I have been saying all this for years — but once again, it’s nice to see it in the mainstream media. Common sense from Brian Jenkins in the San Diego Union Tribune, with thanks to Nicolei:
Where are we in the war on terrorism? How are we doing? What’s the score? How long will it last? Americans are asking these questions again and again as we approach the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The questions say a great deal about how Americans view warfare as a finite undertaking with a beginning and an end. In his State of the Union address last January, reflecting the view of most Americans, President Bush stated that the war on terrorism began on Sept. 11, 2001. But many jihadists see the war as just the latest battle in the perpetual conflict of Islam vs. the Infidels that began more than 900 years ago.
In fact, nearly 1400 years ago.
The word “war” makes Americans set a goal of discernible victory – somebody surrenders, signs a document, an evil empire collapses, a wall comes down, a villain bites the dust, and life returns to normal.
But in the view of the jihadists, war is not an aberration; it is a perpetual condition. As Osama bin Laden put it in his state of Islam address last January: “This clashing began centuries ago and will continue until Judgment Day.”
“Combating” terrorism, the term used 32 years ago when President Nixon created the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism, implies an enduring task. It has largely disappeared from the vocabulary of American officials. Wars are to be won, not waged indefinitely.
The jihadists cannot hope to win a conventional military contest. Their code is to lie in wait, attack when we are inattentive and make our lives untenable. Fighting is process, not progress oriented. It provides opportunities to prove conviction, courage and prowess. The jihadists view death not as a sign of defeat, but the pathway to martyrdom. Ultimate victory will come when God wills it.
There is no question that al-Qaeda and its terrorist allies have lost ground since 9/11. A supportive Taliban no longer controls Afghanistan. The readily accessible terrorist training camps are gone. Governments regarded by the jihadists as apostate are cooperating with America and its allies. Many of al-Qaeda’s top planners, mid-level leaders are dead or behind bars; others have moved up, but experienced talent is hard to replace. Improved cooperation among the world’s intelligence services has made the operational environment for terrorists more dangerous. Cash flow has been squeezed. Many operations have been thwarted.
But al-Qaeda can celebrate some accomplishments. The terrorist group has transcended its original organization to become an ideology shared by many. Al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-inspired jihadists have managed to continue terrorist operations at a pace faster than before 9/11. True, the attacks in Bali, Jakarta, Karachi, Riyadh, Khobar, Istanbul, Djerba, Casa Blanca and Madrid are all at the pre-9/11 level, but still suffice for recruiting and for keeping al-Qaeda’s enemies off balance.
And in the view of many jihadists, America’s invasion of Iraq is a gift from Allah that has alienated U.S. allies, provoked the Arab world, exposed the United States to precisely the kind of warfare that the extremists wage best, and created a new front that will attract and train new cohorts of jihad. Security measures are costing the American economy billions of dollars and changing daily life with increased checkpoints and surveillance. And in the battle for minds, the few jihadist Web sites around before 9/11 have grown to more than 7,000.
Read it all.