Guest Editorial: In the terror fight, stay cool

The Orange County Register
March 29
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Not again. Even on Easter, innocent people are slaughtered by terrorists. At least 72 people were killed and 300 wounded in Sunday’s attack, aimed at Christians gathered for Easter at a park in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

“The park was crowded with families, some celebrating Easter. Many victims are said to be women and children,” the BBC reported. “Police told the BBC it appeared to be a suicide bomb. A Pakistan Taliban faction said it carried out the attack.”

Taliban Islamic extremists were the ruling government in neighboring Afghanistan that President George W. Bush overthrew when he invaded the country after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. The main intent of the invasion was to capture or kill 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Unfortunately, Bush expanded the mission to attempting to reform the whole country into a model democracy, something that still hasn’t happened, despite a U.S. military presence that continues in America’s longest war.

Most Taliban also are members of the Pashtun tribe that inhabits large parts of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, facilitating cross-border trade, contraband and terrorist planning. “Pakistan Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar told local and Western media it was behind the attack,” the BBC said.

“We claim responsibility for the attack on Christians as they were celebrating Easter,” said Taliban spokesperson Ehansullah Ehsan, according to Pakistan’s Express Tribune.

Also Sunday, two terrorist suspects were arrested in Mali in connection with a March 13 attack on a resort in neighboring Ivory Coast that killed at least 19 people. “One of the suspects was identified as the driver who brought the men to Ivory Coast,” reported the Associated Press. “Authorities identified the second man as his accomplice. Already three men from Mali have been detained in Ivory Coast.”

The attacks in Ivory Coast and Pakistan demonstrate the worldwide scourge of terrorism, which this month also hit Brussels, Belgium. Paris was hit twice last year. And, of course, in December, terrorists killed 14 people and seriously wounded 22 in San Bernardino, Calif.

That’s five major terrorist attacks across four continents. The problem of Islamic extremist terror obviously isn’t abating. What can be done?

First, as we have warned since the 9/11 attack almost 15 years ago, it is a big mistake to “nation build,” even when such horrible regimes as the Taliban rule a country. Going after bin Laden certainly was a necessary mission, but the diversion of U.S. forces to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq delayed dealing with him by almost 10 years.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan is a bigger mess than ever, continuing to serve as an incubator of terrorism, even as U.S. troops remain bogged down. The lessons of the Soviet Union’s own quagmire in that benighted country in the 1980s were not adequately learned.

As to the 2003 Iraq invasion, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former head of U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan, recently told Germany’s Der Spiegel, “We were too dumb. We didn’t understand who we had there at that moment. When 9/11 occurred, all the emotions took over, and our response was, ‘Where did those bastards come from? Let’s go kill them. Let’s go get them.’ Instead of asking why they attacked us, we asked where they came from. Then we strategically marched in the wrong direction.”

Second, America’s military and intelligence services should work more closely with forces in other countries to preclude terrorist attacks. However, the services in those cooperating counties need to take the lead because they best know their countries and peoples and such an approach would tend to mitigate anti-Americanism. We should be friends and assistants, not overlords.

Third, the demonization of any group, such as Muslims, should be shunned. Almost all Muslims are dedicated to peace. This needs to be encouraged. And cooperation with such Muslims is crucial to finding the bad actors among them.

Fourth, we need to continue to safeguard American liberties, including the rights of privacy and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. It makes no sense to defend our liberties if we weaken them in the process.

Fifth, American military commitments need to be reassessed. For example, the 28-nation European Union is wealthier and more populous than the United States. Certainly, we should assist our NATO allies with intelligence and logistics. But they need to do more to defend themselves so we can redirect U.S. forces where they’re really needed.

In sum, what’s needed against terrorism is not more irrational lashing out, but cool and calculated action.