Losing the War on Terror

LOSING THE WAR ON TERROR….There are legitimate differences of opinion about how to fight the war on terror. But as reported by Josh Meyer in the LA Times today, it’s barely conceivable that anyone thinks the Bush administration’s priorities can possibly make any sense:

The overall cost of the U.S. war on terrorism has ballooned to at least $502 billion since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, with the administration now requesting that Congress fund another $93 billion this year for the Pentagon’s counter-terrorism programs alone, and $142 billion for 2008.

Conditions are much different at the State Department, which is charged with coordinating the U.S. government’s international role in the war on terrorism. Its task includes overseeing aid to foreign governments and making sure the overall campaign balances military power, diplomacy, economic development, law enforcement and intelligence gathering.

The State Department requested $157.5 million for its major counter-terrorism programs this year but received $20 million less than that from Congress.

Sure, the State Department isn’t the only source of non-military spending in the GWOT. But it doesn’t matter. Maybe if you did a full accounting the ratio would go down from 1000:1 to 100:1 or 10:1. But it still wouldn’t be within light years of where it should be. We should be spending more on non-military responses to the GWOT than we do on military responses, not a mere 1% or even 10% as much.

And Meyer’s piece points out another thing, something that William Arkin has written about several times over at Early Warning: the Bush administration is in the process of militarizing practically everything related to the GWOT.

Over the last several years, the Bush administration has appointed a current or former military commander to virtually every senior post in the U.S. counter-terrorism campaign.

Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden now heads the CIA; retired Navy Vice Adm. John Scott Redd is in charge of the National Counterterrorism Center; and the White House just appointed retired Navy Vice Adm. J. Michael McConnell as director of national intelligence. Last month, the administration tapped Dell L. Dailey, an Army lieutenant general and director of the Center for Special Operations at MacDill Air Force Base, as the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for counter-terrorism.

“When everyone out there representing us is a general or a retired general, we have a problem,” said [Robert] Richer, now the chief executive of a company called Total Intelligence Solutions. “The United States used to be an iron fist with a velvet glove over it. Now it is viewed by many abroad as just an iron fist.”

Iraq aside, the military still has a substantial role to play in the GWOT. But it doesn’t have the only role — or even the biggest role. The biggest role — assuming we actually want to win, that is — will be played by programs and policies that work to convince the Muslim world that we’re not at war with them. Policies and programs aimed at winning them over and persuading them to stop supporting or tolerating terrorism in their midst. In the long run, short of turning the Middle East into a glassy plain, it’s simply the only way to win.

But money talks, and judging by the money it spends the Bush administration couldn’t care less about that stuff. Instead, Bush is all military all the time. It’s the fastest way imaginable to lose the war on terror and mortgage our country’s future to the Bank of China at the same time. Quite a legacy, no?