Commenters on my Afghanistan post have asked, if we don't fight terrorists in Af-Pak, then where do we fight them.
I think the question is not where, but how. And the answer is not with civilian-killing, enemy-making bombs, but with the one approach that even the military acknowledges is the only one that works:
Law enforcement. Investigation, arrest, trial, conviction, imprisonment.
From a 2005 conference report of the U.S. Army's Strategic Studies Institute:
In the second paper, Mr. Michael German illustrates why he believes the U.S. reaction to terrorism is not just inadequate, but rather, by being incorrect, our strategy compounds the problem. By defining activity as terrorist warfare rather than criminal behavior, we enhance perpetrators’ status and provide them the legitimacy that they seek.
The author’s experience as an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent has given him valuable insights into terrorists’ desire for legitimacy among their supporters, sympathizers, and others who have potential to become part of those two groups. He discusses how these groups develop strategies to create overreaction by authorities and to avoid their most feared outcome, being labeled as mere criminal gangs.
He likewise discusses the patterns of governmental overreaction that must be avoided if the government’s legitimacy is to be preserved; fortunately, the U.S. Constitution provides an effective structure to avoid overreaction by guaranteeing individual rights and requiring open-source and transparent methods for criminal prosecution. Secrecy and increased governmental power is not the solution. He convincingly argues that his conclusions about domestic terrorists are applicable to their international counterparts and that the legalistic approach that has proven effective within the United States would be equally effective internationally.
Finally, Dr. Shawn Boyne discusses Germany’s recognition of the Islamic terrorist threat, but rejection of the metaphor of war in favor of its constitutional law framework. That commitment provides for the same civil liberty protections for all acts, whether or not committed by citizens and without regard for motivation. She convincingly argues that the German approach is a consequence of its relatively long and active history of dealing with domestic terrorism and more recent internal debates. Germany decided, in contrast to the United States, not to view the September 11, 2001, attacks as the beginning of a war, but through the lens of German and international law.
Germany’s response was not to create new law, but to strengthen resources to investigate and enforce existing laws. Logically, its military forces were provided specifically for Afghanistan, mostly in noncombat roles, and not for the general war on terrorism. Germany’s legalistic stance was not sufficient to avoid making difficult choices about the balance between internal security and civil liberties and may mean that democracies must remain vigilant in protecting human rights, no matter which tactics they choose to fight terrorism. At a minimum, the United States should view the German solution as an alternative to its own and compare its relative effectiveness for security and potential costs in civil liberties for its citizens.
Killing people - whether for political, monetary or romantic reasons, and whether by knife, gun or suicide bomb - is a crime. Terrorism is a tactic used by criminals.
And anyone who says the U.S. criminal justice system is not up to the task of finding, capturing, prosecuting and incarcerating a bunch of cave-dwelling medieval freaks is un-American.
(Blue Girl makes excellent points in her comment here.)