The Obama administration, and its allies, must sometimes feel that in the “war on terror,” they are playing a grim, high-stakes version of Whack-A-Mole against a bewildering variety of organizations determined to slaughter infidels anywhere they can. But as long as Western governments focus on specific organizations — or on the methods used by terrorists, rather than their motives — this game will continue to be frustrating, menacing and apparently futile.
The latest unpleasant news is a resurgence of al-Qaida in Afghanistan, following on the heels of a Taliban resurgence there just as air strikes and things looking suspiciously like boots on the ground, including Australian special forces on the front lines, seemed to be turning the tide in Ramadi, Iraq. But even if the Taliban siege of Sangin is rebuffed, and al-Qaida’s tents are set on fire, dozens of other such groups are waiting in the wings to prove that they are the deadliest, most unscrupulous, most fanatical terrorists going. And any such demonstration brings a flood of recruits, money, publicity and, inevitably, Western military attention.