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The Origins and Development of the War on Terror Doctrine and its Future Prospects
Publication date: 2002-09-08

The Conception of the Doctrine of War on Terror   -----   to top

Although the doctrine of War on Terror was announced by G.W. Bush following the events of 9/11, the real architect of that doctrine is Benjamin Netanyahu. While most people think that Netanyahu is an Israeli politician, he is also an author of a few books on terrorism and is the real father of the War on Terror doctrine. One of his early works on terrorism "International Terrorism: Challenge and Response" dates back to 1979. His major definitive work "Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorism" was published in 1995. He has also been promoting his War on Terror doctrine in his speeches. One such speech was delivered at the Jewish Agency Assembly Plenary meetings held in Israel on 24th June 2001. The main points of that speech are:

  1. The Palestinians are to blame for the conflict in the Middle East, and specifically Yasser Arafat.
  2. It is legitimate for established states to engage in wars, because the societies are imperfect.
  3. Palestinians are not waging a legitimate war (like established states using regular armies) and are terrorists.
  4. The Palestinian terrorists deliberately attack civilians.
  5. The Israelis are responding in self-defense.
  6. When the Israelis respond, they respond against combatants.
  7. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority are committed to the destruction of the State of Israel.
  8. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority are using the illegitimate and criminal means of terrorism.
  9. The Palestinian are wrong and the Israelis are right.
  10. Terrorism invariably comes from terrorist regimes.
  11. Terror is useful, only if the cost of waging terrorism, the cost of that regime is lower than the benefits of waging terrorism.
  12. To stop terrorism, one must make the terrorist regime pay very very heavily.
  13. The root core of the Middle East conflict is the existential opposition by a great many in the Arab world still, and certainly by the Palestinian leadership to Israel's very existence.
  14. The first way of ensuring Israel's existence is that the Arabs simply understand that Israel is so powerful, so permanent, so unconquerable in every way that they will simply abandon by the force of the inertia of Israel's permanence all opposition to Israel.
  15. The second way [of ensuring Israel's existence] is for the forces of democratization get to the Arab regimes.
  16. Using propaganda techniques, like broadcasting American television serials (which Netanyahu sees as subversive material) will ultimately bring down regimes like the Ayatola regime and the Khoumeni regime in Iran.
  17. In the 21st century, you cannot achieve a military victory unless you achieve a political victory to accompany it; and you cannot achieve a political victory unless you achieve a victory in public opinion; and you cannot achieve a victory in public opinion unless you persuade that public that your cause is just.
  18. It doesn't make any difference if you are on the side of the angels or on the side of the devil. Anyone fighting in the international arena for public opinion must argue the justice of his cause. Hitler argued for the justice of his cause and Stalin argued for the justice of his cause. They all had propaganda machines. Whether you are right or you are wrong you must argue the justice of your cause.

Although this speech was delivered some two months before the events of 9/11, one can see in it all the main points advanced by G.W. Bush in his speeches on War on Terror, which followed the 9/11. But at the time of the delivery of the Netanyahu speech, the interest in the Netanyahu "War on Terror" doctrine was limited to a narrow circle of professional Greater Israel Zionists and Middle East experts. It was also obvious that the Netanyahu doctrine could not be implemented by Israel alone without involving into it the full military and financial might of the USA. At the time such involvement seemed an unlikely prospect which could only be achieved through some kind of miracle.

But this "miracle" did not take long to happen.

The Birth of the Doctrine of War on Terror Announced   -----   to top

On the 11th of September 2001 two passenger planes were driven into the World Trade Center and another one into the Pentagon (the headquarters of the US Department of Defense), causing large scale destruction and deaths of some 6,0001 people.

Had destruction and deaths on such scale happened in Africa or Asia, it would have been a short one day's news item, like an earthquake or community violence in India. But it happened in the USA, and this made all the difference  --  the Netanyahu doctrine of War on Terror became a new global ideology of the World's most powerful nation.

This is how George W. Bush announced his doctrine in his Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People on September 20, 2001:

"Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.
. . .

The civilized world is rallying to America's side. They understand that if this terror goes unpunished, their own cities, their own citizens may be next. Terror, unanswered, can not only bring down buildings, it can threaten the stability of legitimate governments."
While the speech was in response to the events of 9/11, and its immediate targets was the al-Qaida organization and the Taliban government of Afghanistan, the reference to "the stability of legitimate governments" meant that the War on Terror announced by G.W. Bush has divided the world into two camps: (1) the legitimate established governments and (2) the terrorists, anybody who would fight or resist such established governments, and any established governments that assist or harbor such terrorists. The first group was with us (the Americans) that second with them (the terrorists).

This has created a new, unprecedented, world order.

The New World Order   -----   to top

Throughout all of recorded human history there were powerful empires conquering and ruling other nations, but their power has never extended to the whole world, and there were rival nations which kept the powers of such empires in check. Now there emerged a single super power any opposition to which became illegitimate and leading the opponents to physical destruction. This was clearly demonstrated by the application of the War on Terror doctrine in Afghanistan.

The Band Wagon   -----   to top

Since the meaning of War on Terror was that any small nation under control of a larger or militarily more powerful nation and seeking independence from that controlling nation through any form of violent resistance could be described as "terrorists", all states involved in such conflicts jumped eagerly on the band wagon of the War on Terror. Russia got total freedom to do what they like in Chechnya, the Chinese stepped up their efforts to suppress all opposition in East Turkistan, and the Israelis saw in the War on Terror opportunity to extend their control over the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Doctrine Grows in Strength and Scope   -----   to top

The "us" and "them" doctrine as announced by G.W. Bush was very close to the Netanyahu doctrine, all that was left for Netanyahu to harness the full military and economic might of the USA to his cause was to interpret the "us" of G.W. Bush as "the Democracies (the West, the Civilized World) rallied behind that bulwark of Democracy -- Israel" and the "them" of G.W. Bush as "the terror regimes -- the Arab dictatorships rallied behind that arch enemy of Israel (and the West and Civilization) -- Yasser Arafat". With such interpretation the Netanyahu dream of Greater Israel could become reality within his life time. But at that time a dark shadow falls over the Netanyahu dream landscape.

At the end of March 2002 the Saudis present their Plan for Peace in the Middle East.

This plan, if accepted, would have lead to a permanent solution of the Middle East Conflict, but it would have also frozen the Israeli borders as they were before the 1967 war. And this would have meant the end of the dreams of Greater Israel.

The Saudi Plan is immediately rejected by the Israeli government. Instead they begin a full scale military offensive on the Palestinian territories. They also begin a campaign to discredit Yasser Arafat. Appeals by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to stop the hostilities are ignored by the Israelis. And so are calls by G.W. Bush. And on 10 April 2002 Benjamin Netanyahu delivers another speech on the War on Terror, this time before the US Senate in Washington

The main points of this speech are as follows:

  1. The American victory against terror in Afghanistan is only the first step in dismantling the global terrorist network. The other terrorist regimes must now be rapidly dealt with in similar fashion.
  2. Israel, a democratic government that is defending itself against terror should not be equated with the Palestinian dictatorship that is perpetrating it.
  3. Israel should not be asked to stop fighting terror and return to a negotiating table with a regime that is committed to the destruction of the Jewish State and openly embraces terror.
  4. Israel has the right to defend itself.
  5. The government of Israel must fight not only to defend its people, restore a dangerously eroded deterrence and secure the Jewish State, but also to ensure that the free world wins the war against terror in this pivotal arena in the heart of the Middle East.
  6. Israel must dismantle Arafat's terrorist regime and expel Arafat from the region.
  7. Israel must clean out terrorists, weapons, and explosives from all Palestinian controlled areas.
  8. Israel must establish physical barriers separating the main Palestinian population centers from Israeli towns and cities to prevent any residual terrorists from reaching Israel.
  9. There can never be a political solution for terror. The grievance of terrorists can never be redressed through diplomacy. That will only encourage more terror. Yasser Arafat's terrorist regime must be toppled, not courted. The Oslo agreements are dead. Yasser Arafat killed them.
  10. A political process can only begin when this terrorist regime is dismantled.
  11. The urgent need to topple Saddaam is paramount. The commitment of America and Britain to dismantle this terrorist dictatorship before it obtains nuclear weapons deserves the unconditional support of all sane governments.
  12. America must show that it will not heed the international call to stop Israel from exercising its right to defend itself. If America compromises its principles and joins in the chorus of those who demand that Israel disengage, the war on terror will be undermined.
  13. For if the world begins to believe that America may deviate from its principles, terrorist regimes that might have otherwise been deterred will not be deterred. Those that might have crumbled under the weight of American resolve will not crumble. As a result, winning the war will prove far more difficult, perhaps impossible.
  14. To assure that the evil of terrorism does not reemerge a decade or two from now, we must not merely uproot terror, but also plant the seeds of freedom
  15. It is imperative that once the terrorist regimes in the Middle East are swept away, the free world, led by America, must begin to build democracy in their place.
  16. We simply can no longer afford to allow this region to remain cloistered by a fanatic militancy. We must let the winds of freedom and independence finally penetrate the one region in the world that clings to unreformed tyranny.

This speech of Netanyahu reads almost like a cooking recipe which the American administration has been using in its Middle East and War on Terror policies. This is evidenced by the speech by G.W. Bush on resolving the Middle East Conflict (2002-06-24) in which G.W. Bush gives green light to the Israelis to implement their policies justifying them by extracts from the Netanyahu speech, while at the same time trying to placate the Arab states by holding in front of them a vision of a Palestinian state in 3 years time.

The Netanyahu Brigades   -----   to top

While Netanyahu is the real father of the War on Terror doctrine, which if implemented in full would lead to major changes in the Middle East, which will fall under control of a strong and "unconquerable" Israel, he is not alone. Behind him stands the global federation of "center-right" Zionist movements known as Likud Olami -- the World Union of Liberal and National Zionists. Their American branch - the American Friends of Likud are the people who are influential in shaping the views of the American Administration and the World Public Opinion on the Middle East conflict and the "War on Terror" by promoting the ideas of their ideological leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

The ideas of Netanyahu are also supported by some Christian Zionists, who exercise strong influence on the American administration. Examples of such organisations are the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel and Koinonia House. These organisations promote the idea of Greater Israel and seek to create a negative image of the Arab states and of Islam.

Implementing the Netanyahu Doctrine   -----   to top

While the American war against Afghanistan can be explained by a desire to hit back at the presumed perpetrators of the Events of 9/11, the Axis of Evil Bush speech, the anti-Arafat campaign by the Americans, the planned war against Iraq, the prematurely published Rand report, portraying the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as an enemy of the United States and promoter of terrorism -- are all concepts and proposed steps described or prescribed by Netanyahu in his books and speeches.

So how far are the Netanyahu dreams from becoming reality?

Is the Netanyahu Doctrine Workable?   -----   to top

Dreams of great empires are not new. Throughout all of human history there have been ambitious national leaders dreaming of subduing the rest of the world. And they have had their successes. These successes lasted for decades and even spanned centuries. But they have always ended in the same way -- the empires collapsed. The Babylon, the Byzantium, the Kingdom of Solomon, The Romans, The Moguls, The Tartars, The Ottoman Turks, the British Empire, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin -- they all had their great times, and they all collapsed. Why?

It has always been possible for more numerous, or better armed, nations to conquer others, but once they expand their conquests they are faced with the task of controlling large numbers of people scattered over large territories. And these people are hostile to the conquerors and seek their destruction. And while the imperial leaders can rally support for short victorious campaigns, the burden of controlling large hostile territories for prolonged periods of time becomes too much to bear. This is why the British have shrugged the burden of keeping their empire off their shoulders. This is why Napoleon and Hitler could not sustain their victories once their armies spread thin over partisan-infested Europe and Russia. This is why the Russians had to leave Afghanistan.

The other reason of collapse of empires is internal corruption. Conquerers of other nations often justify their conquests by moral imperatives, like civilizing the barbarians, liberating the masses, etc., but they invariably end up by inflicting injustice on others. To justify their actions they resort to lies (spin, propaganda, etc.) and finish by deceiving themselves and discrediting themselves even before their own people. Moreover dishonesty leads to general corruption and immorality and tyranny even against their own people. In the end they create opposition to themselves among their own people. This is why today the most vociferous opponents of the Israeli war against the Palestinians are Israeli Jews campaigning against the war. This is why the most vociferous opponents of Communism in Russia were children of members of the Communist elite. This is why the militarily unconquerable Soviet Union, the government of which had the tightest possible control over every aspect of life of each and every of its citizens, collapsed from inside under the weight of its own bureaucracy.

The Way to Peace and Security   -----   to top

Today due to development of communications between people, the world has shrunk to a "Global Village". The days of empires are over. The dreams of Netanyahu and the imperial ambitions of George Bush and Tony Blair are hangovers of past centuries. Yes, there is need for a new world order, but not for a world order based on domination by superpowers of smaller nations. The new order will have to be built on the principles of mutual respect and equality of all people under the law.

The Netanyahu War on Terror doctrine, which President Bush adopted as the guiding principle of American foreign policy runs contrary to the needs of the modern world and is bound to fail, although it has potential for causing great damage to mankind for a number of decades.

Before more countries in the world are subjected to devastation, like that caused by the Americans in Afghanistan, before the Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed spills over to other countries, the War on Terror should be stopped and discarded as another imperial ideology. Instead, the efforts of mankind should be directed to resolving the existing conflicts (which are the result of the past imperial policies) on the basis of justice and development of peaceful means of resolution of international disputes. This will lead to a world free from wars, terrorism and politics.

Notes:   -----   to top

1) Some site visitors have drawn it to our attention that the number of people who were killed as a result of the events of the 9/11 was 3,000 and not 6,000.

At the time of the writing of the article the exact number of the victims was still unknown and was reported as being between 2,000 and 7,000, and even now the exact reported number of victims still might be not exact. It might be closer to 3000, but for the purpose of the article the number of victims is immaterial.

We took a figure closer to the highest, because we did not want to "minimize the magnitude of the event". This article does not deal with the details of the events of the 9/11, but with the way these events were used as a trigger for the "War on Terror" that followed. And had the number of victims been 600 or 60,000, the subsequent "political" developments would have been the same.

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