The U.S. “war on terror” is being conducted in the most wrong-headed way imaginable. It should be called “a war of revenge against people suspected of sympathizing with terrorists.” And that kind of war can produce only one result – more people who sympathize with terrorists and even some who become terrorists. President Obama must reverse this counterproductive approach and find a new way to deal with the threat of terrorism.
One immediate move should be to suspend the strikes against civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan while his envoy Richard Holbrooke assesses the situation and works out a more reasonable way forward.
It is unconscionable for U.S. troops to blow up inoffensive men, women and children in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari and Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai are justifiably infuriated by this senseless slaughter.
I know that Obama promised on the campaign trail that he would attack Al Quaida positions in Pakistan if the Pakistani authorities would not or could not root out the terrorists entrenched in the wild mountains bordering Afghanistan. It was a promise unworthy of a thoughtful and temperate leader, but I wrote it off as a rhetorical concession to conservatives.
Obama’s decisions to close the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention center and to outlaw torture are important steps in the right direction, sending a powerful message to the Muslim world. And his recent appointment of Holbrooke as his special envoy to recommend a coordinated approach to the Afghanistan-Pakistan problem is also the right way to go. But civilian bloodshed is continuing even as Holbrooke prepares to visit the region.
I am sure the President recognizes the folly of the Bush Administration’s policy of fighting terror with terror. It is bad enough when Islamic extremists and other barbarians slaughter innocent civilians to make a point; it is far worse when a civilized nation adopts the same brutish tactics.
President Obama is too intelligent and compassionate to continue this savagery. I am surprised that he has not issued a cease-and-desist order to the commanders in the field who persist in shedding innocent blood in the name of American national security. And I hope that Holbrooke will come up with a more sophisticated policy designed not only to keep America safe but also to promote peace and good will among the civilian populations of this troubling region. I believe such an approach is far more likely to defeat the extremists than a mindless campaign of bloodshed.
Photos show U.S. missiles (top), villagers inspecting missile damage (middle) and protesting Afghans (bottom).