What do you do after you (US) spent few trillion dollars on the War on Terror (plus 50% of the world's war budget) and al Qaeda grows 1000x?
The below is my text back from 2010. In five years, certain things have changed of course. Al Qaeda of Iraq became ISIS and also produced al Nusra and other mutations and altogether real armies and quasi-states. Altogether al Qaeda and its mutations grew or were grown more than 1000 times over and they also managed to destroy hundreds of thousands of lives and several states and their culture and civilization. Much more money was also spent on training and arming these proxies and on unleashing them on Libya, Syria, Afghanistan etc.
So this was the account for the "War on Terror" which I produced back in 2010 for a conference:
The question of peace and war is the most important question of our time, which is the time of the Global War on Terror. The GWOT is also already becoming one of the longest U.S. wars. Two countries were invaded and occupied—with a combined population of 60 million people. The U.S. has already spent on the Global War on Terror more than on any other war except for World War II. U.S. military spending already significantly exceeds its Cold War levels. All these vast military efforts are meant to eliminate the threat of terrorism represented by al-Qaeda. Yet no al-Qaeda were present in Iraq before the invasion of that country in 2003. Globally, al-Qaeda membership is officially estimated to run between five hundred and one thousand persons. U.S. intelligence officials report only about 100 al Qaeda fighters in the whole of Afghanistan. To contain the al-Qaeda threat, the U.S. has already spent about one billion dollars per one al-Qaeda militant. Politically, economically, and strategically, the offered explanations seem odd, irrational, and incongruous. In the name of the war against al-Qaeda, the U.S. military is, nevertheless, engaged in its possibly largest strategic and logistical manoeuvre and redeployment since the World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. Already back in 1997, Brzezinski called for a conquest of the heart of Eurasia, which he saw as the key to global hegemony. On the occasion NATO’s 60th anniversary, Brzezinski identified an unprecedented political, anti-colonial mass awakening in this broader region as the greatest security threat. Such geopolitics and strategic thinking fundamentally alter and amend the common narrative and rationale of the Global War on Terror, that is to say, its inherent Hobbesian rhetoric that recasts the permanent nature of the imperial Leviathan’s war as an article of its virtual peace.
“Roman imperialism was the result of continuous war, and continuous war was the result of the Roman system.” The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization
“Winston could not definitely remember a time when his country had not been at war …” George Orwell, 1984
1. Encountering the Global War on Terror with a Simple Counter
Our time is an age of the Global War on Terror. This war has also been dubbed the “perpetual war” or more modestly “the long war.”
In terms of its duration, the GWOT is also already becoming one of the longest U.S. wars. In its process, two countries were invaded and occupied—with a combined population of 60 million people.
One of these wars—the war in Iraq—has gained notoriety as an exemplary war launched under false pretences, while leading to the death of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions more. The whole story of the so-called weapons of mass destruction is already sufficiently well known and established.
Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, one of the principal official cheerleaders of the war, explained the rationale for the war in terms strangely evocative of the images later leaked from Abu Ghraib prison:
What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, “Which part of this sentence don't you understand?” You don’t think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we’re just gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This...We could have hit Saudi Arabia. It was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could. That’s the real truth...
Later, Friedman offered a more polished argument stretched between “none” and “whatever”: “[W]hatever the cost, [the war] has given freedom and decent government to people who had none.”
In his 2009 Cairo speech, President Obama declared the Iraq war to be “unnecessary.” This does not, however, mean that the war would stop. It continues now into its eighth year.
The U.S. has already spent on the Global War on Terror more than on any other war except for World War II: “The Korean and Vietnam Wars were fought on 2/3 the current defense budget, … US defense spending during the Cold War (1946-1991) averaged $400 billion per year in 2008 dollars, including both the Korean and Vietnam wars.” The Department of Defence’s budget for 2010 has already passed the $700 billion mark. The costs of the Global War on Terror already reached more than $1.15 trillion, as reported by the Congressional Research Service reported in July 2010.
Two other facts are also striking: 1) with 5% of the world population, the U.S. spends 50% of the world’s combined military budget, and 2) with 13% of the world population, the whole of NATO (including the US) controls over 70% of the world’s war budget.
U.S. military spending thus not only matches but actually significantly exceeds its Cold War levels, and is “still geared toward Cold War-type scenarios.”
2. The Virtual and the Real: The Spectre and the Full Spectrum Dominance
These vast military efforts under the banner of the Global War on Terror are meant to eliminate the threat of terrorism represented by al-Qaeda. Yet no al-Qaeda were present in Iraq before the invasion of that country in 2003. Even today, the presence of al-Qaeda in Iraq is minimal. Official U.S. estimates of the number of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan place the number at around a hundred persons.
Yet President Barack Obama continues to declare that al-Qaeda remains the “greatest threat to the United States’ security.” According to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the war in Afghanistan must, nevertheless, continue because al-Qaeda is still “the biggest source of threat to our national security.”
Globally, al-Qaeda membership was officially estimated to run between five hundred and one thousand persons. Surely this is one of the greatest oddities of the Global War on Terror, yet it is also one of the least reported. As Ken Silverstein of the respectable Harper’s Magazine said:
Al Qaeda isn't the all-powerful group that it is often portrayed to be; its strength and reach have been exaggerated, partly because of the extraordinary impact of the 9/11 attacks, and partly because the Bush Administration has found it politically useful to hype the group's capabilities. Two years ago, I interviewed Jack Cloonan, a 25-year veteran of the FBI who, between 1996 and 2002, served on a joint CIA–FBI task force that tracked bin Laden. “How many members of Al Qaeda do you think there are?” he asked me. Cloonan laughed when I pegged its membership at several thousand. The real numbers, he said, “are miniscule.” Documents discovered by the joint task force, Cloonan said, showed that Al Qaeda had 72 members when it was founded in 1989. Twelve years later, the task force got its hands on an updated membership list … It showed that bin Laden had a grand total of precisely 198 sworn loyalists. … “Al Qaeda” is less of an organization than it is an impulse. And while bin Laden isn’t the all-powerful terrorist mastermind he’s often portrayed to be, the war in Iraq, Guantánamo, extraordinary renditions, and other Bush Administration brainstorms have ensured that his message is broadcast loud and clear throughout the world.
In an interview with CNN in October 2009, Obama’s National Security Adviser, Gen. James Jones, put the number of al-Qaeda at “fewer than a hundred.” The same number was also affirmed in a session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October 2009. When President Obama announced the Afghan “surge” in his West Point speech of December 1, 2009, he made only vague reference to the size of the al-Qaeda: “[A]l Qaeda has not re-emerged in Afghanistan in the same number as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border.” When asked about al-Qaeda’s size, a spokesperson at the White House's National Security Council, Chris Hensman, said he “could not comment on intelligence matters.” In June of 2010, CIA Director Leon Panetta confirmed the miniscule size of the Al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan. In an interview for the ABC “Week,” he said: “I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaeda is actually relatively small. At most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less.”
In this light, the economics of the Global War on Terror and its strategic rationale can only be seen as highly irrational, even absurd. If we take the upper estimate of al-Qaeda membership at 100 and compare that with the running price tag of the Global War on Terror at some $1 trillion, we are compelled to infer that, in order to contain the al-Qaeda threat, the U.S. has already spent about ten billion dollars per one al-Qaeda militant. Yet the taxi meter simply keeps on running, and the cost per minute shows no sign of decreasing.
The Economist mercifully dubbed this glaring oddity “the impossible question” when it referred to the leaked, teasingly Machiavellian 2003 memo from Donald Rumsfeld, then the U.S. Secretary of Defence: “Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?” Politically, economically, and strategically, the offered explanations make no sense. Not only are the “metrics” lacking, but apparently also common sense itself.
The closer one looks, however, the more one is struck by the massive and persistent incongruity. Thus, as Jason Ditz put it, “claims of dubious veracity [are being issued] aimed at convincing the public of the necessity of continuing the war, already in its ninth year.”
Even though al-Qaeda has no significant presence either in Iraq or in Afghanistan, according to U.S. State Secretary Hilary Clinton the war and hence heavy U.S. military presence must continue “to get al-Qaeda.” At the same time, Secretary Clinton also stated that “the US has no illusions that Afghanistan will ever become a modern democracy.” As President Obama also reminded us, NATO itself has been mobilized to fight the al-Qaeda menace. “For the first time in its history,” President Obama said in his West Point speech, “the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoked Article 5 – the commitment that says an attack on one member nation is an attack on all. … America, our allies and the world were acting as one to destroy Al Qaeda’s terrorist network, and to protect our common security.” It is worth noting that the Alliance’s total population numbers some 840 million, and NATO’s active armed forces include 4 million troops. Currently, NATO fields some 150,000 troops in Afghanistan with the help of at least the same number of “civilian contractors.”
Some seventy years ago, on August 20, 1940 in the midst of the air Battle of Britain, Winston Churchill famously declared: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Today, with respect to the Global War on Terror constructed as a global mobilization for war against al-Qaeda, one might add that never in history has so much been spent in the pursuit of so few.
And so, in the guise of the war against al-Qaeda, the U.S. military is now engaged in its possibly largest strategic and logistical manoeuvre and redeployment since the World War II and the beginning of the Cold War.
3. The Spectrum of Global Political Awakening as Dominance’s Imminent Threat
On the occasion last year of NATO’s 60th anniversary, the foremost U.S. strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski made it clear that, for the US and NATO, the key perceived threat is the unprecedented political, anti-colonial, global awakening of mankind:
The basic challenge that NATO now confronts is that there are historically unprecedented risks to global security. … The paradox of our time is that the world … is experiencing intensifying popular unrest … Yet there is no effective global security mechanism for coping with the growing threat of violent political chaos stemming from humanity’s recent political awakening. The three great political contests of the twentieth century (the two world wars and the Cold War) accelerated the political awakening of mankind, which was initially unleashed in Europe by the French Revolution. Within a century of that revolution, spontaneous populist political activism had spread from Europe to East Asia. On their return home after World Wars I and II, the South Asians and the North Africans who had been conscripted by the British and French imperial armies propagated a new awareness of anti-colonial nationalist and religious political identity among hitherto passive and pliant populations. The spread of literacy during the twentieth century and the wide-ranging impact of radio, television, and the Internet accelerated and intensified this mass global political awakening. … The dispersal of global power and the expanding mass political unrest make for a combustible mixture. … There is no other way to shape effective security arrangements for a world in which politically awakened peoples - whose prevailing historical narratives associate the West less with their recent emancipation and more with their past subordination - can no longer be dominated by a single region.
Already in 1997 in his de facto blueprint of the current war, The Grand Chessboard, Brzezinski had identified the current central battlefield of the Global War on Terror not only as “likely [to be] a major battlefield” of the new U.S. geopolitical game, but also as the centre of gravity in securing for U.S. lasting “global supremacy” or “hegemony of a new type,” i.e., “seemingly consensual American hegemony.” According to Brzezinski, the zone stretching from Iraq to Central Asia is “geopolitically axial,” and thus “a power that dominates [it] would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions … and control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa’s subordination …” For the U.S, then, ”the chief geopolitical prize is [thus to be] Eurasia,” which dictates controlling the area that coincides with what is now held to be the central battlefield of the Global War on Terror. Control of this would-be global heartland in Eurasia will, as Brezinski believes, provide access to “its potential wealth,” “motivate corporate interests,” and “revive imperial aspirations.” What is also notable is that nowhere in the strategy-setting Grand Chessboard does Brzezinski deem al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden worth mentioning even once.
4. Figuring out Wise Men’s Counters, Fools’ Money: Peace and War
Brzezinski’s strategic thinking is embedded in the Pentagon’s global strategy of “full spectrum dominance,” which denotes “control over all elements and assets.” This objective was introduced in Joint Vision 2020 released by the U.S. Defense Department of Defense on May 30, 2000. The key in full spectrum dominance is “information superiority,” a factor that is “the core of every activity,” and which should provide for “enhanced awareness.” Another key concept in full spectrum dominance is “dominant maneuver,” which goes “beyond the actual physical presence of the force,” for it “creates an impact in the minds of opponents and others.” Information, i.e., deception, is “a force multiplier.”
As Joint Vision 2020 put it, “we must have information superiority,” and that requires “both offensive and defensive information warfare (IW).” No information warfare, no information superiority, and no information superiority, no full spectrum global dominance. To achieve conversely means “denying [others the ability] to do the same”—to have superior information. This also means to “confuse or deceive.”
The emphasis on superior information and, respectively, superior deception, raises a question as to what such superior information or disinformation might be and to what it might pertain. I think that we can now answer this quintessential question. Above all, superior information, first and foremost superior deception and disinformation, pertains to war and peace, the most important question of our time, but also the question that formed the cornerstone of Hobbes’ Leviathan—the modern empire.
The new imperial Leviathan is presented as Peace, and all else as the state of war in which “the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” For Hobbes, international relations typically define wartime, as in fact does the duration of anyone’s independence (“the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather’).
The presence of Hobbesian “peace” as a state of mind then depends on whether the permanence of war is “sufficiently known” or not, or whether one receives from someone else an “assurance to the contrary.”
According to Hobbes, the greatest and most decisive form of inequality among men concerns their comprehension and interpretative skills—in their power “grounded upon words.” And, for Hobbes, words are “wise men’s counters” and “the money of fools.” The peace of Hobbes’s Leviathan, being then grounded upon (Hobbes’) words (read: Hobbesian rhetoric of peace), then becomes a fool’s peace—a continuous war for those who can correctly “reckon” (figure out) how to read the Empire’s dictionary of war and peace.
What does this mean for us in relation to the Empire’s Global War on Terror? It means that before we can put an end to such madness and find real peace, we must first determine who is playing the Hobbesian fool.
If peace and war are what matter most, imperial policies will twist their meanings from beginning to end. On that deception you may depend, for the empire’s fate too depends on that one thing above all.
 Slightly modified from S Hornblower and A Spawforth, The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998, p. 610.
 G Orwell, 1984, Penguin Books, New York, 1990, p. 35.
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 J Ditz, ‘U.S Doesn’t Have Long-Term Designs on Afghanistan’, Antiwar.com, 15 November 2009, viewed on 5 April 2010, <http://news.antiwar.com/2009/11/15/clinton-insists-us-doesnt-have-long-term-designs-on-afghanistan/>.
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<http://www.ata-sac.org/ncbc/highlights-news/an-agenda-for-nato---toward-a-global-security-web/ New Challenges Better Capabilities>. Emphasis added.
 Z Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, Basic Books, New York, 1997, chapter 1 and p. 52.
 Ibid.,p. 31.
 Ibid., p. 125.
 Joint Vision 2020, U.S. Defense Department, 2000, viewed on 5 April 2010, <http://www.iwar.org.uk/military/resources/aspc/pubs/jv2020.pdf>.
 T Hobbes, The Leviathan, Hackett, Indianapolis/Cambridge, 1994, xiii, 8, 9, 12, pp. 76, 78. Original emphasis.
 Ibid., xiii, 9, 14, pp. 76, 78.
 Ibid., xiii, 2, p. 74.
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–––, ‘Thomas Friedman Sums Up the Iraq War: Suck. On. This’. Charlie Rose Show, PBS, 2010, viewed on 4 April 2010, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOF6ZeUvgXs>.
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–––, ‘US Commander: No Sign of al-Qaeda Presence in Afghanistan’. Antiwar.com, 11 September 2009, viewed on April 4, 2010, <http://news.antiwar.com/2009/09/11/us-commander-no-sign-of-al-qaeda-presence-in-afghanistan/>.
–––, ‘Winning or losing?’ The Economist, 19 July 2008, Vol. 388, special section, p. 5.
–––, Joint Vision 2020. U.S. Defense Department, 2000, viewed on 5 April 2010, <http://www.iwar.org.uk/military/resources/aspc/pubs/jv2020.pdf>.
–––, NATO Review: Military Matters Beyond Prague, Autumn 2002, NATO, viewed on 5 April 2010, <http://www.nato.int/docu/review/2002/issue3/english/military.html>.
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Vladimir Suchan is an Associate Professor of Foundations and Social Studies at the University of Maine at Fort Kent and an Associate Research Fellow with the Communication Management Centre at the Russian German Graduate School of Management at the Academy of National Economy under the Government of the Russian Federation. He is a Platonist with a keen interest in international relations and communication management.