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Study questions US strategy against al-Qaida

Old 07-29-08, 07:02 AM
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Study questions US strategy against al-Qaida

Yahoo News Story

By BARRY SCHWEID, AP Diplomatic Writer Tue Jul 29, 12:32 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The United States can defeat al-Qaida if it relies less on force and more on policing and intelligence to root out the terror group's leaders, a new study contends.

"Keep in mind that terrorist groups are not eradicated overnight," said the study by the federally funded Rand research center, an organization that counsels the Pentagon.

Its report said that the use of military force by the United States or other countries should be reserved for quelling large, well-armed and well-organized insurgencies, and that American officials should stop using the term "war on terror" and replace it with "counterterrorism."

"Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests there is no battlefield solution to terrorism," said Seth Jones, the lead author of the study and a Rand political scientist.[b/]

"The United States has the necessary instruments to defeat al-Qaida, it just needs to shift its strategy," Jones said.

Nearly every ally, including Britain and Australia, has stopped using "war on terror" to describe strategy against the group headed by Osama bin Laden and considered responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 suicide attacks at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.

Based on an analysis of 648 terrorist groups that existed between 1968 and 2006, the report concluded that a transition to the political process is the most common way such groups end. But the process, found in 43 percent cases examined, is unlikely with al-Qaida, which has a broad, sweeping agenda, the report said.

The second most common way that terrorist groups end, seen in about 40 percent of the cases, is through police and intelligence services apprehending or killing key leaders, Jones said. Police are particularly effective because their permanent presence in cities helps them gather information, he said.

By contrast, the report said, military force was effective in only 7 percent of the cases.

Jones, in an interview, said, "Even where we found some success against al-Qaida, in Pakistan and Iraq, the military played a background or surrogate role. The bulk of the action was taken by intelligence, police and, in some cases, local forces."

"We are not saying the military should not play a role," he said. "But unless you are talking about large insurgencies, military force should not be the tip of the spear."


Among the report's conclusions:

_Religious terrorist groups take longer to eliminate than other groups but none has achieved victory in the 38 years covered by the study.

_Terrorist groups from upper-income countries are more likely to be left-wing or nationalist, and much less likely to be motivated by religion.

_Large groups of more than 10,000 have been victorious more than 25 percent of the time, while victory is rare for groups with 1,000 or fewer members.

The report described al-Qaida as a "strong and competent organization," both before and after 9-11. Its goals, the report said, are uniting Muslims to fight the United States and its allies, overthrowing regimes in the Middle East friendly to the West and establishing a pan-Islamic state, or caliphate.
Summary of the Bush Doctrine from Wiki

The Bush Doctrine is a phrase used to describe various related foreign policy principles of United States president George W. Bush, created in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The phrase initially described the policy that the United States had the right to treat countries that harbor or give aid to terrorist groups as terrorists themselves, which was used to justify the invasion of Afghanistan.[1] Later it came to include additional elements, including the controversial policy of preventive war, which held that the United States should depose foreign regimes that represented a threat to the security of the United States, even if that threat was not immediate (used to justify the invasion of Iraq), a policy of supporting democracy around the world, especially in the Middle East, as a strategy for combating the spread of terrorism, and a willingness to pursue U.S. military interests in a unilateral way.[2][3][4] Some of these policies were codified in a National Security Council text entitled the National Security Strategy of the United States published on September 20, 2002.[5]
These two topics may intersect, or maybe you feel they have no correlation. And I'm even going to give you an out on the poll, cause I'm a nice guy.

My personal feeling is that I remember plenty of debates here discussing the idea that counter terrorism was "primarily a police action" (ie John Kerry 2004) as a weak idea and that people needed to get on board with the large footprint military presence that the Bush Doctrine favors. I think it's pretty interesting that the Rand group came to these conclusions given their influence in the Pentagon and Washington circles and I think it points to a shift away from the Bush Doctrine going forward in US foreign policy.
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Old 07-29-08, 07:28 AM
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I hate cookie cutter solutions and I don't think either approach (treating it as a police action or using military might) should be used exclusively. You have to use the one that is most applicable for the given/specific situation that comes about. The most important thing for either though is intelligence and I don't think that's primarily on the police side which the report seems to indicate.
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Old 07-29-08, 07:59 AM
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The United States can defeat al-Qaida if it relies less on force and more on policing and intelligence to root out the terror group's leaders, a new study contends.
"Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests there is no battlefield solution to terrorism," said Seth Jones, the lead author of the study and a Rand political scientist.
Do you believe that approach is somewhat naive?

"We are not saying the military should not play a role," he said. "But unless you are talking about large insurgencies, military force should not be the tip of the spear."
Ah - realism returns.
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Old 07-29-08, 08:19 AM
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I've argued with my dad for MONTHS that short of blowing up the entire middle east (which is not my position - I just use it to make the point) there is no realistic way to WIN the war on terror for exactly these reasons.

You kill one group, another pops up. It's just like the war on drugs. You kill one crack head dealer, another pops up to take his place.

It's a money pit.
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Old 07-29-08, 08:28 AM
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Yes since I'm a subscriber of the Gore Vidal Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace line of thinking. The "War on Terror" is simply a convenient replacement for the Cold War to facilitate massive military spending.
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Old 07-29-08, 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by mosquitobite
I've argued with my dad for MONTHS that short of blowing up the entire middle east (which is not my position - I just use it to make the point) there is no realistic way to WIN the war on terror for exactly these reasons.

You kill one group, another pops up. It's just like the war on drugs. You kill one crack head dealer, another pops up to take his place.

It's a money pit.
Legalization would end the war on drugs.
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Old 07-29-08, 08:31 AM
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The defense budget is the largest discretionary spending program in the budget.

However, I wouldn't call it massive.

Rather larger is a better description.
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Old 07-29-08, 08:37 AM
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_Religious terrorist groups take longer to eliminate than other groups but none has achieved victory in the 38 years covered by the study.

_Terrorist groups from upper-income countries are more likely to be left-wing or nationalist, and much less likely to be motivated by religion.

_Large groups of more than 10,000 have been victorious more than 25 percent of the time, while victory is rare for groups with 1,000 or fewer members.
well - which is it?
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Old 07-29-08, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by achau9598
well - which is it?
You do know that not all terrorist groups are religious, right?
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Old 07-29-08, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by CRM114
Legalization would end the war on drugs.
So we should legalize terrorism?
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Old 07-29-08, 09:07 AM
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Originally Posted by orangecrush18
So we should legalize terrorism?
No. Just questioning the validity of the analogy. I thought that was obvious.
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Old 07-29-08, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by CRM114
Legalization would end the war on drugs.
Maybe a reduced US presence overseas would help end terrorism. There's about an equal chance of that happening and legalized drugs.
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Old 07-29-08, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by CRM114
No. Just questioning the validity of the analogy. I thought that was obvious.
I see. Perhaps I need some more coffee.
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Old 07-29-08, 09:48 AM
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Actually I think it's a valid analogy in the sense of both are going to be ongoing "wars" w/ ever changing focuses and consuming vast amounts of time and resources. Even the aspect of legalization carries over since if drugs are legalized it's most likely not all of them are going to be, and in some sense we have "legalized" some terror groups when we've come up w/ agreements or officially "recognize" them.
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Old 07-29-08, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by nemein
Actually I think it's a valid analogy in the sense of both are going to be ongoing "wars" w/ ever changing focuses and consuming vast amounts of time and resources. Even the aspect of legalization carries over since if drugs are legalized it's most likely not all of them are going to be, and in some sense we have "legalized" some terror groups when we've come up w/ agreements or officially "recognize" them.
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Old 07-29-08, 10:04 AM
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I don't think in today's world that we can live without US military presence overseas. How much and how to use them?...that's the question we'll debate here until the end of time. It's always an interesting exercise.
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Old 07-29-08, 10:12 AM
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Good article. There's no question that the military should only be a tool in the overall strategy, not the primary tool. Surgical strikes based on good intel, with ground teams in special cases, should be quite effective. In the war on terror, you only need a large force to counter a gathered force (city that has been taken over, etc).

Of course, the "war on terror" can't be the only war we are prepared to fight with our military. But we can certainly refine the forces (and policies) necessary to fight that battle more effectively.
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Old 07-29-08, 02:29 PM
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Remember, we treated terrorism as a police problem after the first WTC bombings. And, Bin Laden was still under indictment when 9/11 occured. That worked out well.
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Old 07-29-08, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by mosquitobite
I've argued with my dad for MONTHS that short of blowing up the entire middle east (which is not my position - I just use it to make the point) there is no realistic way to WIN the war on terror for exactly these reasons.

You kill one group, another pops up. It's just like the war on drugs. You kill one crack head dealer, another pops up to take his place.
The Romans faced a similar situation with the Jews in 70 AD, but they managed to win without blowing up Judea. It's a matter of having the will to do whatever it takes to win -- and America isn't willing to resort to Roman tactics.
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Old 07-29-08, 05:30 PM
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Catch Bin Laden and crucify him.

... ...
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Old 07-29-08, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by CRM114
Legalization would end the war on drugs.
It would not end the result of drug use, though. It would end some problems, but ending a war by making the activity legal doesn't solve everything.
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Old 07-29-08, 06:45 PM
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Legalization, most likely, would increase the use of drugs for the short-term - maybe the long-term. No one knows.
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Old 07-29-08, 07:06 PM
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I believe the best approach to dealing with terrorism is to stop chasing the guy responsible for the attacks, and instead go after another guy in the same region that had nothing to do with it.
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Old 07-29-08, 08:11 PM
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Originally Posted by orangecrush18
So we should legalize terrorism?
Actually, the Bush Administration has legalized terrorism. They pick and choose which terrorist group is an "ally", then call the rest terrorists.

Not exactly a way to fight terrorism.
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Old 07-29-08, 10:10 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
Legalization, most likely, would increase the use of drugs for the short-term - maybe the long-term. No one knows.
But it would end the senseless violence that has destroyed cities such as the one where I was born. The downtown areas that once thrived are too violent and are deteriorating daily. Victimless drug use is the least of the problems. People are killing themselves every day with alcohol and prescription drugs.
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