Military Operations Do Not Always Produce A Solution
National Yemen, December 21st 2014
American soldiers always win in American films. The most complex operations take place, the victory is won and the hostages are freed. American superiority is always symbolized. But is that how it is in the real world? If you look at history you will see that the facts do not always match what the films say. The operation known as Operation Eagle Claw is one example of this. The operation staged by the U.S. military in April 1980 to free 52 U.S. citizens being held hostage in the U.S. Embassy in Iran ended in a debacle due to a sudden sandstorm. An accident during refueling en route to the USS Nimitz, the center of the operation, led to the destruction of a C-130 Hercules plane and a U.S. helicopter. The U.S. Army lost eight servicemen and a transport aircraft, and had to withdraw from the region without carrying out the operation.
Another instance took place in Somalia. An operation in 1994 under the command of Gen. William F. Garrison ended in a fiasco and the deaths of 24 Pakistani and 19 U.S. troops in fighting in Mogadishu. The U.N. peacekeeping force and U.S. troops withdrew from the region on March 3rd, 1995, in the wake of increasing losses.
Military history is full of such failed rescue operations, even if they are not always as notorious as these two. One such incident took place in mid-December in the village of Dafaar in the Yemeni province of Shabwa. A rescue operation by U.S. special forces ended in two hostages, the 33-year-old American photojournalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie, being shot to death by militants. A local al-Qaeda commander, various militants, a woman and a 10-year-old child also lost their lives.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed that this had happened during a hostage rescue operation. Somers and Korkie had been held hostage in Yemen for more than a year.
Security weaknesses in Yemen mean that terror organizations such as al-Qaeda are easily able to carry out operations. In the face of such actions in Yemen, as in many other places in the world, the U.S. resorts to armed intervention. Operations up until the deaths of Somers and Korkie were generally conducted by the use of U.S. drones; the U.S. had been conducting operations with drones in Yemen since 2002. Yet many of these operations ended in failure, with the deaths of many civilians. Most recently, 13 civilians died and 20 people were injured in an aerial attack on al-Qaeda targets in the Yemeni town of Rada.
In the wake of this, the Yemeni Parliament recently ratified a bill banning the use of U.S. drones in operations in the country against al-Qaeda. Under the new law, American drones are banned from playing an active role alongside the Yemeni Army in operations against al-Qaeda, and the government is obliged to put this decision into practice. The significance of that decision was that it represented the first condemnation of the U.S. by official Yemeni institutions.
So what should be done now as Yemeni forces are unable to stop the continuing terrorist activities in the country and external military interventions are leading to the deaths of innocent people?
This column has already described how all fanatical organizations, be they grounded in a political ideology or in religion, seek to impose their philosophies through the use of violence. An intellectual struggle must be waged against terror organizations that use violence in the name of Islam. It has now been proven by experience that military means do not produce results. Therefore, what needs to be done is the following:
The distortions in the thinking of members of Sunni groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIL, or of groups of Shiite origin in Yemen, such as Ansar al-Sharia, need to be powerfully stated. All leaders of opinion, and particularly people in the most senior positions in the Yemeni state, must over and over again state that, "In the Qur'an, it is explicitly stated that Muslims must invite people to the moral values of Islam simply with gentle words, not using force and compulsion." These people can be summoned to the true path by telling them of the freedom of belief in Islamic moral values.
All Muslims in all countries, Shiite or Sunni, must be told that violence is no way to seek their rights and that it is a flagrant violation of Islamic moral values. Since Islamic moral values cannot be espoused through acts of terror, and such acts will simply add to the numbers of enemies of Islam, people need to be told that they will invariably inflict even worse harm on Muslims.
Classes aimed at undermining the intellectual infrastructure of terror organizations need to be provided for students in schools; books and articles must be studied, and conferences and academic seminars must be held. That is the only way terrorism can be eradicated from the world. This method can dry up the swamp in which terror breeds.