You Can’t Bomb Your Way to Peace

The global threat from Islamist militancy keeps on spreading. Armed groups have pledged support for ISIS in 19 countries, and the Taliban, al-Shabaab, and al-Qaeda all remain undefeated. Meanwhile, refugees are fleeing conflict in numbers not seen since World War II.

A reboot of the global war on terror could only make things worse.

Despite 15 years of failed efforts to end terrorism and build stability throughout the world, Western nations continue to use air strikes, targeted killings, and military support for regional and local forces to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But the Paris and San Bernardino attacks demonstrate the futility of this strategy.  

In three reports released earlier this month, London-based NGO Saferworld concluded that U.S., UK, and EU counterterror, stabilization, and state-building efforts since 2001 in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen have been counterproductive. In each country, direct force has sometimes pushed back militants, but it has failed to defeat them and secure peace. Violence—especially when indiscriminate and unaccountable—has also harmed civilians, creating greater resentment towards the United States and western governments.

The reports found that a better approach would focus strategically on peace, rely less on the military, take a tougher line on bad governance, and work more closely with civil society. 

In Afghanistan, for instance, civilian casualties, drone strikes, and the rendition of Afghans have all created resentment and contributed to renewed support for the Taliban and associated groups. Even though in 2009 and 2010 a “civilian surge” sent more U.S. aid workers and development officers to help stabilize the country, the inability to achieve a political solution undermined the effort. The Taliban continue to rack up military successes, alongside military operations by both ISIS and local militias.

A similar story has unfolded in Yemen, where Saudi air strikes killed some al-Qaeda operatives, but ultimately generated widespread resentment and fed support for anti-Western militants. For example, local media described drone attacks as massacres, jihadi online forums carried pictures of victims’ bodies, and al-Qaeda leaders grieved with victims’ families and accused the United States of waging war against Muslims.

In Somalia, international efforts have focused on defeating al-Shabaab militants. Successive Somali governments have secured considerable military, security, and aid resources from Western organizations, despite extensive corruption and the diversion of weapons into the wrong hands. In 2014, a UN panel accused the Somali government of diverting 70 to 80 percent of funds received and using them to advance “partisan agendas that constitute threats to peace and security.”

Yet it’s exactly this kind of corruption and poor governance—to which the West turns a blind eye—that is the major driver of conflict and violence around the world. By disregarding it, Western actors fall into the “stabilization trap,” trading away long-term success for short-term stability—and ultimately guaranteeing abusive governance, chronic instability, and deep public resentment.

As these examples show, terrorists may not be the worst threat to stability in conflict contexts. Lasting peace in places like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen will prove elusive without facing up to the cynicism and abuse of supposed partners.

Learn More:




I strongly agree to the point the lesser concentration on military will not yield peace but my appeal is about the long viewed agenda by both opposing sides to control wealth in the name of bad political governance/ approach in such areas, those powerful nations who continue in disguise to supply or sell arms in conflict situation must be ashamed of their actions .innocent people including children are loosing their life, please lets think about that

Both my husband and I are very strong believers in what you have written to all of us. The absolutely incredible idea that America, or any other country, could solve the problems of Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen or wherever. We now see that America will so called "help" Nigeris eliminate Boka Haram. It would be so marvelous to see some peacemakers in our governments who actually move to make peace. That, of course, is why the United Nations was created. Staffan de Mistura, Secretary Ban, is trying to do just that. One could write more and more, but there is neither space nor time right now. Bless you all and many thanks. diana

Peace IS possible!

I didn't know Open Society Foundations was opposed to the War on Terror and the fight against the Islamic State. Good. I glad you oppose those conflicts.

Someone has pointed out that for every terrorist killed you create ten more. Could it be that for every such love deprived person won over by love you could win a hundred more?

America learned very well. You can bomb your way to bigger profits for your sponsors.

If we spent half the amount that we now spend on military campaigns in these areas on making them economically viable, we might have an answer to ending terrorism.

A person with a house, a wife, a dog and a job, is not usually a terrorist

The rush for deregulation short of a few public services has been a tragedy for WE, THE PEOPLE at large. True secure Gov't employment led to unscupulous clerks, etc. BUT neither an ucontrolled private sector prisoner to profits at the xpense of the populous well-being is far from satisfying the people's needs the way they should secluding in great part those who need care most the children and the elderly. And this is called "Great America?" We better do something about it and soon!

I live in Pakistan,reports from varied sources including eyewitness accounts do confirm that collateral damage by drones is colossal.I have seen the pictures religious schools,marriage parties,funeral processions destroyed to ashes by drones,when a high value target is insight no one would bother how many women or children are around .
It is also an undeniable fact that master mind of mass killers leaders of terrorists and many other dangerous persons were killed by drones who if lived could have caused thousands of deaths of innocent people.Drones proved effective and deterrent in face of growing terrorism in that region.
There is another aspect to to use of drones .Drones violate international laws ,infringe the sovereignty of sovereign states entering in their air space.An obvious disruption of international discipline and order,imperative for world peace.

Tell that to Germany and Japan. HISTORY tells us You can bomb your way to peace if you have the strength of will.

Add your voice