How (not) to counter terrorism

In my inbox this week are three important reminders of the costs and consequences of our country’s overly militarized responses to 9/11.

In his Informed Comment blog Juan Cole offers the “speech President Obama should give about the Iraq War (but won’t).”

With customary eloquence and unusual passion Cole tells the truth our political leaders dare not admit:

  • Our nation violated international law and committed aggression when we acted against the will of the UN Security Council and invaded a country that had not attacked us.
  • The costs of this folly have been incalculable: severe damage to the honor and reputation of the United States; tens of thousands of US service members killed and seriously wounded; hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed and maimed; nearly one trillion dollars in financial costs, with much more to come over the decades as we care for our wounded warriors.

In this week’s Newsweek Fareed Zakaria describes “how American overreacted to 9/11,” spending tens of billions of dollars to create new government bureaucracies, engaging in seemingly endless wars and global military operations, and allowing government to usurp unprecedented powers that erode civil liberties—all in the name of countering an Al Qaeda organization that while murderous in intent has weakened in recent years and has been “unable to launch a single major attack on high-value targets in the United States and Europe.”

In this week’s New York Times Book Review Gary Bass examines Andrew Bacevich’s new volume Washington Rules. Bacevich draws upon his experience as a career army officer to denounce the militarization that afflicts American politics and has become especially virulent since 9/11. Bacevich is scathing in his criticism of the ‘commissars of the national security establishment’ and of lemming-like citizens who naively equate respect for those in uniform with unthinking submission to the lies and distortions of venal policymakers.

Three reminders as why we need less militarized means of countering terrorism.

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