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A message to progressives on Afghanistan (Part 3): the terrorist threat

April 8, 2009

This is part 3 of a 5-part series responding to arguments from thoughtful Democrats and progressives who are unsure about opposing President Obama’s plan for Afghanistan. You can read part one about whether more troops create more security here. You can read part two on women’s rights here.

Reason #3: “Terrorism is a legitimate threat and we need to eliminate it.”

I agree, which is yet another reason why I am concerned about the use of a military strategy. In creating the “Global War on Terror” (now known as the Overseas Contingency Operation in some circles), the Bush administration set up an unrealistic expectation of battlefield victories against terrorists, and glorified extremists as holy warriors. Terrorists are criminals and should be treated as such; the US doesn’t bomb criminals’ houses, they arrest them and bring them to justice through the court system.

History shows that military force is not an effective means of eliminating terrorism. The RAND Corporation issued a report last year demonstrating that only 7% of the terrorist groups that ended were brought down by military force. Policing, intelligence, and political accommodation are far more effective, not to mention less deadly and costly. It is hard to imagine how the situation in Afghanistan would be likely to fall in that small 7% window.

I’ve written about this a number of times, and you’ll find some of my writing about this here, here and here.

Tomorrow I’ll write about Reason #4: “I trust President Obama’s leadership; we need to give him a chance to make this work.”

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