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Posts Tagged ‘9/11’

Comparto este trabajo del Dr. Andrea Betti,analizando el efecto de los antentados terroristas de 11 de setiembre de 2001 en el sistema internacional y su impacto en la política exterior de Estados Unidos. Betti es  profesor de Teoría de las Relaciones Internacionales en la Universidad Pontificia Comillas.

Han pasado 20 años desde los atentados contra las Torres Gemelas y el Pentágono. Algunas de las preguntas principales de analistas y observadores en estos días son de qué manera ha cambiado el sistema internacional en las últimas dos décadas y cómo se ha visto afectada la política exterior de Estados Unidos.

Aunque los intereses nacionales de un país no suelen variar en tan solo dos décadas, es indudable que algo ha cambiado en el comportamiento internacional de Estados Unidos. Las razones han de encontrarse, sobre todo, en una serie de sucesos que han tenido lugar en el sistema internacional.

En una época de relativo éxito de las opciones populistas, es bastante natural relacionar el comportamiento de Estados Unidos con su situación política interna. Muchos análisis científicos y periodísticos han descrito en detalle la presunta regresión democrática que estaría caracterizando la política nacional estadounidense.

Para explicar la actitud aislacionista y nacionalista de Estados Unidos en los últimos años se suele mencionar la prevalencia de la política identitaria, el abuso de las cuestiones divisivas y polarizadoras (wedge issues), el uso desproporcionado de la propaganda (y de las falsedades) en las redes sociales, el ascenso de líderes autoritarios y demagógicos, el choque entre extremistas y defensores del statu quo y la consecuente incapacidad de los dos mayores partidos, republicanos y demócratas, para consensuar reformas sensatas frente a problemas de interés nacional.

Sin embargo, hay una tendencia a exagerar el impacto de tales factores nacionales y no siempre se han tenido en debida cuenta los factores internacionales, menos atractivos desde el punto de vista mediático, pero de gran influencia a la hora de determinar la posición internacional de un país.

Las transformaciones se aceleraron

Los atentados del 11 de septiembre no hicieron más que acelerar el impacto de algunas de las grandes transformaciones internacionales que comenzaron con el fin de la Guerra Fría. En primer lugar, la desaparición de la Unión Soviética fue ciertamente una buena noticia desde el punto de vista del avance de los valores democráticos. Sin embargo, para los países de la OTAN supuso la desaparición de una amenaza clara y fácilmente identificable que había permitido la definición de objetivos comunes.

EE. UU. y el mundo 20 años después del 11-S

Hoy en día, las amenazas son más difusas, más difíciles de identificar en un estado o un territorio concreto. Su impacto puede variar mucho, lo cual cambia su manera de ser percibidas y el tipo de alarma que provocan. El ejemplo más evidente se dio con la intervención estadounidense en Irak en 2003, que reflejaba la existencia de enfoques diferentes entre europeos y estadounidenses sobre cómo combatir el terrorismo. Frente a este tipo de amenazas, es más difícil llegar a acuerdos, incluso entre aliados.

En segundo lugar, el fin de la Guerra Fría intensificó un proceso de globalización que, después de una primera fase, en los años noventa, de grandes promesas de bienestar para todos, empezó a mostrar su cara menos agradable.

La libre circulación de bienes, personas y capitales no significaba solo oportunidades, sino también riesgos, por ejemplo, unas nuevas desigualdades, evidentes con la crisis de 2008, o unos nuevos desafíos en materia de acogida e integración de personas, evidentes con las frecuentes crisis migratorias.

Populismo y globalización

La globalización ha supuesto la aparición de nuevas inseguridades que favorecen la huida de muchos electores de los partidos centristas hacia soluciones más extremas y demagógicas. En este sentido, son varios los analistas que explican el populismo como una consecuencia y una reacción contra la globalización. No casualmente, desde el punto de vista internacional, el populismo se acompaña, a menudo, con un mensaje aislacionista y nacionalista, presentado como el único antídoto en un entorno internacional inseguro.

Por estas razones, cuando se analiza el aislacionismo de Estados Unidos en estos últimos tiempos no se puede recurrir solo a explicaciones nacionales. Como argumentó Peter Gourevitch hace más de 40 años, la distribución internacional del poder político y económico puede tener efectos decisivos en la política interna de un país, incluso cuando se trata de una superpotencia como Estados Unidos.

Las presiones económicas y militares globales reducen el abanico de las opciones a disposición de un líder político. Es muy probable que en los próximos años la tendencia de Estados Unidos a enfocarse más en sus intereses nacionales continuará, sea quien sea el presidente o el partido en el poder. Es la consecuencia de un nuevo entorno multipolar, en el que varias potencias compiten entre sí, mientras que ninguna de ellas tiene la suficiente influencia política y económica para imponer las decisiones a las demás o para garantizar la seguridad internacional.

How 9/11 Changed U.S. Foreign Policy

El liderazgo de EE UU se tambalea

Es verdad que el sistema de relaciones internacionales que Estados Unidos construyó después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial para proporcionar seguridad a sus aliados y para contener a sus rivales sigue vigente, por ejemplo, en organizaciones internacionales como la ONU o la OTAN.

Sin embargo, es también cierto que la redistribución de poder a nivel internacional dificulta la posibilidad de que Estados Unidos siga jugando el papel de líder del sistema. Por un lado, escasean los recursos para poder hacerlo, por ejemplo, en Afganistán, mientras que, por el otro, su legitimidad se tambalea frente a potencias que exigen un papel protagónico.

Esto no significa que el orden internacional liberal esté destinado a desaparecer a corto plazo, y con ello las relaciones transatlánticas, el libre comercio o los valores democráticos. Cambios de esta envergadura pueden requerir mucho tiempo.

Lo que sí es cierto es que tanto sus aliados como sus adversarios tienen que prepararse para un mundo en el que Estados Unidos se dedicará cada vez más a sus intereses nacionales de una manera que podrá resultar, a veces, insolidaria y agresiva. Esto no será simplemente la consecuencia de un líder u otro, sino el efecto de unas transformaciones globales difíciles de parar.

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Este año se cumplen veinte años del ataque contra las Torres Gemelas y el Pentagono. Este es, sin lugar a dudas, uno de los eventos más trascendentales de este siglo, pues se siguen sintiendo sus consecuencias, directas e indirectas. Por ello no debe ser una sorpresas que tal hito capte la atención de las instituciones académicas y de investigación, los “think tanks”, los medios y la sociedad civil tanto en Estados Unidos como otros países. Una de esas instituciones es el Gilder Lehrman Institute que, en unión al 9/11 Memorial and Museum y el History Channelrealizará una serie de interesantes actividades en conmemoración de los ataques terroristas del 11 de setiembre de 2001.


Defining images from the 9/11 attacks | Reuters.com

Una colaboración con HISTORY en la programación especial del 9/11

El 9/11 Memorial and Museum y el Gilder Lehrman Institute (GLI) se enorgullecen de colaborar con   el History Channel en un proyecto que analiza el camino que condujo a los trágicos eventos del 11 de septiembre de 2001. Este proyecto forma parte la cobertura de HISTORY del vigésimo aniversario del 9/11, que también incluye un proyecto del Museo del 9/11, otro colaborador frecuente de GLI.

Hay tres componentes en el trabajo que GLI está haciendo en conjunto con la programación del History Channel:

Domingo, 29 de agosto: HISTORY Sponsors 9/11 Book Breaks Special:  The Only Plane in the Sky Book Breaks, nuestra popular exploración semanal de libros de los principales historiadores estadounidenses, estará dedicada al libro seminal de Garrett Graff  The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11.

The Only Plane in the Sky: The Oral History of 9/11 | Sarajevo Publishing

Regístrese aquí para asistir.

El largo camino hacia el 9/11: una línea de tiempo digital

La línea de tiempo cuenta la historia de la política exterior entre Estados Unidos y Oriente Medio y veinticinco eventos que condujeron a los ataques del 9/11 y la respuesta de estados Unidos, a partir de 1932. La línea de tiempo estará en el sitio web del Instituto Gilder Lehrman y vinculada desde el sitio web de HISTORY. Ha sido creado para ser utilizado por maestros, estudiantes y el público en general para ayudar a dar sentido a los eventos que afectaron las relaciones entre los Estados Unidos y el Medio Oriente que conducen al 9/11, cubriendo todo, desde la formación de Arabia Saudita y las primeras preocupaciones de los Estados Unidos sobre el petróleo hasta el ataque de Al Qaeda en 2000 contra el USS Cole.

Focos en dos fuentes primarias

Dos documentos fundamentales sobre la participación de Estados Unidos en el Medio Oriente se destacarán como parte de nuestra exploración de la historia del 9/11:

  • George H. W. Bush, Discurso a la Nación anunciando la acción militar aliada en el Golfo Pérsico, 16 de enero de 1991,en el que el presidente George H. W. Bush anunció el comienzo de la campaña militar para poner fin a una ocupación iraquí del vecino KuwaitGeorge H. W. Bush Announces Start of Persian Gulf War - HISTORY
  • Telegrama del Departamento de Estado de los Estados Unidos, “Anuncio del presidente sobre Irán”, 8 de abril de 1980,en el que el presidente Jimmy Carter anunció la ruptura de relaciones diplomáticas con Irán como resultado de la crisis de rehenes de 1979-1981.

Traducido por Norberto Barreto Velázquez

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El regreso de los talibanes al poder ha levantado serias preocupaciones por el futuro de las afganas. Muchos temen, no sin razón, que los talibanes restablezcan un regimen opresivo que coarte las libertades y derechos de las mujeres.

En esta breve nota publicada en JSTOR, el escritor Matthew Wills comentá un artículo publicado en el año 2003 por la socióloga Kim Berry, analizando cómo, tanto estadounidenses y talibanes, usaron  a las afganas políticamente. De su análisis quedan claro dos cosas. Primero,  las politicas estadounidenses de los años 1980 allanaron el camino de los fundamentalistas al poder, y , por ende, fueron responsables de los problemas de las mujeres en Afganistán.  Segundo, que en la invasión de 2001, el bienestar de las afganas no era, realmente, una prioridad para los políticos en Washington.


Rules the Taliban Imposed on Women When It Last Took Over Afghanistan

¿Una guerra para liberar a las mujeres afganas?

Matthew Wills 

JSTOR   23 de agosto de 2021

La difícil situación de las niñas y las mujeres bajo el gobierno de los talibanes fue uno de los principales asuntos para promover  la invasión del Afganistán en 2001. Dos décadas después, con la retirada de las fuerzas extranjeras del país y el regreso de los talibanes al poder, la difícil situación de las mujeres y niñas afganas ha vuelto a ocupar un lugar central.

Kim Berry | Critical Race, Gender & Sexuality Studies

Kim Berry

El sociólogo Kim Berry detalla cómo el conocimiento público de las “estrategias represivas de género” de los talibanes se extendió durante la concepción inicial de la “guerra contra el terrorismo” después del 9/11. Pero, ¿podría un esfuerzo militar para perseguir a los autores intelectuales de los ataques del 9/ll ser también una guerra de liberación para las mujeres?

Berry argumenta que hubo “omisiones críticas y tergiversaciones” en el uso simbólico de mujeres y niñas afganas durante la movilización para la guerra.

Por un lado, la historia del apoyo estadounidense a los talibanes y sus precursores fue ignorada. Durante la guerra soviético-afgana (1979-1989), Estados Unidos y sus aliados canalizaron unos $10.000 millones de dólares a los muyahidines fundamentalistas. Esto, escribe Berry, estableció las “condiciones materiales e ideológicas para la eventual dominación de los islámicos en la política afgana”.

Una vez que los soviéticos se retiraron de Afganistán, en 1989, el vacío de poder resultante llevó a muchos afganos a dar la bienvenida a los talibanes, formados por elementos de los muyahidines, en nombre de la ley y el orden. Los funcionarios estadounidenses, por otro lado, estaban preocupados por las perspectivas de que UNOCAL, una compañía petrolera con sede en Texas, construyera un gasoducto de gas natural y de una ofensiva talibán contra el opio. El estatus de las mujeres era mucho menos importante para los estadounidenses.

Todo esto cambió, al menos retóricamente, después del 9/11. Por ejemplo, en un discurso por radio, la primera dama Laura Bush argumentó que “la lucha contra el terrorismo es también una lucha por los derechos de las mujeres”. La representante Carolyn Maloney usó un burka en el Congreso, mientras que el Departamento de Estado emitió un informe  que detallaba la misoginia de los talibanes. Los principales medios de comunicación lo siguieron, incluida una historia de portada de Time  titulada “Levantando el velo”.

User Clip: Rep. Carolyn Maloney wears burka on House floor (discussing  Taliban treatment of Afghan women) | C-SPAN.org

Pero entonces la agenda declarada de liberar a las mujeres se encontró con la realidad de Afganistán. Grupos como la Alianza del Norte, aliada con la fuerza de invasión liderada por Estados Unidos, a menudo estaban compuestos por ex muyahidines que podían ser tan violentamente patriarcales como los talibanes. Aliados individuales anti-talibanes como el general Rashid Dostum fueron acusados por grupos de derechos humanos de “asesinatos en masa, tortura, secuestro y violación”.

Mientras tanto, el eufemismo de “daños colaterales” abarcaba bombardeos y ataques con misiles de crucero que mataron a civiles, es decir, mujeres y niñas, así como hombres y niños. Berry cita a un crítico de la guerra que argumentó que la supuesta preocupación por las mujeres puso un “brillo feminista en algunos de los bombardeos más brutales”.

Al final, escribe Berry, tanto los estadounidenses como los talibanes usaron a las mujeres como símbolos para sus respectivas causas.

Wars Are Not Fought to Liberate Women' - FAIR

Para los talibanes, el control de las mujeres simbolizaba la adhesión a la combinación de las tradiciones pastunes con una interpretación radical del Islam, su receta para la creación de una sociedad ideal. Estados Unidos ha utilizado a las mujeres afganas como símbolo para legitimar su campaña de bombardeos… y más ampliamente para legitimar su “guerra contra el terrorismo”.

Todo esto hizo que fuera una forma contradictoria de “luchar por los derechos y la dignidad de las mujeres”, como dijo Laura Bush.

Berry, K. (2003). THE SYMBOLIC USE OF AFGHAN WOMEN IN THE WAR ON TERROR. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, 27(2), 137-160. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23524156

Traducido por Norberto Barreto Velázquez

 

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America’s conspiracy mania: Why Ebola and 9/11 truthers reflect a tortured history

From 9/11 to McCarthyism, we have a long history of conspiracy theories — and government acts have encouraged them

Salon. com  November 3, 2014

America's conspiracy mania: Why Ebola and 9/11 truthers reflect a tortured history

(Credit: AP/Seth Wenig/Bridget Besaw Gorman)

Hey, did you hear that President Obama purposefully allowed Ebola to enter the United States so America will be more like Africa?

That’s what conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly said earlier this month, after the first Ebola case reached our shores. In the darker corners of the Internet, others suggested that Obama was spreading Ebola to justify the imposition of martial law; still others charged that government health officials had conspired with pharmaceutical companies to foster the disease and then to hawk a vaccine to cure it.

How could anyone believe that our government would plot to harm its own citizens? Because it’s happened before. Over the past century, the American federal government has repeatedly conspired against the people who elect it. And that’s why so many people suspect that the same thing is happening now.

From 1932 until 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service denied potentially lifesaving treatment to syphilitic African-American men as part of a study of their disease. And starting in the 1950s, the Central Intelligence Agency secretly tested LSD and other drugs on psychiatric patients. It also hired prostitutes to lure unwitting patrons to CIA safe houses, where the agency slipped LSD into their drinks and observed their reactions.

Meanwhile, the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation illegally wiretapped and harassed thousands of civil rights and antiwar activists, including Martin Luther King Jr. The FBI even sent a tape recording of King making love with one of his mistresses to his office, where the package was opened by his wife.

Then came Watergate, when President Richard Nixon and his aides conspired to spy on their political enemies and then conspired to cover all of it up. And the 1980s brought the Iran-Contra conspiracy, in which federal officials sold arms to Iran and illegally funneled the profits to rebels in Nicaragua.

And when the government wasn’t conspiring against Americans, it was spreading false conspiracy theories of its own. The great master of the genre was Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who blamed the Yalta accords, the Soviet hydrogen bomb, and the Communist takeover of China on “Reds” inside America. Indeed, McCarthy charged, the so-called fall of China reflected “a conspiracy so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.”

Yes, a small handful of duplicitous Americans passed atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. But the idea of a vast Communist conspiracy within the United States was itself a lie, hatched by McCarthy and others to whip Americans into a frenzy of fear.

To combat accusations of his own conspiratorial activities, meanwhile, Nixon spread false conspiracies about his predecessors. One Nixon aide faked a cable implicating John F. Kennedy in the murder of South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem, then leaked it to the press.

In the wake of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, finally, the George W. Bush administration invented a conspiracy between the hijackers and Saddam Hussein. Just hours after the attacks Bush instructed counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke to investigate Saddam’s role in them, turning aside Clarke’s protests that “al Qaeda did this.” Then Vice President Dick Cheney went on television to declare that 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta had met with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague several months before the attack, even though FBI agents found records indicating that Atta was in the United States around that time.

No wonder that over one-third of surveyed Americans in 2006 said that the Bush administration had either planned the 9/11 attacks or knew about them beforehand and did nothing to stop them. And after so many years of government conspiracies, real and invented, no one should be surprised when Americans announce that Ebola, too, is a plot by their government.

Let’s be clear: There is no evidence whatsoever for the claims about President Obama spreading Ebola. The people who spread these lies are reprehensible demagogues, and we should do everything that we can to expose them as such.

But we should also keep challenging government secrecy and duplicity, which provide a fertile ground for conspiracy theorists of every stripe. After last year’s revelations that the government was secretly collecting phone records of millions of Americans, whether they were suspected of a crime or not, many Americans got a bit more suspicious of their government. Didn’t you?

When the government creates conspiracies, it encourages the rest of us to do the same. But if it’s transparent, we’re more likely to trust it.

Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of education and history at New York University. He is the author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory and three other books.

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Seleccione aquí para una versión en castellano de este artículo.

TomDispatch

Naming Our Nameless War 

How Many Years Will It Be?
By Andrew J. Bacevich

For well over a decade now the United States has been “a nation at war.” Does that war have a name?

It did at the outset.  After 9/11, George W. Bush’s administration wasted no time in announcing that the U.S. was engaged in a Global War on Terrorism, or GWOT.  With few dissenters, the media quickly embraced the term. The GWOT promised to be a gargantuan, transformative enterprise. The conflict begun on 9/11 would define the age. In neoconservative circles, it was known as World War IV.

Upon succeeding to the presidency in 2009, however, Barack Obama without fanfare junked Bush’s formulation (as he did again in a speech at the National Defense University last week).  Yet if the appellation went away, the conflict itself, shorn of identifying marks, continued.

Does it matter that ours has become and remains a nameless war? Very much so.

Names bestow meaning.  When it comes to war, a name attached to a date can shape our understanding of what the conflict was all about.  To specify when a war began and when it ended is to privilege certain explanations of its significance while discrediting others. Let me provide a few illustrations.

With rare exceptions, Americans today characterize the horrendous fraternal bloodletting of 1861-1865 as the Civil War.  Yet not many decades ago, diehard supporters of the Lost Cause insisted on referring to that conflict as the War Between the States or the War for Southern Independence (or even the War of Northern Aggression).  The South may have gone down in defeat, but the purposes for which Southerners had fought — preserving a distinctive way of life and the principle of states’ rights — had been worthy, even noble.  So at least they professed to believe, with their preferred names for the war reflecting that belief.

Schoolbooks tell us that the Spanish-American War began in April 1898 and ended in August of that same year.  The name and dates fit nicely with a widespread inclination from President William McKinley’s day to our own to frame U.S. intervention in Cuba as an altruistic effort to liberate that island from Spanish oppression.

Yet the Cubans were not exactly bystanders in that drama.  By 1898, they had been fighting for years to oust their colonial overlords.  And although hostilities in Cuba itself ended on August 12th, they dragged on in the Philippines, another Spanish colony that the United States had seized for reasons only remotely related to liberating Cubans.  Notably, U.S. troops occupying the Philippines waged a brutal war not against Spaniards but against Filipino nationalists no more inclined to accept colonial rule by Washington than by Madrid.  So widen the aperture to include this Cuban prelude and the Filipino postlude and you end up with something like this:  The Spanish-American-Cuban-Philippines War of 1895-1902.  Too clunky?  How about the War for the American Empire?  This much is for sure: rather than illuminating, the commonplace textbook descriptor serves chiefly to conceal.

Strange as it may seem, Europeans once referred to the calamitous events of 1914-1918 as the Great War.  When Woodrow Wilson decided in 1917 to send an army of doughboys to fight alongside the Allies, he went beyond Great.  According to the president, the Great War was going to be the War To End All Wars.  Alas, things did not pan out as he expected.  Perhaps anticipating the demise of his vision of permanent peace, War Department General Order 115, issued on October 7, 1919, formally declared that, at least as far as the United States was concerned, the recently concluded hostilities would be known simply as the World War.

In September 1939 — presto chango! — the World Warsuddenly became the First World War, the Nazi invasion of Poland having inaugurated a Second World War, also known asWorld War II or more cryptically WWII.  To be sure, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin preferred the Great Patriotic War. Although this found instant — almost unanimous — favor among Soviet citizens, it did not catch on elsewhere.

Does World War II accurately capture the events it purports to encompass?  With the crusade against the Axis now ranking alongside the crusade against slavery as a myth-enshrouded chapter in U.S. history to which all must pay homage, Americans are no more inclined to consider that question than to consider why a playoff to determine the professional baseball championship of North America constitutes a “World Series.”

In fact, however convenient and familiar, World War II is misleading and not especially useful.  The period in question saw at least two wars, each only tenuously connected to the other, each having distinctive origins, each yielding a different outcome.  To separate them is to transform the historical landscape.

On the one hand, there was the Pacific War, pitting the United States against Japan.  Formally initiated by the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, it had in fact begun a decade earlier when Japan embarked upon a policy of armed conquest in Manchuria.  At stake was the question of who would dominate East Asia.  Japan’s crushing defeat at the hands of the United States, sealed by two atomic bombs in 1945, answered that question (at least for a time).

Then there was the European War, pitting Nazi Germany first against Great Britain and France, but ultimately against a grand alliance led by the United States, the Soviet Union, and a fast fading British Empire.  At stake was the question of who would dominate Europe.  Germany’s defeat resolved that issue (at least for a time): no one would.  To prevent any single power from controlling Europe, two outside powers divided it.

This division served as the basis for the ensuing Cold War,which wasn’t actually cold, but also (thankfully) wasn’t World War III, the retrospective insistence of bellicose neoconservatives notwithstanding.  But when did the Cold Warbegin?  Was it in early 1947, when President Harry Truman decided that Stalin’s Russia posed a looming threat and committed the United States to a strategy of containment?  Or was it in 1919, when Vladimir Lenin decided that Winston Churchill’s vow to “strangle Bolshevism in its cradle” posed a looming threat to the Russian Revolution, with an ongoing Anglo-American military intervention evincing a determination to make good on that vow?

Separating the war against Nazi Germany from the war against Imperial Japan opens up another interpretive possibility.  If you incorporate the European conflict of 1914-1918 and the European conflict of 1939-1945 into a single narrative, you get a Second Thirty Years War (the first having occurred from 1618-1648) — not so much a contest of good against evil, as a mindless exercise in self-destruction that represented the ultimate expression of European folly.

So, yes, it matters what we choose to call the military enterprise we’ve been waging not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in any number of other countries scattered hither and yon across the Islamic world.  Although the Obama administration appears no more interested than the Bush administration in saying when that enterprise will actually end, the date we choose as its starting point also matters.

Although Washington seems in no hurry to name its nameless war — and will no doubt settle on something self-serving or anodyne if it ever finally addresses the issue — perhaps we should jump-start the process.  Let’s consider some possible options, names that might actually explain what’s going on.

The Long War: Coined not long after 9/11 by senior officers in the Pentagon, this formulation never gained traction with either civilian officials or the general public.  Yet the Long War deserves consideration, even though — or perhaps because — it has lost its luster with the passage of time.

At the outset, it connoted grand ambitions buoyed by extreme confidence in the efficacy of American military might.  This was going to be one for the ages, a multi-generational conflict yielding sweeping results.

The Long War did begin on a hopeful note.  The initial entry into Afghanistan and then into Iraq seemed to herald “home by Christmas” triumphal parades.  Yet this soon proved an illusion as victory slipped from Washington’s grasp.  By 2005 at the latest, events in the field had dashed the neo-Wilsonian expectations nurtured back home.

With the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan dragging on, “long” lost its original connotation.  Instead of “really important,” it became a synonym for “interminable.”  Today, the Long Wardoes succinctly capture the experience of American soldiers who have endured multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

For Long War combatants, the object of the exercise has become to persist.  As for winning, it’s not in the cards. TheLong War just might conclude by the end of 2014 if President Obama keeps his pledge to end the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan and if he avoids getting sucked into Syria’s civil war.  So the troops may hope.

The War Against Al-Qaeda: It began in August 1996 when Osama bin Laden issued a “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” i.e., Saudi Arabia.  In February 1998, a second bin Laden manifesto announced that killing Americans, military and civilian alike, had become “an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.”

Although President Bill Clinton took notice, the U.S. response to bin Laden’s provocations was limited and ineffectual.  Only after 9/11 did Washington take this threat seriously.  Since then, apart from a pointless excursion into Iraq (where, in Saddam Hussein’s day, al-Qaeda did not exist), U.S. attention has been focused on Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have waged the longest war in American history, and on Pakistan’s tribal borderlands, where a CIA drone campaign is ongoing.  By the end of President Obama’s first term, U.S. intelligence agencies were reporting that a combined CIA/military campaign had largely destroyed bin Laden’s organization.  Bin Laden himself, of course, was dead.

Could the United States have declared victory in its unnamed war at this point?  Perhaps, but it gave little thought to doing so.  Instead, the national security apparatus had already trained its sights on various al-Qaeda “franchises” and wannabes, militant groups claiming the bin Laden brand and waging their own version of jihad.  These offshoots emerged in the Maghreb, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, and — wouldn’t you know it — post-Saddam Iraq, among other places.  The question as to whether they actually posed a danger to the United States got, at best, passing attention — the label “al-Qaeda” eliciting the same sort of Pavlovian response that the word “communist” once did.

Americans should not expect this war to end anytime soon.  Indeed, the Pentagon’s impresario of special operations recently speculated — by no means unhappily — that it would continue globally for “at least 10 to 20 years.”   Freely translated, his statement undoubtedly means: “No one really knows, but we’re planning to keep at it for one helluva long time.”

The War For/Against/About Israel: It began in 1948.  For many Jews, the founding of the state of Israel signified an ancient hope fulfilled.  For many Christians, conscious of the sin of anti-Semitism that had culminated in the Holocaust, it offered a way to ease guilty consciences, albeit mostly at others’ expense.  For many Muslims, especially Arabs, and most acutely Arabs who had been living in Palestine, the founding of the Jewish state represented a grave injustice.  It was yet another unwelcome intrusion engineered by the West — colonialism by another name.

Recounting the ensuing struggle without appearing to take sides is almost impossible.  Yet one thing seems clear: in terms of military involvement, the United States attempted in the late 1940s and 1950s to keep its distance.  Over the course of the 1960s, this changed.  The U.S. became Israel’s principal patron, committed to maintaining (and indeed increasing) its military superiority over its neighbors.

In the decades that followed, the two countries forged a multifaceted “strategic relationship.”  A compliant Congress provided Israel with weapons and other assistance worth many billions of dollars, testifying to what has become an unambiguous and irrevocable U.S. commitment to the safety and well-being of the Jewish state.  The two countries share technology and intelligence.  Meanwhile, just as Israel had disregarded U.S. concerns when it came to developing nuclear weapons, it ignored persistent U.S. requests that it refrain from colonizing territory that it has conquered.

When it comes to identifying the minimal essential requirements of Israeli security and the terms that will define any Palestinian-Israeli peace deal, the United States defers to Israel.  That may qualify as an overstatement, but only slightly.  Given the Israeli perspective on those requirements and those terms — permanent military supremacy and a permanently demilitarized Palestine allowed limited sovereignty — the War For/Against/About Israel is unlikely to end anytime soon either.  Whether the United States benefits from the perpetuation of this war is difficult to say, but we are in it for the long haul.

The War for the Greater Middle East: I confess that this is the name I would choose for Washington’s unnamed war and is, in fact, the title of a course I teach.  (A tempting alternative is the Second Hundred Years War, the “first” having begun in 1337 and ended in 1453.)

This war is about to hit the century mark, its opening chapter coinciding with the onset of World War I.  Not long after the fighting on the Western Front in Europe had settled into a stalemate, the British government, looking for ways to gain the upper hand, set out to dismantle the Ottoman Empire whose rulers had foolishly thrown in their lot with the German Reich against the Allies.

By the time the war ended with Germany and the Turks on the losing side, Great Britain had already begun to draw up new boundaries, invent states, and install rulers to suit its predilections, while also issuing mutually contradictory promises to groups inhabiting these new precincts of its empire.  Toward what end?  Simply put, the British were intent on calling the shots from Egypt to India, whether by governing through intermediaries or ruling directly.  The result was a new Middle East and a total mess.

London presided over this mess, albeit with considerable difficulty, until the end of World War II.  At this point, by abandoning efforts to keep Arabs and Zionists from one another’s throats in Palestine and by accepting the partition of India, they signaled their intention to throw in the towel. Alas, Washington proved more than willing to assume Britain’s role.  The lure of oil was strong.  So too were the fears, however overwrought, of the Soviets extending their influence into the region.

Unfortunately, the Americans enjoyed no more success in promoting long-term, pro-Western stability than had the British.  In some respects, they only made things worse, with the joint CIA-MI6 overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran in 1953 offering a prime example of a “success” that, to this day, has never stopped breeding disaster.

Only after 1980 did things get really interesting, however.  The Carter Doctrine promulgated that year designated the Persian Gulf a vital national security interest and opened the door to greatly increased U.S. military activity not just in the Gulf, but also throughout the Greater Middle East (GME).  Between 1945 and 1980, considerable numbers of American soldiers lost their lives fighting in Asia and elsewhere.  During that period, virtually none were killed fighting in the GME.  Since 1990, in contrast, virtually none have been killed fighting anywhere except in the GME.

What does the United States hope to achieve in its inherited and unending War for the Greater Middle East?  To pacify the region?  To remake it in our image?  To drain its stocks of petroleum?  Or just keeping the lid on?  However you define the war’s aims, things have not gone well, which once again suggests that, in some form, it will continue for some time to come.  If there’s any good news here, it’s the prospect of having ever more material for my seminar, which may soon expand into a two-semester course.

The War Against Islam: This war began nearly 1,000 years ago and continued for centuries, a storied collision between Christendom and the Muslim ummah.  For a couple of hundred years, periodic eruptions of large-scale violence occurred until the conflict finally petered out with the last crusade sometime in the fourteenth century.

In those days, many people had deemed religion something worth fighting for, a proposition to which the more sophisticated present-day inhabitants of Christendom no longer subscribe.  Yet could that religious war have resumed in our own day?  Professor Samuel Huntington thought so, although he styled the conflict a “clash of civilizations.”  Some militant radical Islamists agree with Professor Huntington, citing as evidence the unwelcome meddling of “infidels,” mostly wearing American uniforms, in various parts of the Muslim world.  Some militant evangelical Christians endorse this proposition, even if they take a more favorable view of U.S. troops occupying and drones targeting Muslim countries.

In explaining the position of the United States government, religious scholars like George W. Bush and Barack (Hussein!) Obama have consistently expressed a contrary view.  Islam is a religion of peace, they declare, part of the great Abrahamic triad.  That the other elements of that triad are likewise committed to peace is a proposition that Bush, Obama, and most Americans take for granted, evidence not required.  There should be no reason why Christians, Jews, and Muslims can’t live together in harmony.

Still, remember back in 2001 when, in an unscripted moment, President Bush described the war barely begun as a “crusade”?  That was just a slip of the tongue, right?  If not, we just might end up calling this one the Eternal War.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University and a TomDispatch regular. His next book, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Countrywill appear in September.

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