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The Anti-Terrorist Temptation

The ongoing Middle East crisis is not only directly relevant to that troubled region but more generally to the global "war against terror" conducted under US leadership. While some important victories have been won in this war, for lack of US leadership one battle has already been lost - the definition of the enemy.

Terror is a shadowy enemy. What makes it so damnably difficult to confront is the fact that it takes many forms. True, all terrorists act criminally by taking the lives of innocent people to further some real or imagined objective. While each has different motives, none of the causes they espouse justify their acts.

In most cases terror is local in cause, action, and motivation: ETA in Spain, the IRA in Northern Ireland, suicide bombers in Palestine, Chechen rebels, the Tamil Tigers. In contrast, the Al Qaeda terrorists of September 11 th acted on a global scale and with a global motive. Initially they were rightly defined as a different species: America declared war not on all kinds of terrorists but, to quote President Bush, against those "of global reach."

That was an essential distinction. The first law in strategy is to be clear about who your enemy is, to focus on him and not be deflected. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration lost its focus.