On the eve of the 13th anniversary of 9/11, president Obama asked the American people to support his war on the jihadist group known as ISIL or ISIS operating in parts of Syria and Iraq. This is one of the rebel groups that started operations in Syria as part of the heterogeneous rebel movement to overthrow the Assad regime that the US, and its European and Arab allies along with Turkey wanted removed. In short, the US indirectly helped to create the fanatic jihadist group that it now wants to destroy.
In his speech Obama stated: “This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.” What he has in mind is drone warfare that many organizations and governments have condemned as causing indiscriminate damage and killing far more innocent civilians than rebels in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other areas. For this kind of war that has proved controversial, Obama is asking the support of the people, knowing full well very few would dare to criticize any kind of war against terrorism.
The problem, however, is that the method of eradicating militant Islamist elements actually creates even more precisely because of the indiscriminate strikes. Even more significant, the US is addressing the symptoms of jihadist activity in Islamic countries, rather than the root causes.
Even if Muslims want to support the US war against ISIS, how can they do so when the US has a long history of “a crusading foreign policy” toward Muslim countries, exempting the more authoritarian Saudi Arabia and Gulf States that have been funding ISIS, while striking selectively at regimes that the US wants replaced. Even more significant, even if there is 100% popular and political support for the new version of the Bush anti-terrorism policy, can this bring the desired goal into fruition, or is it merely another public relations ploy on the part of an unpopular president who has difficulty dealing with domestic problems like a declining middle class and a massive public debt?
Never mind if the new Obama policy, which is in essence a rehashed Bush policy with drones, achieves its goal. The only thing that matters is that the president and the government project an image of strength identified with military action that makes Americans feel safer at home and perhaps put the fear of God in America’s enemies. Reading the media analysis and commentary on this subject, there is only support with some criticism from right wingers that America must do more militarily to teach terrorists a lesson.
There is hardly any criticism based on what has the Bush anti-terror war achieved and why a failed policy would work better for Obama. Nor is there criticism that Obama was elected in 2008 on the promise to address the root causes of terrorism, and not the symptoms that simply result in increased jihadist activity around the world. It seems that indeed the blind are leading the blind, namely, the well paid status quo journalists and consultants, lobbyists for Israel and defense industry have prevailed, and varieties of right wingers are on the march. But toward what end and for how long is the madness to continue before anyone notices that the vicious circle must stop?
The key question is the increase or decrease of terrorism in the last thirteen years that the US has been engaged in this global campaign at an enormous cost to the US taxpayers. According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) (University of Maryland), terrorism increased in Asia, Africa, Middle East and on a global scale. Many have reached the conclusion that the war on terrorism feeds terrorism and its increase throughout the world. Others note that the US and its allies engaged in formal war against terrorism qualifies as terrorism if we consider the innocent civilian fatalities, injured and millions of displaced and impoverished people that the US campaigns have caused.
It is not only a safe assumption, but a sure bet that the new Obama policy due to last at least three years will result in the rise of terrorism.
This brings into question the motives of the US pursuing policies that increase terrorism rather than decreasing it as the government claims. We must assume that policymakers are very smart people with experience who also rely on outside consultants to formulate policy. We must also assume, however, that they believe the same formula that worked in bringing down the Communist bloc would work on ending terrorism. This assumes that rebel groups using unconventional war are no different than the former Communist regimes that used conventional military forces and had organized government. We must further assume that US policymakers are so driven by ideology rooted in the Cold War that they cannot possibly accept any other framework to combat terrorism as they define it. If all these are true, then the policy is doomed to fail and in fact to bring about an increase in terrorism.