In Plans of Attack -(Washington Post) terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke presents two scenarios that illustrate how difficult it will be for the United States to meet and defeat the terrorist threat that looms ahead. He concludes with this statement:
"Seven years after 9/11, the United States has neither eliminated the threat from al-Qaeda nor secured Afghanistan, where bin Laden's terrorists were once headquartered. To accomplish these two tasks, we must now eliminate the new terrorist safe haven in Pakistan. But that will require effective action from a weak and riven Pakistani government. It might also depend upon dealing with the long-standing India-Pakistan rivalry. On balance, al-Qaeda's agenda for 2009 looks to be the easier one. "
The point is this: conventional military tactics are costly and inefficient as has been abundantly demonstrated in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have run up our debt and tapped out our reserves to no advantage. Diplomatic strategies are also dauntingly difficult. There will be no easy solutions here.
Clark points to what must be done strategically. Unlike conventional conflicts, there will be no moment of surrender, no sense of victory. At best, we can limit the growth of terrorist organizations and thus make it very hard for them to organize large strikes. But so long as there are individuals motivated by religious dogma, hatred, or perceived injustice, we will face the threat of terrorism. Beyond honing our fighting tactics, we must deal with the motivating causes of terrorism.Safety will only come when nobody wants to injure us. Meanwhile, like a champion prize fighter, we need to train ourselves not only to defend ourselves efficiently, but also to roll with the punches and focus our counter blows. Otherwise we will again be suckered and harried into exhausting ourselves with our own rage.