Monday, March 28, 2016

Hammer. Nail.

This is a political post.

The idea that we are at odds with a faceless, stateless enemy had been slowly ebbing over the past year, as the time between incidents grew and other world issues bubbled to the surface. But after the horrific events of Brussels and Lahore, four actions in eight days total, the ugly specter of modern war has reasserted itself. And we have reacted again in the most typical, most predictable of fashions: Our problem is that when all you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail, and  America possesses the most powerful "hammer" the world has ever seen. As such to threats to our safety we predictably react by suggesting we put boots on the ground, or some other euphemism for putting young men in harm's way on purpose. You can almost hear the crowd chanting in a fervor. And it is a sound theory when you can have the war "over there," minimizing your own collateral damages. It also helps if your enemy isn't prepared or actually expects to die for his cause. But here, in the modern world, the war is wherever the "enemy" wants it to be, and the enemy intends to die. This isn't tactics and movements as we've known it, this is Guerilla warfare, the last act of the desperate, scaled up to the digital age.

War is no longer tanks and infantry, but selected strikes and strategic actions designed to provoke specific political reactions. And combating it is now more investigation, policing and spycraft than bullets, artillery and warships. We wish it all still that simple. But as we enter this new century, our vision of war has to change. We can't fight modern wars using outdated tactics lest we entertain the prospect of girding ourselves into tyranny. And yet this tyranny, this tearing apart of our basic values is our knee jerk response. 

So what do we do? Our enemies no longer wear uniforms clearly delineating this is one, they walk among the innocent, both here and abroad. So what can we do? While we wage this  modern war, using modern tools, we also have to attack this movement at its source. We have to metaphorically cut its supply lines. We can no longer merely treat the symptoms, we have to cure the underlying disease. And the disease is NOT Islam, or just anti-American sentiment, but partially if not in large part due to the same issue that causes so many ills of the world, and is the cause of this conflict as well: Poverty. As much as we don't want to admit it, a great deal of modern war is the result of our economics.

 I realize I'm not a scholar, and there has been some disagreement on the subject, but in the interviews I've read with terrorists, aside from that known small core of fanatics who truly believe a the particular vision, the majority of those who join organizations that use terror join those groups for the most basic of reasons: money. With rationales ranging from long periods of unemployment, lack of prospects, boredom to simply feeding their families, these don't always start as stalwart soldiers, but as desperate men. And in a war of suicide bombers, the way to wreck their supply lines are cut off the incentive for people to willingly join. Addressing those strict adherents is another matter, but you have to whittle down the enemy to win. 

For starters, I might suggest a comprehensive economic reform program, within the bounds of the tenets of the prevailing religion, need to introduced into those area rife with potential for the incubation of terror organization recruiting. And when I say comprehensive, I mean one that addresses corruption, nepotism, and injustice as well as providing opportunity.  I realize it's counter intuitive, that the idea might be read as providing them with the tools they need to cause us more injury. But in reality, the introduction of jobs, of work and the ability to feel the value of earning, should take away from the recruiting efforts. This is not to espouse the idea that capitalism is the answer, but a mix of capitalism and socialism, along with a sponsored program of moderation to mix with the radical ideas would help alleviate the pressure. The weird part is, this isn't exactly a new idea, but like a lot of things, I believe we're just not executing it properly. In some ways we're undercutting our efforts by trying to fight the modern war with conventional tactics, like drones and bombs.

Is this a fix all? No. In the complex world we live in, nothing is simple. This is just a starting point. A certain amount of hubris on the part of Americans also has to be worked through. But that's a point for another post. But as people have long said, you can't wait until it's perfect to get started, you have to start somewhere. And here is as good as any.

No comments: