Blowback, Payback; The War on Terror is Backfiring


The acts of terrorism recently witnessed in Paris, together with the alarms going off in Brussels and some other parts of the world, are a precursor of more terror yet to come. We are living in very troubled times in which there is absolutely no meeting of the minds between certain entities who possess radically different political and religious ideologies.

The ISIS terrorists that launched those Paris attacks and are causing havoc in Syria are, without question, well-organized, well-funded and are a much larger organization than we might think. They follow a strategy by which they know exactly how to strike great fear and paralysis into nations and their citizens. They don’t need an army and great firepower but strike from the shadows when it is least expected. They are taking the “art” of terrorism to a new, higher level.

Blowback or payback can be defined as “an unforeseen and unwanted effect, result, or set of repercussions carried out by those who feel that they have been the victims of someone else’s violent actions.” That’s what these terrorists are doing as they launch attacks against those that they believe grievously wronged them in the past.

Now, why is this War on Terror backfiring? It’s because as it is pursued and escalated the greater blowback it generates when more and more new recruits from numerous countries join the ranks of the jihadists in order to seek revenge.

When the president of France reacted to this terrorism by stating that “France is at war” the anger that he and the people of France feel is entirely understandable. He has sworn to eradicate ISIS for its brutal, inhuman attacks. But it’s not good enough to react to terrorist acts simply by the use of force to retaliate and seek revenge.

We need to better understand terrorism and what’s behind it; its origins and how and why it is spreading its venom in the world. Why exactly are these acts of barbarism taking place, what is the motivation behind them and how can we find the ways to try to end this modern day Reign of Terror?

Terrorism in many forms and varieties has existed in this world for centuries. Terrorism, or the use of violent acts to intimidate and strike fear into the hearts of people, is a way of trying to achieve a specific goal, most often a political one.”

Here is a link to a website, the Crime Museum, which informs us that “The root of the word terrorism is taken from a Latin term that means “to frighten”. It became part of the phrase terror cimbricus, which was used by ancient Romans in 105BC to describe the panic that ensued as they prepared for an attack by a fierce warrior tribe.”

 Many years later during the French Revolution that kind of turmoil and chaos was described by the French word terrorisme.

We could spend a lot of time discussing acts of terror that have taken place down through history, but that’s beyond the scope of this article. Here we will concentrate on the period of time between the year 2000 and the present; and the main object of discussion will be the War on Terror.

The “WOT” has been a failure for the U.S. and, actually, for the entire world since, instead of having the effect of controlling or largely eliminating acts of terror, it has created more and more terrorists that are now banding together to seek revenge on those who they consider to be their enemies. Let’s review the various phases of the War on Terror and the aftereffects of each:

Phase 1 – After the 9/11 attacks the Bush/Cheney attack, invasion and occupation of Afghanistan lasted for many years and has not been successful in combating terrorism.

Phase 2 – Bush/Cheney attacked and occupied Iraq when there was no justifiable reason, caused great destruction, and created countless thousands of new enemies including today’s ISIS terrorists.

Phase 3 – President Obama’s ongoing launching of drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia has resulted in thousands of new recruits for Al-Qaeda and ISIS. In this article former drone pilots say, “the US drone program is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”

Phase 4 – The U.S. military’s has conducted a relentless bombing campaign against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria without any great success.

Phase 5 –The War on Terror has initiated a new era of blowback and payback by which terrorists are actively seeking revenge and retribution.

We need to more fully understand all the factors involved in this escalating “War” and then we may come up with better solutions; massive military power won’t solve this problem but will exacerbate the situation and bring on further terror attacks. It reminds me of the saying “around and around we go and where it stops no one knows.”

So what is the motivation for these terror attacks that have taken place in recent times?

We know that Bin Laden was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. What was his motivation? Here are only a few of the reasons he gave for initiating the 9/11 attacks.

“You attacked us in Somalia; you supported the Russian atrocities against us in Chechnya, the Indian oppression against us in Kashmir, and the Jewish aggression against us in Lebanon. Your forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them; you corrupt our lands, and you besiege our sanctities.”

We may not like his reasoning and it may make many Americans’  blood boil, but it describes the mindset of those like Bin Laden who are determined to commit these acts. While that may increase our understanding of the mindset of terrorists, the main question still remains: how are we going to effectively deal with this terror in the future?

Well for one thing we simply can’t continue with the strategy that we in the West have been following because it  has not worked. We have to think more deeply, think out of the box and maybe we can arrive at far better strategies.

For starters, since the major concentration of terrorists can be found in Syria, with some in Iraq, there must be a coalition of nations that will carry out coordinated attacks by air and on the ground against ISIS until its presence is completely eliminated. The U.S and its Western allies together with Russia, Iran and, yes, the Syrian government, must agree to coordinate their actions until the threat is eliminated no matter how long it takes.

While this coalition would greatly help in defeating ISIS in Syria, it seems like Turkey has thrown a monkey wrench into those possibilities after it just recently took the reckless action of shooting down a Russian SU-24 jet bomber that it claimed had violated its airspace.This highly questionable action on the part of Turkey is going to greatly complicate this  highly volatile situation in Syria as Russia now is moving in its very powerful, advanced S-400 air defense missile into a Syrian airbase close to the border with Turkey. That’s an ominous development.

Even with that setback to consider, here’s what needs to be done going into the future:

President Obama should immediately bring an end to the misguided program by which the CIA and the Air Force are launching drones into Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Attacks such as those on Libya must also be ended. We should never attack or invade a country unless it poses a great and imminent threat to the safety of America. Wars and invasions must be a last resort.

The U.S. must stop providing weaponry to Saudi Arabia to use in its attacks on Yemen.

The War on Terror as it is being conducted has to come to an end and new strategy developed.

And most importantly the U.S. government and other Western nations must stop involving themselves in the Middle East and surrounding regions and interfering in the internal affairs of those countries. That’s been going on for a very long time and it is time for it to stop. In other words do not remain where you don’t belong and have no right to be. Let these nations carry on their own activities and business without outside interference. And reverse course and try to work with them to establish peaceful relations.

Now that’s not to say that the U.S. and its allies should totally isolate themselves from the Middle East and surrounding regions and just look the other way when some rogue nation or terrorist faction within some nation decides to take violent action that threatens the region and critically important Western interests.

If there is a major threat to the stability of a country or a region then military action would have to be considered but only with the permission of the specific government that needed help rather than just barging into that country to take control of the situation. That may be very difficult for the U.S. government to accept but that’s what needs to be done or this agenda of endless wars and resultant terrorism will go on forever.

So the American government has a clear choice. It can continue to conduct its War on Terror and watch as it continues to fail miserably. Or it can learn from the bitter lessons of the past, better understand the underlying causes of terrorism, what motivates these terrorists, and then come up with far more intelligent and effective ways to deal with terrorism before it inundates the world.


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Michael Payne is an independent progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues; and especially with the great dangers involved with the proliferation of perpetual war, the associated defense industry, and the massive control that Corporate America holds over this government and our election process; all which are leading this nation down the road to eventual financial ruin if the conditions are not reversed. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois and a U.S. Army veteran.