Would you wipe out entire city blocks if you suspected someone in those blocks was "associated" with the Mafia?
Of course not. Too many innocent lives would be lost, and the cost of rebuilding would be impractical.
And yet, this is how we "fight" terrorism. We use methods of war in the vain effort to stop a crime. We end up destroying more innocent life and property than we are likely to save by killing the terrorists.
And make no mistake: terrorism is a CRIME. It is NOT an act of war.
When a nation is at war, there is somebody on the other side with whom you can negotiate to end the war. This is why the "War on Poverty" and the "War on Drugs" are patent frauds. It is one thing to declare war on a State like Spain or Japan, because there will always be someone to raise the White Flag of surrender. There will always be diplomats to negotiate a cease-fire or peace treaty. But NOBODY is able to raise the White Flag on behalf of Poverty, or Drugs . . . or Terrorism.
Yes, terrorism is violent, and it is used to advance political goals. But terrorists have no diplomats acting on their behalf. A soldier in uniform may accidentally kill a non-combatant in his mission, but he won't be prosecuted for the tragic mistake. A terrorist, on the other hand, is wanted precisely BECAUSE he kills non-combatants.
We want enemy soldiers to be defeated on the battlefield.
But we want terrorists to be brought to JUSTICE. That's because terrorists target civilians DELIBERATELY.
Going after terror groups is EXACTLY like going after criminal gang members. A "war" on Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and "associated groups" is like a "war" on Organized Crime that specifically cites the Mafia, Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, and "associated" gangs. It's conceptually impossible.
But you don't WANT a "settlement" with a criminal gang. Instead you want to bring the criminals to justice. The same is true of terrorist groups, and that's because they ARE criminal gangs.
Terrorist groups, like criminal gangs, operate more like horizontal networks instead of like States. They have no "ambassadors" or "diplomats." It's less easy to know who is a gang member, or who is "associated" with a gang. Same thing with terrorist cells: Who is a terrorist, and who is "associated" with a terrorist group? So many come and go, or get killed and are replaced by new recruits.
Let's stop using war rhetoric and war methods against terror groups. They aren't warriors, they are criminals. And they shouldn't be pursued according to the laws of war, but rather according to the rules of criminal justice.