This editorial by Prof. Bowen was published in the News Leader (Staunton VA: September 11, 2008): A9.
by Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
(Professor, Depts. of Political Science and of International Relations, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401)
Since it sometimes is difficult to read every word of a scanned article (as above), here is a clear copy of the original version of this editorial for readers' reference. A link to a cited study also is provided:
Seven years after the most devastating attack on the United States in our history, Americans this Fall will choose the future direction not just of our nation in general but of our current war policy. Framed in tones consistent with the larger election theme of choice between hope and experience, our candidates’ thunder about war issues has been muted lately. Chiefly, this has been due to improvements in the controversial Iraq War efforts, and by voters’ focus on matters apparently closer to home. A campaign fought over voters’ preferences regarding economic problems, health insurance reforms, and colliding “values issues” seems to be ahead. Yet, how the next president deals with the ongoing wars—there are, after all, three of them— may ultimately prove to be of greater significance.
Iraq once figured to be the centerpiece in our national election conversation, but no more. Two years ago, the perception that the U.S. was hopelessly mired in Iraq gave rise to a “throw the rascals out” electoral mood that propelled the Democratic Party to take control over both houses of Congress. But, George Bush’s unaltered determination to persist to victory in Iraq fortunately was paired with a shift in war strategy: General David Petraeus’ “surge” in street level counter-insurgency operations by U.S. and (pro-U.S.) Iraqi militias and armed forces. In 2008, U.S. casualties have fallen dramatically, large areas of Iraq have been pacified, and a helpful choice to avoid armed conflict made by Shi’ite militias continues. Peace, of course, is not at hand, nor is the “mission accomplished,” as was prematurely claimed way back in 2003. But the catastrophe widely believed to be imminent in 2005-06 almost surely will not await the new president in January.
Afghanistan, on the other hand, continues to vex U.S. war efforts. Though this war enjoyed greater international legitimacy from the outset, and while some U.S. allies have contributed directly to the war effort in a manner consistent with their obligations under the N.A.T.O. alliance, security in Afghanistan remains elusive. The original objective in Afghanistan was to deny a safe haven to terrorists inclined to attack the U.S., as the Taliban government there had assisted Al Qaeda before its attack on the U.S. on 9/11. Bush era strategy has aimed to root democracy in Afghanistan as a bulwark against their return. However, relations with the feeble, but elected, government of President Hamid Karzai have grown testy, and the U.S.-trained Afghan Army is a pale shadow of an effective force. Meanwhile, Taliban militants’ acts of terror have multiplied as tactics learned by Islamist militants in Iraq (e.g., suicide bombings; use of Improvised Explosive Devices or I.E.D.s) have been copied in Afghanistan. Nearby Pakistan has proven unable to stop the use of its territory as a “safe haven” by these Taliban militants and their Al Qaeda allies, and seems unwilling to do more since the resignation of its pro-U.S. President Pervez Musharraf this year.
It is here that the three wars are joined. Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state of 164 million, is close to unraveling. In large parts of its territories, militant Islamists are free to organize, to train, and to find the safety to embark on acts of terrorism, both within Pakistan and elsewhere in the world. Notably, two of the terrorists responsible for the most recent dramatic attack on the West, the London transit bombings of July 7, 2005, trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan. Thus, what each U.S. presidential candidate has in mind about Pakistan is of great importance to the future security of the United States. In September 2001, the American reputation for power was believed in Pakistan to such an extent that when presidential envoy Richard Armitage alluded to a potential U.S. attack on Pakistan in conversations with Pres. Musharraf, Pakistan readily jumped to show its cooperativeness with U.S. war aims. 2009 will not be 2001, and the Pakistani military no longer views U.S. power in that same light. Moreover, civilians now run the place, and some leading figures there find advantage in posing as anti-American.
No doubt: Pakistan harbors a large number of sympathizers with Al Qaeda, men and women inclined to hurt our Armed Forces personnel worldwide, to kidnap American businessmen abroad, and to assist militants in attacks aimed at the U.S. itself. But let’s not kid ourselves: the problem is more widespread. In 2007, a survey conducted by a research unit at University of Maryland (i.e., P.I.P.A.) found 25% of Egyptians, 15 % of Indonesians, and 9% of Moroccans to support Al Qaeda’s attacks on the U.S. These millions of potential recruits to Al Qaeda’s cause mean that now, before we vote in November, we must know how the U.S. president taking office in January will organize to win the global war on terrorism.
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