Andrew Bacevich Advocates a New Cold War

A conservative who opposed invading Iraq proposes a new counter-terrorism strategy

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Andrew Bacevich, a conservative foreign policy expert and professor, long opposed the invasion of Iraq, bringing him out of favor with fellow conservatives. But on Sunday he came full circle, proposing a strategy for the war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan that aligns him with George W. Bush. Bacevich argued in the Washington Post that we should reproduce the same methods that won the Cold War. Peter Feaver, a national security adviser in the Bush administration, wrote that Bacevich's column echoed Bush himself and would "produce emphatic head-nodding from any Bush administration alum." Bacevich wrote:

Power, no matter how imaginatively or ruthlessly wielded, cannot provide a solution. The opposing positions are irreconcilable. In confronting this conflict, the goal of U.S. national security strategy ought to be limited but specific: to insulate Americans from the fallout.

Containment implies turning to the old Cold War playbook. When confronting the Soviet threat, the United States and its allies erected robust defenses, such as NATO, and cooperated in denying the communist bloc anything that could make Soviet computers faster, Soviet submarines quieter or Soviet missiles more accurate.

Containing the threat posed by jihad should follow a similar strategy. Robust defenses are key -- not mechanized units patrolling the Iron Curtain, but well-funded government agencies securing borders, controlling access to airports and seaports, and ensuring the integrity of electronic networks that have become essential to our way of life.

As during the Cold War, a strategy of containment should include comprehensive export controls and the monitoring of international financial transactions. Without money and access to weapons, the jihadist threat shrinks to insignificance: All that remains is hatred. Ideally, this approach should include strenuous efforts to reduce the West's dependence on Middle Eastern oil, which serves to funnel many billions of dollars into the hands of people who may not wish us well.

Bacevich, by reconciling anti-war liberalism with a tough-on-terror conservatism, presented a compelling, fresh idea for the Af-Pak conflict that has most pundits firmly entrenched in their respective ideologies.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.