After the attacks in Mumbai last week, should the United States bomb suspected terrorist cells in India? Send the Marines to Kashmir where one of the suspected groups behind the attacks--Lashkar-e-Taiba--originates? Or initiate regime change in Pakistan, which has provided support for several terrorist outfits operating in South Asia?
These are, of course, absurd options.
And yet the Bush administration, in its "global war on terror" (GWOT), pursued just such tactics against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and suspected terrorist hideouts in Pakistan. Fat lot of good it's done us. The Taliban is back in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda, which didn't exist in Iraq before the invasion, has a foothold there now. And Pakistan, thanks to former dictator Pervez Musharraf and his intelligence agency, remains Terrorism Central.
This military approach to terrorism has generated ineffectual, counterproductive, and quite often surreal policies. Declaring a war on terror elevated al-Qaeda and its brethren to the status of warriors. It served as a great recruiting tool for Osama bin Laden, and made the United States and its citizens a lightning rod for attacks. Other countries--China, Russia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines--have drawn inspiration from the United States for their own crackdowns on a range of purported terrorists.
This follow-the-leader effect may prove most horrific in the case of India. Believing neighboring Pakistan to be behind the Mumbai attacks, India is edging closer to its own war on terror. According to the Times of London, "The Indian government is now considering a range of responses, including suspending its five-year peace process with Pakistan, closing their border, stopping direct flights and sending troops to the frontier." It's one thing when the United States squares off against the ragtag army of the Taliban. But with both India and Pakistan in...