For the United States in its war against terrorism, the goal was victory. That is to say, the goal was to enable Americans again to feel safe.
If Americans do not feel safer in October 2041 than they did in October 2001, the war was lost. Since 2041 is so far from the present, the immediate question becomes whether you judge US strategy as implemented as reaching towards victory?
As far as I can see, the United States government and its military had a strategy for this war. The strategy involved different goals for the short run and the long run:
This action made sense to those who thought that the US policy of the previous half century had failed and that US secret agencies were incompetent.
It was a repudiation of the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, and the US military's special forces.
The short run meant the next decade or so. The goal was to prevent any more attacks against the US or US interests. Note that Al Qaeda has undertaken major attacks every two or three years. I do not know whether it considers the attack in Spain as its prime effort for this time period.
The Bush Administration says that the attack in Spain was a victory for Al Qaeda since it caused the new Spanish government to withdraw its troops from Iraq. Opponents of the Bush Administration say that the new Spanish government intends to continue its efforts, as indicated by its recent deal with Morocco, and that the withdrawal is a poor indicator.
This action makes sense to those who think that dictatorships that fail women and prevent adaptation inspire some of their people to seek honest government but with old solutions.
As a practical matter, such a desire means danger to Americans since the United States government has sided with dictators such as the rulers of Saudi Arabia.
The long run meant at least one and probably two or three generations.
The short term strategy fits what Walter Russell Mead calls the `The Jacksonian Tradition' in US politics. In so far as the Iraqi enemy are seen as dishonorable, torture should be expected. The long run strategy fits the other three traditions, which Mead described as
... the commercial realism of the Hamiltonians, the crusading moralism of Wilsonian transcendentalists, and the supple pacifism of the principled but slippery Jeffersonians ...
The Bush Administration never said these long and short term strategies were its methods. It made other claims.
The Bush Administration argued for the invasion of Afghanistan on the grounds that its then government was not extraditing Osama bin Laden, as both the Clinton and Bush administrations had requested, and was providing training areas for people who would attack the US.
The Bush Administration argued for the invasion of Iraq on three grounds:
The justification for supporting the UN is that international laws and resolutions are a liberal, democratic, and contemporary European ideal; they provide a mechanism for restraining the actions of a super power.
Salman Rushdie made this argument. He spoke before the US government did. Since the Bush Administration picked up the argument so late, many think it was simply another set of lies.
Without a doubt, this was the major public justification for the invasion.
The Bush Administration convinced its political supporters and some others that not only was the Iraqi government funding development projects but that it possessed such weapons. Both actions were in contradiction to mandatory UN resolutions.
Although many were persuaded by these arguments, I doubt that they persuaded the US government as a whole, or its military. As I said above, I think the reasoning had short and long term goals.
In any event, the Bush Administration did not command the US army to investigate the 700 known and feared sites in Iraq in the six weeks following the US capture of Baghdad in April 2003, even though a cursory examination would have required fewer than 10% of the troops in the region. Thus, it did not undertake actions that might have enabled it to find and destroy chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological weapons located in places suspected by the US.
Moreover, the Administration did not provide enough occupation troops to ensure security for Iraqis in all parts of Iraq. This means it could not promote law, which enables predictability, and is the basis for everything else.
This is one part of the implementation question.
The other part has to do with US political traditions.
The US government and its military followed the 1940s `containment strategy' against the former Soviet Union for half a century. That strategy was simple. Moreover, it was sufficiently general that it appealed to all the American political traditions.
My claim for current US strategy is that it is two-fold. Its different parts appeal to different American political traditions, the short term part to the Jacksonians, the longer term part to the rest. Consequently, it should be much more difficult for any United States government to implement than the `containment strategy'.
Nonetheless, for Americans, and for the rest of the world, key questions still remain:
Do you think United States policy will lead to victory for the US?
Will United States stratey lead to Americans feeling safer a generation and two from now?
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