The Problem with the War on Terror

The problem with the “War on Terror” is that it’s not. It’s not a war on terror, it’s a war on terrorists. It’s the easy way out – attacking people instead of problems. As we kill person after person, we can claim victory after victory without ever winning anything. The war becomes self-perpetuating, even allowing the use of terrorism in fighting terrorists. As the war kills enemies, it creates enemies, which creates more terrorism. Thus the war acts as a living being, ensuring its own survival.

A more effective, long-term strategy would be to wage a war on terror, not terrorists; on poverty, not the poor; on desperation, not the desperate; on hate, not the haters; and on policies and structures that create humiliation, disenfranchisement and loss of pride, not on the victims of those policies and structures. Don’t get me wrong, terrorist plots should be foiled, and the public should be protected from violence, but to seriously fight terrorism, we have to make our focus the stage of terrorism, not the actors, who are replaced as fast as they are killed. However, with much less glamor, much less instant feeling of successes and a much less simplified story line, this approach would take courage that we haven’t seen in our society.

Martin Luther King, Jr. exhorted us to fight the forces of evil, not the people doing evil. He knew that the problem with segregation wasn’t Bull Connor or George Wallace, it was racism. Of course, having a face for the problem makes it easier to rally people to the cause. But, all the energy focused on attacking or eliminating people is energy not used to fight the underlying problem. This awareness requires an ability to see past the moment and into the long-term future of humanity, not something our culture is known for.

I long for a day when the President announces that we are transitioning from the long war on terrorists to an actual fight against terrorism, and that although it will be a long, generational effort, it is something worth fighting and living for.

Please click the daisy to see my thoughts “justice” vs. “punishment”:



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