Ten years after Sept. 11, 2001, the war on terror has not yet ended with a clear result. When we compare the huge power of America and its vast resources to the power and resources of Islamic jihadists, we must feel surprised how the U.S. is still struggling to achieve a clear victory.
America has spent trillions of dollars since 9/11 and has been engaged in its longest war in its history, but yet, it is unable to declare victory.
One of the reasons that led to this situation is failure to understand the concept of "defeat" against a non-state actor.
Defeating an enemy can occur if the enemy is completely unable to launch or organize significant attacks and more importantly if the enemy lost its "will" to continue fighting.
The first option (to make the enemy lose the ability to launch attacks) is difficult to achieve since the enemy uses primitive methods and focuses on attacking soft targets. We can try to defend the maximum number of soft targets but this still cannot be called "victory" as the enemy continues its attempts to attack us.
The central idea to defeat an enemy is to make it lose the will or the desire to continue fighting. This can occur if the enemy is:
1. Afraid of death
2. Afraid of humiliation (if caught)
3. Afraid of being tortured
4. Afraid of a backlash against its cause
5. Become convinced that its ideology or core beliefs are wrong
6. Recognizes beyond doubt that it is losing the war and not accomplishing its strategic objectives
Let us now take these items one by one to understand why — despite the enormous costs to the U.S. economy, the greatest nation in human history is still struggling with ending the jihadism phenomenon.
1. The ideology of the enemy makes the jihadists unafraid of death and willing to die for Allah as martyrs to inherit paradise. This is, for example, in sharp contrast to the situation in World War II when the emperor of Japan surrendered as he did not want his people to die and thus ended the kamikaze attacks.
2. The enemy knows well that if they are taken as prisoners of war they are likely to be protected by the values of Human Rights in the West. Caring for giving halal meat to the Guantanamo Bay detainees and allowing them to pray and read the Koran in the prison confirmed to the jihadists that they will not be humiliated if they are caught.
3. The jihadists are aware that the U.S. government does not allow torture anymore.
4. The defense of Shariah law by Islamic apologists, the defense of building a mosque at ground zero, and the support of the Islamic hijab
by some U.S. officials reassured the jihadists that despite the criticism of Islam in the media, the real actions of the U.S. government give the perception of supporting, instead of directly countering, their ultimate aim of establishing Shariah all over the world.
5. Unlike communist ideology that can be proven wrong on an economical basis (in this life), proving to the jihadists that their ideology is wrong is virtually impossible as they expect its outcome to be in the second life (NOT in this life).
6. The definition of victory and defeat is a relative term. For example, a jihadist will still feel victorious in the war when he sees U.S. diplomats and soldiers wearing the hijab
as he considers this as a "surrender" to Islamic law.
In brief, it is vital that America makes the jihadists feel "defeated"; otherwise it can continue to spend enormous resources without achieving real victory. Defining "defeat" is the first step toward achieving victory.
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