Osama Bin Laden (OBL) is dead…or he isn’t? The debate resurfaces; and never seems to die. And come 2008; Presidential candidates in the U.S. is bound to use that hysteria to gain as much mileage as possible, individually.

Hysteria works, always; if History is to be believed. It’s the same hysteria that took the U.S. forces to the Vietnam under President Johnson; to Cuba by President McLinley, to Mexico or even to Philippines under President Polk. Or the exaggeration of the same hysteria caused by the Soviet nuclear threats – be it to Western Europe or elsewhere, of the bygone cold war period.

All hysterical eras eventually come to an end – as it’s bound to, because hysteria, on its own, can’t sustain itself for ever. However a new hysteria takes over from another. So the series continues.

Many feel, with strong evidence, that hysteria and wars driven by hysteria have been good for the US economy. The US was the biggest beneficiary of the last world war. Library of  Helexandria stated: ‘Meanwhile, during the past 30 years the US has bombed or attacked Syria, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Sudan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iraq, Guatemala, Japan, East Timor, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Somalia, Haiti, Yugoslavia, and Panama.’  Even attacking Afghanistan proved that temporarily to be true as the US economy revived post the dot-com bust strongly.

However in all of above cases, the enemy was known – it was more of a regime change. That too succeeded in Iraq quite fast, and victory was declared. And then the unknown enemies started making a comeback – in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan…and in all corners of the world.

Would war against unknown enemies would still be good for the U.S.?  

And the same mentality continues as it was against known regime changes. ‘Go, get them. Take the gloves off of our military, and let them do their job. Nuke them, smoke them…get them…at any costs’.

Only thing is…this time none seems to be sure about ‘them’. Who are these ‘them’, where do the ‘live’ and does killing ‘them’ solve the problem? Past US experience did never deal with these unknown ‘them’; they were used to fight against known enemies like the ‘Saddams’. It was thought that they were in Afghanistan; and it was bombed and occupied. Then it was thought some part of ‘them’ is in Iraq too; and Iraq was bombed and occupied. Even Lal Masjid in Pakistan also featured in the same map as was certain parts of Africa. ‘Them’ – the al-Qaeda and the people who worshiped OBL was there in Palestine, Lebanon…true; there were conflicts within ‘them’ as well. And subsequently it was found that al-Qaeda was not there in Iraq during Saddam’s time; however bombing Iraq brought them there from nowhere.

And they have resurfaced strongly again in Afghanistan-Pakistan borders. Traces of that element is routinely seen from the U.S. itself to the U.K., to eventually anywhere – you name it; and these elements were, are or would be there; as long as ‘go get them’ policy continues. Like virulent causes of human diseases; they undergo metamorphosis, and same drug kills them only for some time, at most for a generation so that the next generation comes out stronger. However the next generation again appears from nowhere, only more resistant against the same antibiotics that killed them last time.

And allied forces are increasingly running out of the options of ‘so-called new antibiotics’ or new weapons, tactics and strategies that can permanently eliminate these ‘Jihadis’.

The question is: Is bombing ‘them’ is the solution? Is ‘killing’ jihadis the only way to have a terror-free world?

Question is: Can hysteria be good in the fight of war against terror?

Terrorism wins as long as common man allows hysteria to dominate his logic. The day, we allow logic to rule over hysteria; terrorism dies.

Terrorism survives on the hysteria of the jihadis. What causes terrorism can never kill the same problem.

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”  Albert Einstein

Hope all presidential aspirants – irrespective of party-lines – do remember that. By virtue, all hysteria is bound to end, sooner or later. Why terrorism hasn’t ended even after nearly six-years of the ongoing global war-against-terror against an unorganized, non-state-based enemy is the hysteria that drives the war fuels terrorism rather than prevents it. As long as that hysteria lasts; terrorism would last.

The question is: History tells us that wars against known enemies have been good for the US so far. History also tells us that any hysteria eventually ends. Question is: Would the US be able to maintain that record this time too; or …or in remotest likelihood…the hysteria would end this time with the end of monopoly superpower status of the US itself.

We sure would get better clarity under the next Washington administration…by 2012, the world will have more clarity.


Ranjit Goswami is a research scholar with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, India; and is the author of the book “Wondering Man, Money & Go(l)d’“.

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