The very means it takes to bring order to an uncivil environment are often by their very nature uncivil themselves (arbitrary police powers, abrogation of personal rights, limitations on free speech and travel, etc.). In post-World War II Germany and Japan, we had the luxury of nation rebuilding in countries whose capacity and will for violence had been all but exhausted. Not so in present-day Afghanistan and Iraq. In both cases, there were limited periods of time where conditions similar to those in post-war Germany and Japan did exist in terms of the capacity for disorder being exhausted; this was particularly true of Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, but was also true to a more limited degree in post-Saddam Iraq.
However, the opportunities for positive action in both countries were completely wasted. How can a wrecking crew, equipped with crowbars and dynamite, build a house?
We are lacking only two things in our efforts to fight terrorism: one, the institutions necessary to wage the war, and, two, the qualified personnel necessary to staff those institutions.
In a recent discussion of this subject, participants estimated that it would take anywhere from seven to 11 years to solve the problem, and then only if we mobilized the same kind of attention and energy that went into the Manhattan Project.
What we need, in short, is a massive and effective nation building mission similar to the one that rebuilt Germany and Japan after World War II, staffed with the best linguists, area specialists, anthropologists, engineers, economists, agronomists, political advisers, attorneys, urban planners, etc., etc., that our academic institutions can provide; all working in close concert with military Special Forces, Civil Affairs, MP and troops specializing in occupation and police action tactics.
Instead, we have a hodgepodge of corrupt private contractors focused on profits instead of real results, assigned a haphazard array of unfocused projects with no coherent overall plan or vision, loosely linked to a military that traditionally despises peace keeping and nation building and believes that one can build stable, democratic allies using firepower, brute force and big-bang weaponry.
Why are we fighting a war in Iraq when we were attacked by a Saudi Arabian conspiracy based in Pakistan?
Here’s one question with a simple answer: We are fighting the wrong war in the wrong place, and to make things worse, we are losing it.