Fighters from the terror group ISIL, which is so atrocious it was kicked out of the Al-Qaida network due to its brutality, just captured Tikrit after recently capturing Mosul. Iraq seems poised to be split into three parts, a Kurdish state in the north, an Iranian puppet in the east, and a salafist terror state in the west - in fact, you could very well argue that is already the case.

In 2007 there were less than 30 terror groups like Al-Qaida, now that number has risen to around 50. In 2007 there were 18-42.000 terror incidents, last year it was 44-105.000. Deaths from terror attacks has risen from around 7.500 in 2007 to almost 18.000 in 2013, and this doesn't even count the Syrians which has been killed by the terrorist actors, ISIL among them, in the civil war there.

Safe to say, the mission hasn't been accomplished and the war on terror has been going badly lately, if not outright lost.

So, any good ideas..?

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Unfortunately, at this point in history, it appears that the war on terror cannot be decisively won, only lost. It's like a giant endless game of Whack-a-Mole, with activity continuously popping up when our attention is focused elsewhere. No overall victory; just temporary military advantages and disadvantages.
It can be lost though, through erosion of our constitutional rights and civil liberties, through secret courts and warrantless wiretaps, through random searches of person and property, and through heavy-handed police tactics in an ever-increasing militarized police state.

Historically, a number of terrorist groups have been defeated. Why is it that this does not apply to Islamic terrorists?

And I wholeheartedly agree that domestically in the US, and to a certain extent also worldwide, terrorists have scored a major victory against freedom. To put it a bit colloquially, every time my genitals gets fondled at the airport, the terrorists have scored one.

So, any good ideas..?

Ban the declaring of war on anything other than nations. How can you fight a war against an abstract concept terror? How can you fight a war against terrorists as a whole? I don't think you can. You can target specific groups, but even then you should be arresting and trying them in courts (not war). The war on drugs is another "war" which has evidently failed. You just can't fight a war against a substance or substances... there will always be more of the substance or concept left after you take out one piece.

Also, US hypocrisy doesn't particularly help.... If drone strikes aren't terrorism then I don't know what is.

Matt has an excellent point.

A large part of the problem is our lack of understanding of different groups.  We declared war on Bin Laden's al-queda (or we should have).  That's a limited objective, a specific group.  We effectively won that war.

In the process, however, we also started picking fights with religious zealots in Yemen, with tribal leaders in Pakistan, with Pashtun elders in Afghanistan, with all of Iraq, with our own citizens who prefer the government not spy on them.    We're like a little kid in a tantrum that got a hold of his father's gun closet.  I doubt anyone in our military even knows what the objectives are anymore.

We've also taught dictators that lesson.  Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Russia... all of them learned to just label all protest and dissent "terrorism" and move to crush it.  People will permit the most insane violations of human rights and international law in the name of stopping "terrorism."

So in this case, we have the Sunni areas of western Iraq.  Saddam's base of support, but also our allies against al-queda affiliates by later on in the Iraq conflict.  These aren't terrorists, they're genuine local militia in a lot of ways.  In the two years since we've left, they've been screwed by the Shiite government in Baghdad, who have locked them out, used trumped-up charges to arrest their leaders, and broken every promise.  Al-Malaki has essentially pulled a Morsi; by moving to lock all other groups out of "democratic" government he's caused an armed revolt by what amounted to the regional government.

It's been joined perhaps by some ISIS fighters from Syria (who were genuine bad actors), but it's a very different thing.

We can buy into the Sisi/al-Malaki line that anything that is opposed to the reigning government is a terror organization and move to start flinging bombs from above.  Or we can grow up and behave more rationally, and recognize that labels are a poor substitute for understanding when we're talking about complex ethnic conflicts half way around the world.

How would you go about arresting a terror mastermind who has sworn to destroy you, holed up in a cave in a remote part of the world, surrounded by many heavily armed zealots eager to die to protect him? Get on the bullhorn, say "come out with your hands up", and read him his rights? It takes some kind of military action.

However, declaring a "War on Terror" was political grandstanding for the purpose of increasing defense spending, not coincidentally in the form of multi-billion-dollar no-bid contracts handed to Dick Cheney's former company.

However, declaring a "War on Terror" was political grandstanding

It give politicians and angry Americans an excuse to destroy entire countries, even while not targeting specific terrorists. (If that's not terrorism, I don't know what is!)

I think "terrorism" is intentional. By that I mean, no matter how much terror results from one's (or one's country's) actions, it's only terrorism if instilling terror is the primary goal and not a side resultl.

I agree, mostly. I won't say why I made that mostly facetious statement. We're still not innocent of inflicting a bit of terrorist-like tortures on others, but so far that's minor compared to what we're fighting against.

I'm confident in saying that instilling terror is a recognised (and desired) effect of many military actions.

How would you go about arresting a terror mastermind who has sworn to destroy you, holed up in a cave in a remote part of the world, surrounded by many heavily armed zealots eager to die to protect him? Get on the bullhorn, say "come out with your hands up", and read him his rights?

Certainly not by declaring war on an abstract concept...

Any good ideas about terrorism?

First, set aside our emotions (fear, anger, etc) and recognize terrorism as a tactic that weak people use against strong nations that are oppressing them. (A faculty member at the US Naval War College speaks of terrorism as a means of communication. (I'll see if I still have some of the course material and add it.)

Terrorism's beginnings?

We non-theists don't know how life or hunger began. We can perhaps agree that hungry cyanobacteria ate (engulfed, if you wish) smaller cyanobacteria.

We can infer that at some point the surviving smaller cyanobacteria found ways to avoid being eaten.

Fast forward a few billion years, skipping eons of eating (actual or metaphorical) and surviving.

From the Naval War College:

In the case of a colonizing nation, terrorists have several audiences, internal and external.

Internal audiences are those who assist the colonizing, those who are apathetic to it, and its victims. The terrorists adapt their tactics to these audiences.

External audiences are those whose support the terrorists want, hoping they will influence the colonizing nation.

It is a shame that so many lives were lost and so much treasure spent.  And for absolutely nothing.  I challenge anyone to name a positive outcome of the war in Iraq that was worth the life of a single American soldier.  

If George W. Bush had been president of the United States of Slobovia, he would have long since been put on trial at the Hague for war crimes.  Only the fact that he  was the president of a rich and powerful country has saved him and his cronies (Cheney and Rumsfeld)


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