It is said that unless we learn from it, history tends to repeat itself. The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans. In response, the Global War on Terror, with major battle fronts being fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, have caused 66,000 American casualties and a total of over $3.1 trillion in expenditures with no definitive success in sight.

I intend to shed the light on alternative avenues that were not taken by our government that could have potentially decreased the cost of the Global War on Terror, in order to educate the public that quick responses via military action may not always be the best answer, and in fact may prolong violence.

It is easy for one to respond quickly to an act of aggression with aggression, as violence begets violence. I implore the public to utilize their critical thinking skills and question the cause when an act of violence occurs. Appeasement is devastating, as was the case with Nazi Germany during the beginning of World War Two.

However, as Sun Tzu teaches in The Art of War, the use of logic, trying to understand your enemy and seeking dialogue/diplomacy are the greatest skills a nation-state facing war can utilize: “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

In a RAND report that focused on the final decisive manner that peace was attained against 268 terrorist groups from 1968-2006, diplomacy/peaceful methods were the most successful strategies to ending conflict, being utilized 43 percent of the time, while intelligence/policing methods, also known as winning the hearts and minds of the local populace, were the determinant in 40 percent of occurrences. Only 7 percent of the time peace was found by military force defeating the terrorist groups.

Through independent research of alternative recommended methods, I drew from the above data to recommend 5 different options that could have been opted for and that were not addressed adequately by the American government:

1) Seek mediation/negotiation

2) Focus on working toward pan-human, like-minded goals such as eradicating global poverty and illiteracy

3) Non-governmental organizations should lead the front on purely-peacekeeping missions

4) Develop effective sanctions

5) If a military strike is inevitable, utilize a highly-focused critical thinking framework to determine the least possible damage to the local populace and our service members

One might ask oneself, “Why is this important for me to know?” The reason, I wholeheartedly believe, is due to the responsibilities that a citizen has to his or her country; we are the people of this great land. Ultimately it is up to us to understand our policymakers’ and government’s actions, and if they are not in accordance with our beliefs, to voice our opinions on what we feel should be done.

Mark Niederhaus Esteban
UNM student