‘War on Terrorism’: A Humbling Experience for US & Allies
India’s leading and respected 129-year-old newspaper, The Hindu, carries an interesting and in-depth write-up The War of Ideas: Mindsets and Options. The author of the article is Hamid Ansari, a former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations.
“The problem essentially is with definitions and the assumptions underlying them: Tyranny, freedom, modern, moderate are all interpreted unilaterally and in terms of prescriptive political preferences…
” ‘The War on Terrorism,’ said President George W. Bush in National Security Strategy 2002, is ‘a struggle of ideas’ in which America ‘must excel.’
“Five years on, an informed analysis by Bruce Riedel in Foreign Affairs concludes, ‘Al Qaida is a more dangerous enemy today than it has ever been before.’ It suggests a new narrative, and a re-packaged effort. The admission is damaging, the urge to rethink encouraging.
“From the viewpoint of the United States and its allies, the 2003-2007 period has been a humbling one. The euphoria of victory has given way to a ‘long war.’ The urge to modernise West Asian societies has all but vanished under the twin imperatives of local resistance and external convenience.
“The realisation has dawned that an unthinking assault on a faith and its adherents has stiffened the resolve to defy. The ‘neocon moment’ is admitted to be a folly. Altogether, the hegemonic impulse has failed to deliver.
“A re-conceptualisation is said to be in progress. It covers military strategy, political approaches, even the ideological thrust. Each of these could be genuine or simulated; analysis therefore necessitates deconstruction in terms of motives and objectives…
“Defence Secretary Robert Gates has publicly accepted that the U.S. is ‘not winning’ the war…
” ‘The U.S. repression of Sunnis,’ writes Professor Juan Cole, ‘has allowed Shiites and Kurds to avoid compromises’ and radicalised Sunnis to the point that 70 per cent of them consider attacks on U.S. troops legitimate. The corresponding figure for 2003 was 14 per cent!
“A set of contradictions emerge from the resulting situation: (a) the mismatch between American military thinking and the American domestic timetable for the war effort; (b) the gap between American military effort and the Iraqi ground reality; (c) the chasm between the political perceptions of Iraqi factions. How are these to be resolved?
“The key to prevent an intensified civil war, argues Professor Cole, is ‘a U.S. withdrawal from the equation to force the parties to an accommodation. Therefore, the United States should announce its intentions to withdraw its military forces from Iraq, which will bring Sunnis to the negotiating table and put pressure on Kurds and Shiites to seek a compromise with them.
“But a simple U.S. departure would not be enough; the civil war must be negotiated to a settlement, on the model of the conflicts in Northern Ireland and Lebanon.’
“Regional diplomacy has a role to play in shaping the modalities and content of such negotiations. The idea has been around for over a year but made no progress while the Americans and the Iranians manoeuvred for the high ground. There is some hope now of it being pursued seriously.
“In such an effort, Saudi Arabia and Iran could be encouraged to emerge as brokers to nudge the principal adversaries to a comprehensive, balanced, compromise package capable of being monitored and one in which the gains of each would be evident. An overarching coordination mechanism of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the U.S. would be a prerequisite, and so would the support of other neighbours of Iraq.
“A peacekeeping force could supplement the arrangements arrived at; it should avoid the pitfall of peace enforcement…”