The Phony War
The Phony War
President Bush not only created a fake "War on Terror" to scare voters into supporting his policies -- he is failing to address the real threat facing America
In August, even before the official announcement that some two dozen would-be terrorists had been arrested in London, President Bush and his top advisers swung into action. Their goal was not to stop the terrorists, who were already safely behind bars, but to use the threat to justify the president's seemingly endless "War on Terror."
Vice President Dick Cheney, who had known in advance about the pending arrests, hinted darkly about the threat posed by "Al Qaeda types." The president, standing on an airport tarmac in Wisconsin the next morning, warned that the arrests were "a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists." And that afternoon, Peter Wehner, the director of the White House's Office of Strategic Initiatives, declared that America is engaged in nothing less than a "civilizational struggle" with enemies who seek "to establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia."
Fortunately, Wehner added, the country has a leader who knows exactly how to combat terrorism: "George W. Bush understands, with extraordinary clarity, the great struggle of our time."
The problem is, almost everything that President Bush understands about his own war on terrorism is wrong. According to nearly a dozen former high-ranking officials who have been on the front lines of the administration's counterterrorism effort, the president is not only fighting the wrong war -- he is fighting it in a way that has actually made the threat worse. The war on terrorism, they say, has been mismanaged and misdirected almost from the start, in no small part because the president simply does not understand the nature of the enemy he is fighting.
"I hate the term 'global war on terrorism,' " says John O. Brennan, a CIA veteran who served as the first director of the National Counterterrorism Center, the primary organization set up by Bush to analyze all intelligence about terrorism and coordinate strategic operational planning. "I hate the tough talk, you know, the 'we're gonna kill these guys' stuff."
Brennan is not alone. In a survey conducted this summer, more than 100 top foreign-policy experts -- including former secretaries of state, CIA directors and high-ranking Pentagon officials -- were asked if the president is "winning the War on Terror." Eighty-four percent said no.
Five years after the attacks of September 11th, the administration has failed to grasp the shifting realities of terrorism. If the United States is to have any chance at preventing another terrorist attack -- as the British government apparently did in London last month -- there are five essential lessons the president needs to learn:
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