that the West has accomplished, and to remember and learn from the setbacks that it has experienced. We are still at the beginning of this war, not the end, and the strategies, successes and setbacks we face in the future will be shaped and determined by what we have both achieved, and failed to achieve, in the past.

Posted by David M. Huntwork at June 20, 2007 8:00 AM
Comment #223568

Hey, you forgot Poland in Global War On Terror active allies list!


The Leftist ideology of “Tolerance, Political Correctness, Diversity and Multiculturalism” continues to paralyze, demoralize, and severely undermine the ability to both fight and win the ideological, cultural and religious war in which the United States, and Western Civilization as a whole, is currently embroiled.

I find funny to call diversity and multiculturalism an ideology. You just have to open eyes on reality to see that there is neither ONE culture neither ONE society model shared by every human around the world.

Meanwhile, being in denial of reality is ideological. Ironically, this one don’t paralyze but drive straight toward wall.
I’ll let the readers attribute this idealogy to whatever side(s) they likes (or not), if any.

Anyway, that’s nice to know that Pentagon plans an over 20 years war long. I’m sure militaro-industrial complexe is fine with this.
After all, no war, no business, no business, no wealth, no wealth, no growth, no growth, no jobs. Fortunatly, no jobs, no soldiers shortage. Yeah, free market is self-regulated…

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at June 20, 2007 1:09 PM
Comment #223570

Poland would be included in the ‘Eastern European countries’ reference. Most of the formerly communist countries still have fresh memories of what it was like to exist under totalitarianism and have been great allies in the War on Terror. They know what it is like to exist under the type of ideologies that the US and Western Civilization are fighting against and have no interest in repeating the experience.

And unless you can come up with a plan for a quick global victory, we will be facing a long war against those who want to destroy the West and reestablish the caliphate.

Posted by: David M. Huntwork at June 20, 2007 1:34 PM
Comment #223571


What you are saying about the Iraq War is essentially what critics have been saying for years: it’s a distraction from and setback to the struggle against terrorists. The reason is that those who long wanted another war with Iraq used 9/11 to generate support and never considered in realistic terms the aftermath of an Iraqi invasion. Neoconservative dreams of re-shaping the middle east and consolidating U.S. world dominance through force prevailed.

Despite your attempts to blame the Left, the difficulties in Iraq were caused by a rush to capitalize on 9/11 trauma by those officials, including Cheney, who longed to use the end of the Cold War to broaden U.S. geopolitical dominance through the strength of its military. The mess was predicted by many, including former high officials from previous Republican administrations. And now we have in fact inspired a generation of new terrorists, and have plunged Iraq into an incredibly brutal civil war. Liberals are to blame insofar as they feared political retaliation for not going along with the president.

We have elevated terrorist thugs to incredible heights by toppling Iraq. This administration, despite statements to the contrary, saw the conflict in nation vs. nation terms, and not in terms of old fashioned investigation coupled with precisely targeted military force.

Posted by: Gerrold at June 20, 2007 3:35 PM
Comment #223574

Why should I have a plan? I’m not the one who dubbed this a War On Terror, making terrorism the main focus of public foreign policy. I opposes Iraq War and any WOT connection with it ever attempted, and I actually believes that in Afghanistan today situation will not be as messy if many US & UK soldiers there first were not moved next to Iraq 4 years ago.

I believes there is no quick global victory possible anymore, but I also believes Afghanistan War could have been a quick victory if we haven’t start another war *before* we win this first one.

You want global victory? Win each war, one by one. If you can’t win everyone at the same time, as it seems since 4 years, take each one by one.
First objective first. Win Afghanistan. Capture or kill OBL. Remove powers from talibans. Help afghans to build a more stable nation.

Then, and only then, move your focus to another war. Iraq, Iran, your call. But, again, if you can’t take both at once, do it one *after* the other.

This whole War On Terror is just a creation of idealogists who wrongly think we’re so better than everyone else that we can’t be defeated, we can’t be wrong, misdoer or immoral. And they’re so doubtless that they can’t refrain themselves to brag about their good vs evil croisade. Offering, like in every good movie, the 1st role to the vilain, something he can’t even dream about.

Terrorists doesn’t deserve such “public” attention IMHO. That what they’re seeking. They’re using terrorism to force people changing their foreign policy. By making this WOT your policy in the open, by making your misdoing in the open, by starting a pre-emptive war on forged/flawed WMDs threats, you’re actually giving them massive media coverage for free, you’re actually helping them to recruit more candidates to martyrdom and Islamic heroes hall of fame, while losing one by one any moral high ground.

Instead, drastically increase the silent international counter-terrorism efforts will have achieved most of the same successes above without offering to radical islamism that much ammo for their propaganda, that much stars&stripes targets for their suicide bombers, that much moral ground to counterfight you now that you’re the agressor, not the defendor. Which you were very legitimately right after 9/11.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at June 20, 2007 4:01 PM
Comment #223578


In your scenario, what happens if OBL moves to another country. Let’s say Iraq. What are you to do in your scenario. We can’t move in until we are finished with Afghanistan? Your argument makes little sense. This is a global war.

Posted by: wolf at June 20, 2007 5:13 PM
Comment #223579
In your scenario, what happens if OBL moves to another country. Let’s say Iraq. What are you to do in your scenario. We can’t move in until we are finished with Afghanistan?

Yep. Win Afghanistan war against talibans. Restore the country to a working stable state. Give their country back to afghans. Win this war first.
So you wont have to goes back there in a few years. So that afghans don’t join islamists ranks against us. Afghans deserves more attention than OBL. Do the job, and do it well.

Then, goes after OBL in Iraq if he’s there. Which I doubt.

First thing first. You can’t run after every cat at once, sorry. After 4 years trying to do it, you should have learned that already.

Your argument makes little sense. This is a global war.

Oh really? Where is draft then? How serious a global war can be without a draft in all major western nations?! Stop kidding yourself. There is no armies of over 1 million of radical Islamist soldiers. Oh, sure, terrorism threat is real. And we should reduce it as much as possible. But you can kill every terrorist, because one day one will succeed again, period.

War On Terror is not winnable. It’s like War On Death.

What’s winnable (well, “was” at least) is war against radical Islamism. It’s like war against obscurantism in our own western nations past. But for that we must be the gooders/liberators/makers of better future we’ve promised we will be.

Which we fail to do so far…

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at June 20, 2007 5:50 PM
Comment #223583


Even If we take what you are saying here at FACE VALUE…

Does it not bother you when this info you are handing out is compared to that which was told to Congress and the UN as well as the American People PRIOR to beginning this war?…even just comparing it with that BS which has been peddled to America, Congress and the UN DURING the war is enough to make anyone paying attention get hopping mad!

Lies were told that cost lives.
Now, INCONSISTENT new information is being peddled and it astonishes me how many Americans are actually accepting it and even becoming apologist for the worst administration in American history.

Posted by: RGF at June 20, 2007 6:48 PM
Comment #223591

It is a mistake to wage war on any part of any religion. The war should be on terrorism regardless of religious sects give it nurturance.

And terrorism should be viewed as similar to bacteria. One can never rid an infected person of all bacteria, but, one can eliminate enough of it with drugs, so that the immune system can keep the rest at bay. That is the only appropriate goal for the war on terrorism. Appropriate, because it defines limits and benchmarks which prevent the waste of valuable resources on overdosing antibiotics trying to kill the last bacteria which, can also kill the patient.

One cannot seek to eliminate terrorism entirely and hope to maintain friendly cooperative and productive relationships in the world at the same time, because eliminating the last terrorist would require such and overwhelming authoritarian and military action as to alienate most of the rest of the world against us as the greater evil.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 20, 2007 9:05 PM
Comment #223596


War on terror aside, we should have never invaded Iraq. Bush’s father knew better.

From David Michael Green;

“The senior Bush had a chance after that war to occupy Iraq and topple Saddam. He chose not to because, in his own words and those of his National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, “Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq … would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. … We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. …furthermore, we had been self consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.’s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different - and perhaps barren - outcome.”

Amazing how astute the old man was, but he had more experience with foreign affairs than the former Governor of Texas.

Posted by: Rocky at June 20, 2007 9:38 PM
Comment #223613

Rocky, or in retrospect you could say that the elder Bush’s decision to not finish off Saddam when he had the chance was an unmitigated disaster.

The proof is Saddam’s subsequent slaughter of the Kurds and others who opposed him, the attempted assassination of a US president, the destabilization of the entire region, and a mortality rate under UN sanctions that EXCEEDED by a very wide margin that under the present occupation.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at June 21, 2007 1:26 AM
Comment #223614

I am not the least bit interested in whether or not my analysis is similar or not to the administrations nor do I particularly care if there are those who cannot logically process the information even if “just comparing it with that BS which has been peddled to America, Congress and the UN DURING the war is enough to make anyone paying attention get hopping mad”. I am interested in the truth, not politically correct interpretations of it or any talking points from anyone else. I call them as I see them, for better or for worse. If they stand up to scrutiny all the better, if not, then maybe they have at least helped a few people take a look at the bigger picture instead of wallowing in their partisanship and petty political bickerings.

Posted by: David M. Huntwork at June 21, 2007 1:32 AM
Comment #223616
Since when are wars won by opinion polls and focus groups?

Wars aren’t won on opinions, but they can be lost by opinions, when the administration conducting the war demonstrates no ability to achieve victory. At some point the people have to say enough is enough, the cost of failure is exceeding the cost of defeat.

Posted by: Cube at June 21, 2007 3:12 AM
Comment #223617

Loyal Opposition, or in retrospect you could say that the youger Bush’s decision to not finish off Afghanistan war when he had the chance was an unmitigated disaster.

The proof is talibans’s subsequent bloody return to power in Afghanistan, the lack of soldiers to accomplish their mission there, the allies leaving out the entire region and a death by weapon rate under current US occupation of Iraq that EXCEED by a very wide margin that under none.

There was no deadly WMDs in Iraq. Now there is. Guess why.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at June 21, 2007 3:27 AM
Comment #223627


“I am interested in the truth, not politically correct interpretations of it or any talking points from anyone else.”

OK then, riddle me this. How is the invasion and occupation of Iraq a part of the War on Terror? If you wish to be truthful, at least admit that the Iraq war was started under the pretense of being part of the War on Terror, not as an actual part of it, either as an accomplishment or as a failure. Anything else, sorry, is indeed a talking point. So is, for that matter, calling it the War On Terror in the first place. If you are going to parrot the administration as much as you do, you will be hard pressed to show that you are not becoming part of the talking points yourself. Especially since, to be honest, truth is not this administration’s strong point.


Posted by: leatherankh at June 21, 2007 8:55 AM
Comment #223636

“..helped a few people take a look at the bigger picture instead of wallowing in their partisianship and petty political bickering.”

Sure, except we have seen your previous post which does nothing but wallow in partisianship and petty political bickering. It’s tough to believe you are doing anything else as this post continues this approach, ie- ” leftist ideology of tolerance…”. You blame the left for failures in Iraq yet fail to see the bigger picture yourself.
The Administration in charge of this debacle in Iraq has failed to pay for this battle as we go, instead they ring up billions in debt that is to be paid by future generations. They have stated their intent is to shrink the federal government to the point they can drown it in the bath tub. Yet you criticize those opposed to the war for not having perserverance and patience. Prove that your side is truely interested in fighting terror not just conquering for oil by funding this “Long War”.

Posted by: j2t2 at June 21, 2007 9:47 AM
Comment #223638


You are exhibiting a classic self-defense mechanism. You seek the truth but those who disagree are motivated by partisanship. It’s a wonderful way of perserving your own ego structures while dismissing challenges. You argue in good faith but your opponents do not.

I prefer discussions which are carried out calmly and rationally, but, really, David, your posts here have often engaged in unsupported and very sweeping generalizations against what you perceive is the Left.

Posted by: Gerrold at June 21, 2007 11:23 AM
Comment #223640


We don’t really know just how many Iraqis have been sacrificed during this gambit in Iraq, so what you are doing is assuming.

We were sold this adventure, as someone would sell a poorly running used car, and saving the Iraqis from Saddam wasn’t even in the top five of the revolving reasons we were told.
This discussion is like deja vu all over again.
All we have truly accomplished in Iraq was to show the world that Saddam really did have a reason to fear his neighbors, as his vaunted military, for all of his bluster, sucked wind.
As for Saddam murdering and torturing his own people, there are plenty of other countries on this planet who’s leaders do the same or worse to their populations.
Iraq was, and still is, a side trip, and a distraction from the big picture in the war on terror. It has merely served to suck time, capital, and lives away from the real job we should have been doing all along.

The senior Bush knew what Saddam was doing to his people, had a much bigger military at his disposal, and yet chose not to put American lives at risk on a gambit that he knew wouldn’t work.

Posted by: Rocky at June 21, 2007 11:36 AM
Comment #223684

“The United States exposed and virtually eliminated the Pakistani Khan Nuclear Proliferation Network”

Dang, I almost bit my tongue off convulsing thru the laughter. Exposed……….yeah, OK………….but ELIMINATED?

You must be freakin’ kidding me! Or maybe I slept thru the part where Musharraf agreed to open interrogation of A Q Khan. Last I heard he was still suffering from complications of prostate cancer treatment……………and there’s no actual evidence of that.

Posted by: KansasDem at June 21, 2007 7:52 PM
Comment #223698

RE: Libya and Gaddafi, I’m sure Gaddafi finally surrendered the two Libyan suspects in the Locherbie bombings in April 1999 because he knew Bush was coming to read him “My Pet Goat”.

Sanctions strengthened by Clinton resulted in the weakening of Gaddafi’s regime, but it’s your story, tell it anyway you like. For that matter Gaddafi tried to gain favor with Clinton and Blair in 1999 by renouncing Al Qaeda and they both laughed him off.

Posted by: KansasDem at June 21, 2007 8:50 PM
Comment #223713

It would appear that some people need to do some homework on the current status of the Khan network and the dismantling of the massive nuclear program that the Libyans were undertaking (we loaded up entire cargo ships full of thousands of centrifuges and all the supporting machinery of their nuclear research program). Some might argue that alone would be a sufficient reward/result of the Iraq War. Islamic states are desperately attempting to get their hands on the ultimate weapon of nuclear blackmail to use against the West, and the US/West is determined to prevent that at any cost. It’s easy to sniff and snivel about things, but the facts stand for themselves. This isn’t really a partisan article at all, but a mere summary of where we now stand in the ‘Long War’.

Posted by: David M. Huntwork at June 21, 2007 10:46 PM
Comment #223783

David Huntwork-
We knew about that nuclear program before it was publically announced that it had been discovered; the discovery was part of a deal with Libya that allowed their WMD program to be discovered and scrapped without it looking like the great Gaddafi was bending a knee to the western powers. We dealt with at least some of the people responsible for Lockerbie to work this out.

That wasn’t about the Iraq war. We wouldn’t have needed to find a ship for Gaddafi to cooperate in that case.

The Bush administration never found WMDs. It has been unsuccessfuly in pressuring North Korea and Iran to get rid of their WMDs, to shut down their atomic programs. Plenty of other regimes have them, and show no signs of giving them up.

Besides, astute observers will note that after Afghanistan’s muddled resolution, the Bush administration went right back to the rogue nation’s policy it was pursuing before then.

The Long War is rhetoric, a way to defer expectations and the end of emergencies to the distant future, to justify more or less permanent power-grabs, to inhibit criticism of ongoing failures and absences of policy.

Folks on the right want to feel as if they’re holding up the sword and pointing the way for the charge in terms of defeating the terrorists. This rhetoric of a long war allows them to believe that they are more vigilant on the matter than their peers on the left and in the center.

Unfortunately, it’s letting them do so while the actual policy suffers from mission creep, a lack of focus, and an overreliance on the tricks and politics of the cold war.

The ongoing policy problems have their root in this sense of exceptionalism, this belief that Republicans are better on the ball on this issue than the Democrats they scorn.

It’s cost them everything.

I’d be the first person to advocate a long term, sustainable, effective policy against terrorism. Whatever their justifications, the terrorists do not deserve to win.

Unfortunately, the Right is fairly naive on how they fight, often playing into the hands of their opponents with their heedless behavior. They justify it in the name of being tougher than us, of not appeasing the enemy, but justifications are meaningless in the face of results, which, despite their once great majority power, these people don’t have.

Yoda’s advice in Star Wars comes to mind here. The right is always looking towards the future, never its minds focused on the here and the now. They’re always looking to prove ideas, always looking to change cultures and impose their will on the world, their dreams of changing things driving them.

But in the end, what we think should happen, what we think will happen, is nowhere near as important as what actually does happen and why. Those who merely want to maintain a theory and an agenda end up making themselves wrong and keeping themselves that way.

I’m not advocating a short term outlook. I’m advocating that we not let our imaginations run away with us, that we not blind ourselves with pride and visions of glory, but instead study our problems with humility and an appreciation for the importance of seemingly mundane details.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 22, 2007 2:24 PM
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