Foreign Policy Blogs

Border-Free War: America's Incredibly Bold, Incredibly Dangerous New Tactic in the War on Terror

For better or worse, America has taken off the gloves in her fight against "Islamic extremism'. Motivations vary. Perhaps George Bush is making his last-ditch effort to "smoke "em out of their caves' before he leaves office, or perhaps an invigorated American command is utilizing some of its political capital gained through the security improvements in Iraq. More probable, the American military got sick and tired of pursuing the enemy as far as friendly borders would allow, only to watch them slip through the cracks to fight another day. America's solution? Borders… What borders?

In any asymmetrical war, the lesser partner is inherently reliant on the exploitation of weakness and a reliance on stealth mobility. I find it hard to believe, as the "War in Iraq' marched towards a reality in the early part of 2003, that American leadership had foreseen a situation where the military would be tiptoeing around the region like a teenager sneaking out of an upstairs window. That is, however, the situation America is in. Rather was in.

Back when the War in Iraq was in the midst of meltdown, American and Coalition forces had a tragically one-sided border policy. Keep as many foreign fighters out of Iraq as possible, yet allow Iraqi refugees to exit. Iraqi checkpoints operated as one-way streets, often allowing anyone and everyone free passage out of the country. However, as the situation improved, the Coalition was facing a new problem: battle-hardened insurgents and terrorists exiting Iraq and spreading throughout the region like influenza. America saw the writing on the wall. It was not about to watch these insurgents flee, bide their time, then wait for the American military to phase-out and re-enter Iraq stronger and more militant than ever.

Sadly, this is now where we stand. This is the cold war, Cuban missile crisis, 9/11, all wrapped in to one neat little catch-22. As Iraq gets more and more safe, the region at large becomes more and more unstable. The US cannot allow these insurgents to flee to other nations, yet it cannot simply roam around the region firing at will in any country it pleases. What, if any, is the solution? To ask the leaders of supposedly friendly neighbors to engage these militants is like asking for their letters of resignation – or their heads. Yet they too understand the severity of the situation. To think for one second that Syrian or Pakistani leaders want these insurgents within their borders is absolute nonsense. But what are they to do? Allow American helicopters to attack their villages, much like what occurred in Syria over the weekend? Every single interested party within the Middle East and South Asia, apart from those who crave chaos and instability, is caught in a wave of paralysis. All want a similar conclusion to this conflict: a stable Iraq that will not infringe on her neighbors, a reduced American presence, a drop in terrorist activity. The complexity of the situation makes achieving these aims all-but impossible. It seems, for the time being, that America has tried the do-nothing approach, and has found it immaterial. It is gearing up, hard and fast, for a military approach that simply ignores state sovereignty. The problem is, once a state's sovereignty is diminished or abandoned, once they are no longer in control of their territory, what emerges?

This is something unique from modern history. This road can lead to the complete restructuring of the Middle East, and the regions' concept of what it means to "own' a country. This is border-free war. This is the next phase of the War on Terror.



Josh Hammer

Josh Hammer is an International Relations theorist, with expertise in terrorist ideology, American foreign policy, and war / conflict resolution. He currently holds a Master's of Science degree in International Politics from the University of Edinburgh, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the George Washington University. Josh's most recent work, his M.Sc. thesis, is a comparative analysis between Marxist / Leninist ideology and Osama bin Laden's global jihadi movement. He currently resides in New York.

Areas of Focus:
Terrorist Idealogy; American Foreign Policy; Conflict Resolution;


Great Decisions Discussion group