Eye for a Bloody Eye

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The great adventure in Afghanistan rages on, though many of the primary goals, such as destroying Al Qaeda, capturing Bin Laden and Mullah Omar and improving the life of the Afghan people have not happened.

Instead, Americans and Canadians have been dying — not to mention thousands of Afghani civilians — the country is as dysfunctional as ever.

Some Afghanis are now saying that things were better under the Taliban — who were pretty awful.

The Taliban, meanwhile, have melded into the camps of the war lords who have returned to their traditionaloccupation of looting and plundering and killing each other.

Terrible stories have come out of Mazar-i Sharif, a city in northern Afghanistan, oftorture and massacres of prisoners, and American agents have been implicated. We should be asking serious questions about the advisability of Canada being tangled up in this mess, and whether the public wants to be an accomplice in the tactics now under discussion in the U.S.

In a recent article written by a friend for an onlinepublication aimed at American military personnel and veterans, titled “Wage War Against Terror With Maximum Force” the author quoted Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military thinker known as among the most important major strategic theorists, to justify torture and other acts of brutality in pursuit of victory in the so-called War Against Terrorism.

Essentially, he said; fight terror with terror. Such an approach, however, would make us just like that which we seek to destroy. The kind of rationalization that can start us down the path to death camps and final solutions.

Several things must be considered when looking at violent options to terrorism. Our society has been built on a philosophy that respects life and human rights. After World War Two we even held trials to judge and punish our opponents who did not.

To engage in acts we have held others to account for, abandoning the principles and moral standards for conduct we have developed and held up as an example to the world, would be a moral victory for our opponents.

Focusing on battlefield techniques in this kind of war as the path to victory, is like treating the symptoms of a disease instead of its causes. As should be obvious by now, the war against terror will not be won alone by violence. Rather, it will be won by understanding the conditions that provide fertile ground for terrorists in large populations, then changing those conditions.

To paraphrase Mao Tse Tung, revolutionary theorist, political leader and statesman of Communist China, the people are like water and the terrorists are like fish. Without the support of populations, terrorists would befish on the beach and easily dealt with. With popularsupport, or merely toleration, they are near impossible to eradicate.

The example of Algeria used by the author to prove his point that brutal force works, instead proves the opposite. Despite massive repression and terrorist activities by the French forces to stamp out the Algerian terrorists, in the end the Algerians won.

Much the same can be said for Vietnam, and for the British experience in the American Colonies.

For a few zealots, there may never be an acceptablecompromise, but most folks are generally satisfied when they are respected and their basic material needs adequately met.

A few isolated zealots would be easy to deal with, making the real solution to provide the conditions that will create prosperous societies where there is little opportunity for terrorists to thrive.

There are no quick fixes to the problem of terrorismtoday, and a military response is only a band-aid on asucking chest wound. In order for this war to end theunderlying causes must be addressed and steps taken to alleviate the grievances that make it possible for terrorists to gain the sympathy of entire societies.

Failure to do so will be a victory for terrorism as wedestroy what we are ready to protect.

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