Democrats Were Right About How to Defeat Terrorism

July 29, 2008 at 3:23 pm | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

Matthew Yglesias comments on the new report from the RAND group that says essentially that you cannot defeat terrorism through war but rather through law enforcement. Matt reminds us of the fact that this was what John Kerry said in 2004, which Bush pounced on, countering:

Some are skeptical that the war on terror is really a war at all. My opponent said, and I quote, “The war on terror is less of a military operation, and far more of an intelligence-gathering law enforcement operation.” I disagree—strongly disagree.

Of course Mr. Bush was wrong. As the RAND report states:

The United States can defeat al-Qaida if it relies less on force and more on policing and intelligence to root out the terror group’s leaders, a new study contends.

“Keep in mind that terrorist groups are not eradicated overnight,” said the study by the federally funded Rand research center, an organization that counsels the Pentagon.

Its report said that the use of military force by the United States or other countries should be reserved for quelling large, well-armed and well-organized insurgencies, and that American officials should stop using the term “war on terror” and replace it with “counterterrorism.”

“Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests there is no battlefield solution to terrorism,” said Seth Jones, the lead author of the study and a Rand political scientist.

And

Based on an analysis of 648 terrorist groups that existed between 1968 and 2006, the report concluded that a transition to the political process is the most common way such groups end. But the process, found in 43 percent cases examined, is unlikely with al-Qaida, which has a broad, sweeping agenda, the report said.

The second most common way that terrorist groups end, seen in about 40 percent of the cases, is through police and intelligence services apprehending or killing key leaders, Jones said. Police are particularly effective because their permanent presence in cities helps them gather information, he said.

By contrast, the report said, military force was effective in only 7 percent of the cases.

Jones, in an interview, said, “Even where we found some success against al-Qaida, in Pakistan and Iraq, the military played a background or surrogate role. The bulk of the action was taken by intelligence, police and, in some cases, local forces.”

“We are not saying the military should not play a role,” he said. “But unless you are talking about large insurgencies, military force should not be the tip of the spear.”

This isn’t what just John Kerry was saying in 2004. This is what Democrats have been saying. This is what I’ve been saying. Military force was effective in ONLY SEVEN PERCENT of the cases they studied. That’s pitiful. That’s because military actions tend to create MORE terrorism, not less.

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