The War on Terror's Endgame

The September 11 terrorist attacks three years ago gave Americans and their political leaders a rare moment of clarity in understanding not just the threat of radical Islam, but also what actions must be taken in response to that threat.

Thirty-one months and two major military conflicts later, two retired military officers have put forth a comprehensive blueprint for military and diplomatic action that renews that clarity of purpose and defines victory in the war on terror.

Since retiring, Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney (USAF) and Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely (Army) have stayed on the sharp edge of America’s military affairs by lending their combined command and combat expertise to the Fox News Channel as analysts.

While their colleagues on other news networks, including Generals Wesley Clark and Barry McCaffrey, incorrectly lamented inevitable “quagmires” in the weeks leading up to the liberations of Iraq and Afghanistan, McInerney and Vallely correctly maintained that the invasions would be quick and decisive.

In Endgame (published by Regnery, a sister company of HUMAN EVENTS), McInerney and Vallely take the next step, proposing in detail how to end the war. The book’s central tenet is that radical Islamic terrorist networks are fueled by money, sanctuary, and access to weaponry that only governments can provide. Eliminate or change those governments, and the networks will wither away. Expanding on what President Bush once called the “Axis of Evil,” the generals identify a “Web of Terror.”

“The qualifications to be a Web of Terror nation are that it supports and/or sponsors terrorism and is involved with weapons of mass destruction. Without the support of these countries, terrorist groups like al-Qaeda would not be a serious threat.” The generals call out eight nations (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan) and prescribe unique policies to neutralize each. And rather than calling for a single course of action, successful or not, they have learned from their own experience on the battlefield to plan for contingencies.

The generals are not alone in advocating that the United States lean on China to use leverage with North Korea in ending Kim Jong Il’s nuclear weapons program. But they also see that China may refuse to exert influence. “That means the United States needs to develop other options.”

For the generals, one of those options is to deploy missile defenses in South Korea and Japan, use heavy air strikes against North Korean missile batteries and air-defenses, and team with the South Korean military to invade the Communist North.

In Saudi Arabia, the generals call not for regime change, but regime preservation. They claim that as faulty as the House of Saud may be, the alternative would be far worse. The generals recognize an urgent need for reform within the government.

“If the House of Saud persists in treating Saudi Arabia as a family possession run solely for the family’s benefit, the dynasty’s future will be imperiled, no matter how successful its current crackdown against internal terrorism.” Pointing to the examples of Morocco, Bahrain, and Qatar, McInerney and Vallely urge gradual reform toward a constitutional monarchy for Saudi Arabia.

Broadening their scope, the generals also identify the need for a new domestic counterintelligence agency apart from the FBI, a special domestic court system designed for terrorist suspects, renewed focus on fighting a public relations battle in the predominantly anti-American Islamic media, and gradually bringing democracy and capitalism to Islamic nations.

Despite the completeness and internal integrity of the generals’ far-reaching strategy, it has a tremendous potential flaw. Everything in Endgame is predicated upon the axiom that terrorist networks require accommodating governments to survive. What if this is incorrect? Not only do the generals assert this axiom from the beginning without evidence, they do so without regard to tremendous evidence to the contrary.

The Taliban played host to Osama bin Laden, but what precisely did they contribute to the terrorist hijackers in the United States? What did the 19 individuals do that required any state support whatsoever? What government’s navy was needed to supply the dingy that was detonated at the bow of the USS Cole? And what nation in the “Web of Terror” picked up the $20 fee for the rental truck that was used in the 1993 World Trade Center attack?

In March of this year, a U.S. citizen in San Diego admitted selling drugs to raise money to buy stinger missiles for al-Qaeda. Five others in Buffalo were convicted of trafficking untaxed cigarettes to raise money for terrorist causes. In South America, Marxist terrorists seeking to overthrow the government of Colombia are funded entirely by America’s appetite for cocaine. So how would cutting off Saudi Arabia’s oil money from terrorists end these sources of cash?

Yet Endgame‘s premise is valuable nonetheless. The generals’ plan would inevitably make the terrorism business dramatically more difficult and make the world a safer place–particularly in the nations targeted for reforms. The fault is not a reason to ignore the generals, but rather to build on what they propose.