Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Futility of Military Wars on Terrorism

It would seem that winning a war against terrorists, particularly the suicide variety, by military means, is futile. Winning would constitute killing them all, or somehow convincing them to stop committing terrorist acts. The former seems impractical without great loss of life on both sides and the latter seems a task more suited to diplomacy.

Usually in such wars the terrorist side has little to lose and the terrorized side has much to lose. Fighting military battles with sophisticated equipment is expensive whereas committing terrorist acts is relatively inexpensive, so depletion of resources favors the terrorist side.

Recruiting for the war also seems to favor the terrorist side. The terrorized side usually has more to live for so they are more reluctant to join or continue the fight. The terrorist side seems to have little or nothing to live for, otherwise why would they be willing to commit suicide? As the war drags the terrorized are more likely to look for other solutions, like building walls or other means of isolating themselves from the terrorists.

Another way of stopping the terrorism is to make it difficult or prohibitively expensive for the terrorists to obtain the materials necessary to continue the terrorism. But, this is not a task for the military. It’s an investigative task for organizations more like the police or the FBI, The same is true for seeking out the locations of the terrorists.

The bottom line seems to be that war is not the answer. Armies are more suited to fighting countries, not individuals and small groups. The job seems to be more one of security and intelligence. In this respect the war on terrorism seems to be more like the war on drugs than the great wars of the twentieth century.