02 February 2006

Does the US not want to win the GWOT?

This is from a recent White House gaggle (via the always excellent First Draft):
Q According to data currently available at the Department of Homeland Security Funded Terrorism Knowledge Base, the incidents of terrorism increased markedly in 2005: worldwide attacks were up 51 percent from the year before, and the number of people killed in those attacks is up 36 percent; since the year 2000, attacks are up 250 percent, and deaths are up 550 percent. How do you reconcile those numbers with your claim that you're winning the war on terrorism and putting terrorists out of business?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, just look at the facts. If you look at the facts, many of al Qaeda's known leadership have been put out of business. They've been brought to justice. They've either been captured or killed. No longer is America waiting and responding. We're on the offense; we're taking the fight to the enemy. We are engaged in a war on terrorism. The enemies recognize how high the stakes are. And one thing the President will talk about, continue to talk about tomorrow night and in the coming weeks, is that we continue to face a serious threat. This is a deadly and determined enemy. But the difference is now that we've got them on the run, we've got them playing defense, we're taking the fight to them. And all of us in the international community must continue to work together...
This reminds me of nothing so much as the war on drugs. In that "war", law enforcement forces focus on the amount of drugs seized, and assume that this reduces harm to citizens rather than reflecting the amount of drugs available. But they have no intention of doing anything that might actually reduce the perceived need for the "war" on drugs, because that would reduce their budgets. The drug lords, in turn, want things to stay as they are so their profits remain high. The interests of the criminals and the police are aligned, and citizens suffer as a result.

Similarly, in the GWOT the Bush administration is focusing on the number of terrorists captured or killed, rather than the number of people and amount of property destroyed by terrorists. They've created this enormous "anti-terrorism" bureaucracy, and should they actually reduce terrorism they reduce the justification for their own existence. If they redefined their mission as reducing terrorism, rather than capturing and killing terrorists, they might accomplish something. As it is, they've given themselves perverse incentives to increase the amount of terrorism, so as to justify bigger budgets—and the numbers the questioner quotes above show that they're succeeding.

Technorati Tags: , ,