Nicolas J S Davies

A collection of published articles and letters to policymakers regarding the crisis in United States foreign policy by Nicolas J S Davies.

Location: North Miami, Florida, United States

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Letter to Democrats on War on Terror

Howard Dean
P.O. Box 1228
Burlington, VT 05402

Sunday, June 22nd, 2003

Dear Howard,

On September 12th 2001, NPR interviewed Sir Michael Howard, the British military historian, to get his views on the events of September 11th. Having read some of his books, I was interested in his opinion. The only thing he would say was that President Bush was making a very serious mistake in calling his response to the terrorist attacks a “war”. Pressed by the interviewer for further comment, he just kept reiterating the same semantic point, and I was disappointed that he had nothing more to say at such a critical moment. As time has gone on, though, and President Bush’s “war” has progressed and escalated, I have found myself looking back on Sir Michael’s criticism as accurately defining the President’s fundamental mistake, the consequences of which we have hardly begun to realize.

While police and intelligence services around the world have been effective in their counter-terrorism efforts, these operations are increasingly being compromised by the radical shift in U.S. foreign and defense policy that has taken place under the guise of the “War on Terror”. Our deepening commitment to intervene militarily in other countries has escalated, rather than reduced, the violence and hostility we face, and one has to ask at what point and on what terms this policy could ever be considered a success. Besides a vague hope of “defeating terrorism, or terror, or those who threaten us”, what is the actual goal of this policy, and how is it supposed to be achieved?

The level of resistance to our occupation of Iraq is still militarily insignificant, but seems to be growing, and the harsh realities of military occupation are already taking their toll on our troops and the Iraqi population. In 1979, President Carter initiated the most successful C.I.A. operation ever, to lure the Soviets into Afghanistan and embroil them in a Vietnam-style quagmire. Is it possible that we have been similarly lured into Iraq? And, if so, by who? Is this “payback by Putin”? The Arabs? Or did we really do this to ourselves?

In Afghanistan itself, the Asia Times reports that U.S. officials recently held a meeting with representatives of the Taliban in Pakistan to discuss some form of power sharing. We have returned Afghanistan to the rule of warlords and diarrheal diseases, we have restored the world’s supply of heroin, and, once again, the question remains: what is the actual goal of our policy there, and what do these activities have to do with achieving it?

It is hard to escape the conclusion that we have been drawn yet again into the web of unachievable and irreconcilable means and goals that have dogged U.S. policy towards the Third World since 1945, and which failed us in the Philippines, Greece, Guatemala, Lebanon, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Zaire, Vietnam, Indonesia, Chile, Angola, Iran, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Somalia, Haiti and elsewhere.

Our stated goals are overshadowed by our inability to restrain ourselves from intervening in other countries in pursuit of our immediate political and economic interests, without regard for the wider or longer-term consequences. We promote economic models that produce concentrated land ownership, massive dislocation and poverty, spiraling debt, and therefore inherent instability. While State Department personnel spend their careers studying specific countries and regions, we ignore those who actually know what they are talking about when making the most crucial policy decisions. We have consistently failed to come to terms with the limits of our economic and military power, to accurately assess the impact of our actions, and to formulate realistic policy goals and methods to achieve them.

The Bush administration is taking an aggressive stance towards Iran and North Korea, also without clear policy objectives, and I would ask you to oppose any policy that involves the introduction of U.S. Special Forces into either of those countries. North Korea’s request for bilateral talks leading to a non-aggression treaty is not unreasonable, and neither is South Korea’s desire for closer relations with the North. Better relations should ultimately lead to a peaceful resolution of these problems if we can refrain from sabotaging them. Iran will probably accept I.A.E.A. inspections, but it is unlikely to cooperate fully under threat from the U.S. We must recognize that all countries have legitimate security concerns, and that threats only make those concerns more acute and convince them of the need to protect themselves by whatever means they can. The problem of Iranian nuclear aspirations is a direct consequence of past and present U.S. policy, and global non-proliferation can only be achieved through a real U.S. commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In view of the spreading chaos of “Bellum Americanum”, it is quite remarkable that the Democratic Party has completely failed to enunciate any clear alternative to President Bush’s policies. Democrats failed to support Colin Powell against the initial neo-imperialist onslaught over missile defense and the “unsigning” of treaties. They failed to oppose the invasion of Iraq. Only after the fact are they making polite enquiries into the President’s persistently false statements about Iraqi weapons. Incredibly, though, they have yet to publicly question the basic premise that terrorism is a military problem, or that declaring “war” was a meaningful or effective response to September 11th.

So who are Americans supposed to turn to in this crisis? The Green Party? Michael Moore? Susan Sarandon? Karl Marx observed that history not only repeats itself, but that it actually repeats itself as farce. Should we be laughing or crying, or should we just turn on the T.V. and go to sleep? If next year’s election presents us with a Democratic nominee who will not challenge the false premises of the “War on Terror”, a good turn-out for the Greens may actually be in the vital long-term interests of our country.

Yours sincerely