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Brookings: Winning the Right War

Author: Philip H. Gordon, Senior Fellow
January 1, 2008



Bush administration is failing the war on terrorism because it is fighting the wrong war. It has misdiagnosed the most important origins of the problem, put too much faith in military force and tough talk, needlessly alienated friends and allies, and neglected the important ideological aspects of the struggle. Until the administration changes course - or more likely, leaves office - the United States will continue to risk creating more enemies than it eliminates. There are at least six fundamental problems with the 'war on terror' the United States has been fighting so far, all of which offer important lessons for the next US administration.


More than six years after the start of the ‘war on terror’, America and its allies are less safe, their enemies stronger and more numerous, and the war’s key geographic battleground, the greater Middle East, dangerously unstable. In Iraq, thousands of American soldiers, and tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians, have been killed or wounded while more than 150,000 US troops fight to contain an insurgency and a civil war at a cost of over $300 million per day. In Iran, an Islamic fundamentalist regime remains firmly in power and is defiantly pursuing a nuclear-weapons programme, undermining American efforts in Iraq and subsidising increasingly brazen terrorist groups in the Middle East. The Gaza Strip is now led by one terrorist group, Hamas, while another, Hizbullah, is increasingly influential in Lebanon and increasingly popular on the streets of the Middle East. Syria remains under an anti-American dictatorship allied to Iran, and no real peace process between Israel and any of its neighbours exists.

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