Posted on April 21, 2017
The Global War On Terrorism (GWOT) makes (almost) no sense.
Obama fortunately retired the ludicrous rhetoric of Global War On Terror–but not the fact of it.
Terror is a technique, not a nation or a movement or a group. You can’t wipe out a technique.
Assume for the sake of argument (placing the best face on it), let’s pretend the war is against violent Islamic jihadism. (Doesn’t explain why we attacked Iraq, and doesn’t explain why we haven’t attacked Filipino Jihadists, but let it go.)
Nevertheless, sane and well-educated people ought to recognize the stupidity of GWOT (Overseas Contingency Operations, or Operation Inherent Resolve, or whatever the Pentagon is secretly calling it now).
Also assume for the sake of argument the (false) claim that jihadists would be equally as motivated to bomb the US as they are now even if the US were not bombing jihadists and random nearby civilians all over the Middle East and Africa. Would it still be worth our while to spend 2% or more of GNP on an immense war?
The real reason we are doing this is 9/11. That attack cost us 3000 lives, around $70B in material costs, and (more importantly, I think any rational observer would conclude) a huge blow to our collective ego and (false) sense of security. Since then our war has cost us twice that many American lives in combat, and we are working toward 100 times that many dollars. As the death of Bin Laden demonstrated, our desire for solace and revenge can never be slaked, and the wars go on. And, remarkably, none of this has much to do with preventing the next the 9/11, which is mainly a matter of domestic security.
In the same period of time some 2M Americans were killed by preventable hospital errors, .5M were killed by a mostly useless excess supply of civilian guns, and .5M were killed by automobile accidents. These deaths rates could have been drastically reduced if the wealth applied to war had been applied to accident prevention. Even if calling off GWOT had led to another 9/11,we would have come out vastly ahead by any rational calculation.
But in reality another 9/11 is extremely unlikely. Not because of our nearly useless Department of Homeland Security, but rather because of two simple innovations in airplane security:
1. Cockpit doors have been hardened.
2. Passengers have been advised to attack hijackers in mass instead of waiting quietly to die.
It could be improved even further by placing US marshals on all flights, at a cost far less than the demonstrably ineffective TSA screening. Beats me why they don’t.