Gretchen Peters recently wrote a piece at Foreign Policy: The criminals running the Af-Pak border: Want to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban? Stop thinking of them as terrorists. (hat-tip: Kingfisher)
Gretchen Peters writes:
The Obama administration has promised "a new way of thinking about the challenges" facing the United States in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But it's also high time it starts thinking in a new way about America's enemies themselves. The Taliban and al Qaeda have long portrayed themselves as holy warriors, battling under the flag of Islam. Most people in the West have accepted this characterization, imagining them as long-bearded fanatics, while Washington constantly refers to them as "terrorists" and "extremists." No doubt they are. But, having studied their operations at the village level in Afghanistan and Pakistan for more than three years, another descriptor also seems useful to me: criminal. When you examine the day-to-day activities keeping their networks financially afloat and probe how they interact with local communities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Taliban and al Qaeda start to look a lot more mafiosi than mujahideen.I don't pretend to be an expert on these matters - but I strongly suspect that this is the best way to characterize the 'mujahideen'. Similarly, we should characterize US politicians (and career professionals) the same way: more mafiosi than 'mandate.' Money and power always seems to over-ride actual representation of the people.
This has been my core operating principle since I started blogging. There is no such thing as liberal vs conservative, or republican vs democrat, or Islamist vs Christianist. For the people in power (and even those not in power) the only issue is self-interest.
As Sibel says, much of Bin Laden's support is not because of ideological reasons. They only support him, and 'terrorism,' because it is profitable.
Elsewhere (I can't find the link at the moment) Peters has researched counterinsurgencies and says that 'wars' that are essentially criminal-based last a lot longer than other 'wars.' It makes sense because people in power are making lot of money from/during the war - why should we expect it to stop soon?
Who in the US government is profiting from the current wars? Can we expect them to want to create peace?
Update - NPR interview with Peters here