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Declare the War Over

August 26, 2008

The official hidden history of our disastrous war in Vietnam was leaked to the news media in a purloined document called the Pentagon Papers. The damning truth about America’s disastrous war on terrorism has just been made public in a press release.

“There is no battlefield solution to terrorism," The RAND Corporation, a top Pentagon contractor on national defense research, concluded in a comprehensive study of military campaigns against insurgency groups around the world. Specifically, US military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan are not working, the study concluded.

“Current U.S. strategy against the terrorist group al Qaida has not been successful in significantly undermining the group's capabilities, according to a new RAND Corporation study issued today,” the California-based research company stated in a press release dated July 29. “Al Qaida has been involved in more terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, than it was during its prior history and the group's attacks since then have spanned an increasingly broader range of targets in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, according to researchers.

“In looking at how other terrorist groups have ended, the RAND study found that most terrorist groups end either because they join the political process, or because local police and intelligence efforts arrest or kill key members. Police and intelligence agencies, rather than the military, should be the tip of the spear against al Qaida in most of the world, and the United States should abandon the use of the phrase ‘war on terrorism,’ researchers concluded.”

A better term would be "counterterrorism," the RAND study advised. "The term we use to describe our strategy toward terrorists is important, because it affects what kinds of forces you use," Seth Jones, the study’s lead author, said. "Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism."

On its web site, RAND bluntly summarized what it found:

“All terrorist groups eventually end. But how do they end? The evidence since 1968 indicates that most groups have ended because (1) they joined the political process (43 percent) or (2) local police and intelligence agencies arrested or killed key members (40 percent). Military force has rarely been the primary reason for the end of terrorist groups, and few groups within this time frame have achieved victory. This has significant implications for dealing with al Qa'ida and suggests fundamentally rethinking post-9/11 U.S. counterterrorism strategy: … The authors conclude that policing and intelligence, rather than military force, should form the backbone of U.S. efforts against al Qa'ida. And U.S. policymakers should end the use of the phrase ‘war on terrorism’ since there is no battlefield solution to defeating al Qa'ida.”

The RAND report echoes public statements by numerous retired military officers, diplomats and veterans who argued against waging war on Iraq before that war was launched and in the aftermath of the March 2003 invasion. Some US military commanders in Iraq came to a similar conclusion three years ago, according to a June 13, 2005 Knight Ridder report: “Baghdad - A growing number of senior American military officers in Iraq have concluded that there is no long-term military solution to an insurgency that has killed thousands of Iraqis and more than 1,700 U.S. military personnel during the past two years. …

"I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that... this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations," Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said last week, in a comment that echoes what other senior officers say. "It's going to be settled in the political process."

When the Pentagon Papers were published in 1971 by The New York Times and other newspapers, most Americans learned for the first time what many Vietnam veterans had been saying for years—that there was no military solution to the social and political issues we were trying to bomb into submission in Southeast Asia. Folk singer Phil Ochs, among other critics of that war, pointed to the way out in a popular song: "Declare the war is over." Now the Pentagon’s top think tank is saying there is no military way to stop suicide bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s time, the RAND study advises, to wind down military operations and turn the job over to the police of tracking down violent extremists, while politicians work on addressing legitimate grievances and social concerns in the Middle East.

For further information: http://www.rand.org/news/press/2008/07/29/

Jan Barry is a Vietnam veteran and freelance writer.

Selected Works

Poetry
A tonic spray of poetry, verses that a Vietnam war veteran lives by.
Prose
A pragmatic, common-sense handbook for civic action at the community and international levels.