Jewish World Review Feb. 21, 2003 / 19 Adar I, 5763
Terrorism one of many losing battles
Remember how quickly we won the war against terrorism?
Remember how easy it was for us, the greatest superpower the world has ever seen, to wipe out the nasty global network of al-Qaida terrorist cells that had so suddenly brought thousands of deaths and a perpetual state of insecurity to our happy homeland?
Didn't think so.
We'll be fighting - and not winning - the war against terrorism for decades. Long after Osama is dead, long after a Saddam-free Iraq becomes the Switzerland of the Middle East, we'll still be standing in lines at airports and duct-taping our dens.
Why? Because, says the current Foreign Policy magazine, the war against global terrorism - like the wars governments have waged for centuries against the illegal trade in drugs, arms, intellectual property, people and money - is almost impossible to win.
In its cover story, "Five Wars We're Losing," Foreign Policy shows how impossible it is for modern governments to defeat stateless, decentralized networks of well-financed, highly dedicated individuals that move freely, quickly and stealthily across national borders.
Whether they're terrorists blowing up bridges for religious or political reasons, or creepy cocaine smugglers seeking high profits, the bad guys have increasing advantages over governments today, says Foreign Policy editor Moises Naim.
Thanks to globalization, illegal markets are bigger and more lucrative than ever. And thanks to all the wonders of the modern age, the bad guys are better "armed" and more agile than the cumbersome government bureaucracies that he says are still fighting with obsolete tools, inadequate laws and dumb methods.
The war on drugs is the most infamous war we're losing. The illicit drug biz, worth $400 billion a year worldwide, dwarfs illegal arms trafficking, but both are more successful than ever.
So is people-smuggling. It's a $7 billion-a-year global industry involving millions of humans, including 200,000 children who are enslaved each year in Central and West Africa and those who voluntarily pay $35,000 to have themselves smuggled into New York City from China.
The biggest illegal industry is money laundering. Because computers, electronic money transfers and slippery part-legal/part-illegal financial trickery make regulation nearly impossible, it's now worth between $800 billion and $2 trillion.
Naim says flat out that governments can never win these wars unless they start coming up with new, better, smarter ways to fight them. Governments have to cooperate more and strengthen multilateral outfits such as Interpol, which fights international crime with a paltry force of 112 police officers.
But more important, he says, governments should begin trying to regulate these illicit global businesses rather than trying to repress them with even tougher laws and ever more Coast Guard patrols.
Naim, who points out that governments also are losing their worldwide wars against illegal trade in human organs, endangered species, stolen art and toxic waste, doesn't advocate making heroin sales legal or allowing weapons of mass destruction to be sold at Wal-Mart.
But he says if governments - and everyone else - want to start winning these wars, they should wise up and look for ways to use market-friendly regulations instead of restrictive (and often self-defeating) laws that only screw up the balance of supply and demand and create high-profit opportunities for bad guys.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.
02/14/03: Editors planning for the day after Gulf War II
02/12/03: The 'religiosity' of Ronald Reagan … 10 minutes with author Paul Kengor
02/10/03: Should the shuttle crash be the end of NASA?
02/06/03: Dear Joan ...
01/31/03: Newsweek, Nation ponder pros, cons of Gulf War II
01/24/03: 'Original' ideas follow New Deal philosophy
01/22/03: When handicapping 2004, watch the economy: Ten minutes with … Charlie Cook
01/17/03: New Republic fans hatred for SUVs
01/14/03: 10 minutes with Santorum on ... taxes, steel and Lott
01/10/03: Newsweeklies move on to latest menace
01/07/03: The best of the Q&As
12/30/02: Rosie's demise tops list of 2002 highlights
12/23/02: GOP must stick to its principles: 10 questions for ... Bill Kristol
12/20/02: Lott fiasco uncovers bigger problem
12/18/02: Free markets king in Sweden, at least for a day: Ten minutes with …. Donald Boudreaux
12/13/02: Corruption of Indian casinos no surprise
12/06/02: Giving credit to young philanthropists
12/02/02: Ten minutes with …. Chris Matthews
11/26/02: It's critical to memorialize communism's victims: 10 minutes with … Lee Edwards
11/22/02: JFK's secret health woes are revealed
11/19/02: It's best to contain Saddam: Ten minutes with … Col. David Hackworth
11/15/02: Brushing up on the affairs of a wild world
11/12/02: Make Dems filibuster … 10 minutes with … Robert L. Bartley
11/08/02: National Geographic: Urban overpopulation is good
11/05/02: The bloody consequences of a broken INS: Ten minutes with … Michelle Malkin
11/01/02: Going to pot; thank heaven for media overkill
10/29/02: It's all about federalism: Ten minutes with … Jonah Goldberg
10/25/02: Frank Sinatra, Kurt Cobain, Mad Magazine will never die
10/22/02: Here's why Orwell matters: Ten minutes with … Christopher Hitchens
10/18/02: The sniper knocks Iraq off the covers
10/15/02: Iraq, oil and war: 10 minutes with ... economist/historian Daniel Yergin
10/11/02: England's gun-control experiment has backfired
10/04/02: Buchanan the media baron?
09/27/02: Analyzing Esquire, GQ is not for the squeamish
09/20/02: CEOs: The rise and fall of American heroes
09/13/02: Skeptics remind U.S. to calm down
09/10/02: 'A failure to recognize a failure': 15 minutes with ... Bill Gertz
09/06/02: Rating the 9-11 mags
08/30/02: Bad trains, bad planes, and bad automobiles
08/28/02: Baseball, broken, can be fixed: 15 minutes with George Will
08/16/02: 9-11 overload has already begun
08/13/02: Tell us what you really think, Ann Coulter
08/09/02: A funny take on a new kind of suburb
08/02/02: It's not the humidity, it's the (media) heat wave; the death of American cities
07/12/02: Colombia's drug lords are all business
07/09/02: If capitalism is 'soulless' then show me something better: 10 minutes with … Alan Reynolds
06/25/02: Origins of a scandal: 10 minutes with … Michael Rose
06/21/02: 9/11 report unearths good, bad and ugly
06/18/02: The FBI is rebounding … 10 Minutes with Ronald Kessler
06/14/02: U.S. News opens closet of Secret Service
06/11/02: 10 minutes with … William Lind: Can America survive in this 'fourth-generation' world?
06/07/02: America, warts and all
05/30/02: FBI saga gets more depressing
05/13/02: The magazine industry's annual exercise in self-puffery
04/30/02: 10 Minutes with ... The New York Sun's Seth Lipsky
04/26/02: Will the American Taliban go free?
04/23/02: 10 minutes with ... Dinesh D'Souza
04/19/02: Saddam starting to show his age
04/12/02: Newsweek puts suicide bombing in perspective
04/09/02: How polls distort the news, change the outcome of elections and encourage legislation that undermines the foundations of the republic
04/05/02: Looking into the state of American greatness
03/25/02: The American President and the Peruvian Shoeshine Boys
03/22/02: Troublemaking intellectual puts Churchill in spotlight
03/20/02: 10 minutes with ... Bill Bennett
03/18/02: Suddenly, it's cool again to be a man
03/12/02: 10 minutes with … Ken Adelman
03/08/02: TIME asks the nation a scary question
03/05/02: 10 minutes with ... Rich Lowry
02/26/02: 10 minutes with ... Tony Snow
02/12/02: Has Soldier of Fortune gone soft?
© 2002, Bill Steigerwald