Why counterterrorism won't work
A former CIA employee has written a cogent article on why attempts to combat terrorism in the Middle East, and particularly Pakistan and Afghanistan, have so far failed to work, and look likely not to even now. The most pointed quotes:
A former senior Near East Division operative says, "The CIA probably doesn't have a single truly qualified Arabic-speaking officer of Middle Eastern background who can play a believable Muslim fundamentalist who would volunteer to spend years of his life with shitty food and no women in the mountains of Afghanistan. For Christ's sake, most case officers live in the suburbs of Virginia. We don't do that kind of thing." A younger case officer boils the problem down even further: "Operations that include diarrhea as a way of life don't happen."
I fear that in this aftermath, the line between retaliation and revenge will be crossed -- leaped over in heat and passion -- and that many more thousands will die, innocently and needlessly, somewhere in the world. (Many do already, every day, most from starvation and disease, but that's for another discussion.)
Passions of revenge and the escalations they create are the reasons many conflicts persist around the world -- in Northern Ireland, in much of Africa, and of course in Israel and Afghanistan. Even neighbourhoods in the richest cities are not immune.
If the U.S. (and its allies) strike wantonly and widely, as many urge them to do, then the terrorists will have won, because the true freedom of reason will have been crushed by hate.
We'll see where we go from here.
P.S. There's a reason Roger Ebert once won a Pulitzer Prize.