Thursday, June 01, 2006

Questioning the War on Terror

The Apostropher:

An important conversation is beginning to emerge on progressive blogs about the War on Terror and it is based on a notion that will prove controversial. Namely, that there is no War on Terror. You can expect the right to seize on this as evidence of the left's essential unseriousness in the face of an existential threat, and probably to win the rhetorical battle in the short run. However, it's past time for progressives to stop fretting about that. The right wing will say that no matter what position you take on any issue. It's a classic case of projection, and it is what they do best (aside from running up record-breaking deficits).

We are not at war. I'm not speaking here of Congressional war declarations; by that metric, we haven't been at war since 1945, though in practice we obviously have. I'm referring to an actual state of warfare. The war in Afghanistan ended when the Taliban fell. The war in Iraq ended when the Ba'ath were driven from power. What remains in both countries is a policing occupation among various Hobbesian conflicts that truly only concern us inasmuch as they affect our access to natural resources, or as long as we continue to proclaim ourselves the policemen of those countries. Not only is it unclear who we are fighting, it's increasingly unclear why we are fighting.

We are not faced with an existential threat. Even if all the violent Muslim extremist groups were working in concert, we still wouldn't be facing an existential threat. They plainly aren't powerful enough to bring down even the creaky government of Egypt, much less the world's last superpower. We are confronting a law enforcement issue, the same as every other government in the world. This reality is beginning to dawn on more and more Americans, which is why the ridiculous notion that we're in danger of losing the Southwest to Mexico has suddenly gained new traction. The right wing has no currency without an enemy, some scary "other"—hippies, blacks, drug users, Muslims, homosexuals, Mexicans—to hold up as a boogeyman to justify consolidating further power in an already too powerful executive. What is cowardly in this situation is not opposing the adventure in Iraq, it's allowing our own government to whittle away our freedoms because you're frightened some swarthy person might set off a bomb somewhere.

As Digby points out, the concept of a war on terror doesn't even make logical sense. It's a "war" that by design can never be won, that has no identifiable endpoint. And its goal isn't destruction of an ideology, but instead an entrenchment of domestic power.

What we do about Islamic fundamentalism is a topic we must deal with. I suspect that it will take a global effort and a willingness to deal intelligently with the impending global oil crisis. There will be other challenges as well, including potential wars and regional strife and any of the other things that have marked civilization from the beginning. All peoples must deal with such things.

But there is no war on terrorism. The nation is less secure because of this false construct. We are spending money we need not spend, making enemies we need not make and wasting lives we need not waste in the name of something that doesn't exist. That is as politically incorrect a statement as can be made in America today. But it's true. [...]

And I suspect, too, that I will be long in my grave before the "war on terrorism" is a thing of the past. It was a terrible accident of history that September 11th happened when the lunatic neocon cabal was in power. Nothing could have been worse. It was more damaging than the attacks themselves. We'll be dealing with the fall out from that strange happenstance for a generation.

Exactly. Feel free to call me unserious. I'm used to it. But so far, we've burned through nearly 2500 of our own troops, tens of thousands more permanently injured, God only knows how many dead or maimed Iraqis, hundreds of billions of dollars, most of our prestige and good will, and for what? For democracy? For freedom? Give me a break. It's the opening shot in a resource war, and everybody knows it, even if they won't admit it to themselves. And, like it or not, they aren't our resources. We don't have any right to insist the world petroleum market be conducted in dollars. We don't have the right to pick and choose other peoples' governments for them.

There is no war on terror. There never has been. It's time to start saying it aloud.

Very well said. The question in my mind, though, is whether the term War on Terror, and the fear and conformity it is meant to inspire, isn't already dying of its own volition. Does it become more ridiculous for its backers to invoke over time, and less central to the basis of campaigning and governing than it was in 2002 and even 2004? Foreign affairs and national security will continue to be staples of political concern and governmental responsibility. But I doubt the bat of national security will be as useful an instrument as it was the last two election cycles, regardless of how Democrats respond to it. But for what it's worth, I'm willing to challenge the ubiquitous assumptions involved in the term and those who employ it to eradicate civil liberties.

Here's another good post on the subject.

And finally, it appears that the federal DHS also agrees that the War on Terror is gobbledygook.

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