America’s strategy for combating terrorism
The White House has just published an up-dated version of its "National Strategy for Combating Terrorism". A useful summary of its main points in the New York Times of 5 September notes that it "focused more on decentralized networks of extremists than on Al Qaeda and … singled out Iran as a potential source of unconventional weapons for terrorist groups."
There are some interesting and thought-provoking points in the following extract from the document, tending to show as unduly simplistic the idea that the whole thing revolves around opposition to the Iraq war (sorry!):
Our terrorist enemies exploit Islam to serve a violent political vision. Fueled by a radical ideology and a false belief that the United States is the cause of most problems affecting Muslims today, our enemies seek to expel Western power and influence from the Muslim world and establish regimes that rule according to a violent and intolerant distortion of Islam. As illustrated by Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, such regimes would deny all political and religious freedoms and serve as sanctuaries for extremists to launch additional attacks against not only the United States, its allies and partners, but the Muslim world itself. Some among the enemy, particularly al-Qaida, harbor even greater territorial and geopolitical ambitions and aim to establish a single, pan-Islamic, totalitarian regime that stretches from Spain to Southeast Asia.
This enemy movement seeks to create and exploit a division between the Muslim and non-Muslim world and within the Muslim world itself. The terrorists distort the idea of jihad into a call for violence and murder against those they regard as apostates or unbelievers, including all those who disagree with them. Most of the terrorist attacks since September 11 have occurred in Muslim countries – and most of the victims have been Muslims.
In addition to this principal enemy, a host of other groups and individuals also use terror and violence against innocent civilians to pursue their political objectives. Though their motives and goals may be different, and often include secular and more narrow territorial aims, they threaten our interests and those of our partners as they attempt to overthrow civil order and replace freedom with conflict and intolerance.
There's naturally a lot here that Europeans would express differently, including the frequent characterisation of international terrorism as 'the enemy', reflecting of course the US administration's conviction that the effort to pre-empt and root out terrorism constitutes a 'war'. Many of us would dispute this, believing that the 'war' metaphor is liable to give rise to dangerously misleading assumptions about the appropriate measures for countering terrorism (not, for example, including the need or justification for putting civil rights systems on an emergency war-time footing, and only rarely if ever requiring the application of military force). But in general this seems a valuable and insightful document, and it's vaguely reassuring that its title refers to 'combating' terrorism, not 'defeating' it.