I’m sick of the War on Terror. By definition, wars are waged against nations. How can we win a war against an abstract noun? It’s not like we won the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, the War on Hunger or the short-lived War on Cancer.
Wars require a politically and geographically defined enemy. Wars have definable goals, as in: Beat the enemy until they’re all dead—or at least incapable of doing you further harm. Victors know they’ve won when they have destroyed all the enemy’s cities and killed all their people. Bombing Afghanistan for the past decade has destroyed cities and villages and killed people, but has not kept terrorists from exploding bombs in Spain, England, India, Indonesia, and other countries. Nor has it discouraged zealots from trying to blow up their underpants on airliners over US cities. What country should we be bombing? Who do we expect to surrender?
Wars require an enemy with a political leader with whom to negotiate. Osama bin Laden occasionally speaks to true believers through grainy videos, but al-Qaeda groups directed by local leaders spring up not only in the Middle-East, but in Africa, Europe, and other parts of the world. While bin Laden may be their inspiration, he does not appear to control a cohesive international organization. Not all terrorist groups are affiliated with al-Qaeda, and not all those who commit acts of terror are Muslims or foreigners. The Unabomber, Timothy McVeigh, the Columbine shooters, and other perpetrators of violence were 100% American.
If our current WOT is as successful as our three decades-old War on Drugs, I suggest we save our money. We don’t have to declare victory and surrender—as we did in Vietnam —but we could recognize the fact that the WOT isn’t real. We will always have individual and group sociopaths willing to commit acts of violence against innocent people. These people need to be apprehended and punished. But we should not dignify their actions by labeling the perpetrators as war combatants.
Over 40 years of Cold War conflict probably accustomed Americans to framing every problem in military terms, but how about choosing less costly (in terms of lives and money) campaigns? If we must declare war—how about a war on people who use the words “conservative,” “liberal,” and “progressive” as pejoratives?