13 August 2006

Stop the Presses!

And I guess the internet too.

The Total War against Terror [TWAT] actually has to be fought with intelligence in what is essentially a police action. Just imagine: The terrorists are, like, criminals, requiring, like, police-type action -- not by tying up one's military by invading, destabilizing and destroying an uninvolved nation.

I've thought that, more or less, since 9/11, give or take a couple of days.

And I've finally been seconded.

At the core of the administrations’ war on terror are two strategies, neither of which appear to be particularly relevant in this particular case. One is the notion that we can best win the war on the offense — that should “fight them over there so we don’t need to fight them over here.” That’s what the Iraq War, and Bush’s support for Israel’s fight against Hizbollah, are all about.

But as far as we know, the plotters in the UK were homegrown — all were British citizens. Taking the offense in this war — by which the administration means using military force — is worse then useless. For who are you going to bomb? Safe houses in High Wycombe or Birmingham?

What appears to have cracked this case is not a war strategy or military offensive, but good intelligence, skilled detective work, and months of careful surveillance — the kind of traditional law enforcement strategies and defensive measures that Bush and his administration have always shunned.

This apparent success also undermines the second core element of the administration’s war on terror — the notion that effective counter-terrorism action requires ignoring established procedures and the rule of law. As the Brits have shown, there is no need to subvert the law, or civic liberties, to conduct effective counter-terrorism operations. And when the UK government found that some laws (e.g., on the duration of detention) might interfere with effective investigations and actions, it has sought to change the law through established parliamentary procedures rather than to ignore it as Bush has been wont to do.

We still live in a very dangerous world, where evil men concoct evil plots aiming to inflict “mass murder on an unimaginable scale.” But that reality should not be mistaken for justifying the ill-conceived strategies Bush has touted to deal with this danger over the past 5 years.


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