Saturday, October 01, 2011

Head of the Snake

Can anyone count how many terrorist leaders we have killed? Is anyone in government leadership talking about how much safer we are today as a result? On the contrary; when announcing the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, supposed "leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” the announcement was quick to add that the organization “remains very dangerous today.” Then what was the benefit of spending two full years and devoting enormous resources to the task of killing him?

One of the axioms used in our military is that we always begin fighting today’s war using the last war’s strategy, and we remain on our back foot until we change gear and adapt our strategy to the current war. “Cutting off the head of the snake” may very well be a case in point.

In World War Two we expended considerable effort toward a goal of killing German generals, with the idea that doing so would tend to reduce the efficacy of their military campaigns against us. I’m not sure how valid that ever proved to be, and I don’t know how much in the way of resources we devoted to it, but the theory strikes me as fairly sound. Planning military campaigns and strategy requires a certain mind and, more importantly, a great deal of training and experience. Replacing someone with long experience and great ability at planning complex and massive military operations is not easily done.

Fast forward to today, and we seem to think that if we can kill enough terrorist leaders we can render the organization impotent, and so we are expending a vast amount of resources to that purpose, enormously more than we did in WW2, and have been doing so for some ten years now. But a terrorist leader is not a military general, and when we kill one he seems to be pretty easily replaced. We are still taking off our shoes and having our underwear searched, and we are still seeking out and killing more terrorist leaders in an ever increasing number of places worldwide.

At what point have we chopped off enough heads that the snake is dead?

1 comment:

Arthur said...

When the snake is a worm, and cutting off the head doesn't kill it, never. Sometimes the snake can easily grow a new one. Other times, when the the snake is the right kind of worm, and the head grows a new body and the body grow a new head. Then you didn't just not kill it, you helped it reproduce: you have more snake-worms, not fewer. Oops.

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