Dimensions of National Security
Currently, the United States confronts unique geostrategic challenges. The admiration that America once enjoyed on the world stage has been all but destroyed. Today, the United States is neither loved nor feared. That reality is hardly conducive to American success in the war against terrorism, or to the advancement of U.S. national interests.
Throughout much of the world, one now encounters deep, visceral, and consuming hatred of the U.S. That reality does not promise American success in the war against terrorism.
The truth is that the news for the United States on the national security front is very bad.
The war in Iraq appears unwinnable militarily. Unless, perhaps, up to a million U.S. troops are dispatched to occupy Iraq for several years. That is politically and militarily impossible.
In Iraq, the United States is now caught in a geostrategic trap. If the U.S. withdraws suddenly from Iraq, civil war, or chaos, is likely to ensue. Destabilization elsewhere (Turkey, Iran, Syria) will more than likely result. However, if the U.S. stays in Iraq, it will continue to bleed. Resistance to what most Iraqis now regard as an American occupation will steadily increase, and radicalization in Iraq and across the Muslim world will deepen.
Currently, Iraq is becoming a viral breeding ground for a new generation of extremists. The resistance to the American occupation is increasing, not diminishing. The results of the just concluded Iraqi election on the provisional constitution, with Sunnis winning a two thirds majority in two provinces but not three, is likely to further stoke Sunni anger and frustration, and to provide the resistance more support. Now, a region-wide Sunni-Shiite war is not an impossibility. Surely, these developments do not contribute to U.S. national security, or enhance the effectiveness of the war against terrorism.
In Afghanistan, both the Taliban and al-Qaida are re-emerging. Resistance to American forces is increasing. Ultimately, Pushtun fundamentalists may well return to power in Kabul.
Despite the recent tactical Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the Israeli-Palestinian impasse appears to be as deep as ever. If recent reports of al Qaida operatives having succeeded in infiltrating the Gaza Strip are concerned are true, further destabilization is likely. Radicalization continues to spread not only in the West Bank and Gaza but also in Egypt, Syria, Jordan and elsewhere. Such radicalization can hardly be considered a contribution to U.S. national security, or helpful in the war against terrorism.
The truth is that American national security is eroding. It must be stated clearly: the United States is losing the war against terrorism. And it will continue to lose that war, and American national security will continue to be compromised, until and unless changes are made in U.S. foreign policy.
What is to be done?
First, the U.S. must recognize the nature of the war in which it is involved. In fact, this is not a war against terrorism, which is a tactic, not a capital or country. Rather, it is a war against a worldwide Islamic insurgency. Tactics appropriate to law enforcement are not appropriate here. Rather, special operations, and greatly improved intelligence capabilities, combined with initiatives of such non-governmental organizations as the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy and the International Institute for Political and Economic Studies sponsored by The Fund for American Studies, should be the order of the day.
Moreover, the United States must understand the motivations of its enemy. To understand is not to condone. Rather, understanding is a weapon to enable the U.S. to combat its enemy more effectively. Unless we understand how our enemy thinks, we will have no chance of winning the war against terrorism.
Al-Qaida is not fighting America because of what it is,Ӕ or because it enjoys free speech and practices democracy. Co-ed Ivy League universities, an independent judiciary, and bikini-clad sunbathers are not inspiring Muslim fundamentalists to fly aircraft into buildings.
If not, what is?
The answer is simple. It is very specific U.S. policies that enrage almost all Muslims-whether they support the tactics of al-Qaida or not-that are fueling the international Islamic insurgency against us. Unless a major policy reassessment is undertaken, we are likely to face a war without end. Unending war is surely not good for American national security.
What are the U.S. policies that so enrage Muslims?
*The American military presence in Qatar and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf.
*The American occupation of Iraq.
*The U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.
*U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Golan Heights.
*U.S. support for the policies of India in Muslim Kashmir, Russia in Muslim Chechnya, and Peking in Western Muslim China.
*Perceived U.S. pressure on Arab oil producers to sell oil at below-market prices.
*U.S. support, ever since the end of World War 11, for repressive Muslim governments which nevertheless appear to be stable.
Graham Fuller, a former Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council at CIA, maintains that prospects for success in the war against terrorism are slight. Fuller writes: I anticipate a worsening of the relationship between international Islam and the United States, based on several factors: ultimately inconclusive results from the War Against Terrorism, [the WarӒs] probable failure to end terrorism, andthe greatly increased resentment across the Muslim world [against the U.S.] as [the WarŒs] outcome. This process may well result in more terrorism against Americans specificallySuch a situation will place the United States in a deeply defensive position across the Muslim world.Ŕ
So, what is the bottom line?
Unless major changes are made in the way the United States relates to the Muslim world, hatred of the U.S. across the world is likely to continue to metastasize. Little inducement will exist for countries to collaborate with the United States. And U.S. national security will continue to be undermined.
Reassessment of U.S. policy toward the Islamic world should be a high priority for the incoming Bush administration.
Antony T. Sullivan is a member of the Board of Directors of CSID and Senior Fellow, Mediterranean and Near East Programs, The Fund for American Studies (Washington, D.C.)
Originally published in The Muslim Democrat at http://www.islam-democracy.org/md.asp The Muslim Democrat is a publication of The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy http://www.islam-democracy.org/ This article has been updated and reprinted in TAM with permission of the author.