Politics: Wars and Nuisances

John Kerry’s catching a lot of conservative flack for saying that we need to get back to a place where terrorism is a nuisance, rather than the focus of our lives.  I think that’s one of the first sensible things I’ve heard come out of his mouth.  There are some who would have us define ourselves in terms of terrorism – every excercise of freedom is a defiance of the terrorists, every new expenditure is somehow part of the War on Terror, every reduction in liberty a necessary sacrifice to the war effort.

Call me crazy, but I don’t believe in declaring unwinnable wars.   As long as there are virulent ideologies loose in the world, we will have terrorist enemies.  Even if, as some suggest, we appease them by withdrawing from our quasi-imperialist involvement all over the world, there will still be some who would seek to kill us simply for who we are.  It will never end.  Like the War on Drugs, this War on Terror is unwinnable, and already becoming a catchall excuse for every kind of government excess.

When you define yourself in terms of your enemy, you make yourself a slave to him.  Like a girl who breaks up with a controlling boyfriend only to live her life in constant reaction to him, every day that we live “in spite of the terrorists” is a day not lived for ourselves.  I agree with Kerry on this point.  While our security agencies need to take terrorism deadly seriously, our public attitude towards terrorists should be as towards a mosquito – a nuisance which we casuually squash to bloody pulp and then move on without a second thought.

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  1. I think the most important part of this discussion is the approach we take when fighting it.
    The “war on drugs” and the like isn’t really a war, it is a hit and miss crime reduction effort. (And for the record, one I think needs to end.) Our approach to terrorism prior to 9-11 was the mostly the same, which allowed terrorist activity right under our nose. Only the actual perps were caught and tried *after* a terrorist attempt, not the entire organization they were associated with. I think we need to approach terrorism with a “war” approach, not a law enforcement approach, and that is the weakness of Kerry’s mindset on the issue.

    1. hmmm…

      What kind of war is it tho???

      Is it a big war with set battles where you march in and blow up the enemies cities?

      Or is it more like a guerilla war, where the best way to win is to remove the economic/political causes that are generating the guerillas…

      In history, one can look back at the 1950’s and 1960’s in SE asia to see successful and unsuccessful strategies against guerilla wars… In both Malaysia and the Phillipines, there were major communist guerilla uprisings that were successfully fought by the British and by American sponsored Phillipinos based on economic reforms, ground level intelligence, and a strong enforcement of local law enforcement agencies…

      On the other hand, there was also Vietnam, where both the French and Americans treated it as a simple “big” war and were never able to win it…

      Not all wars should be treated the same way.. and that’s why I think that Kerry is actually more on track than Bush was… Blowing the crap out of Iraq really isn’t going to stop Terrorism.. Any more than Russia blowing the crap out of Chechnya (where it killed 100,000-150,000 civilians) has led to the halt in terrorism there…

      1. Re: hmmm…

        Well, since the apparent motivation is based on religious and ethnic hatred, I don’t think a couple of policy shifts (short of declaring war on Israel) are going to pacify the current terrorist profile. So this seems to be a battle where you have to find the culprits during the planning stages, and eliminate the threat. It would be nice if the Islamic community as a whole would denounce acts of terrorism, and we can certainly try to encourage that, but it will be a long time in the works since hate is so ingrained into the Arab worldview.

  2. Well said

    I can’t bring myself to play devils advocate this time around.
    Agreeing with a post with no criticisms is such a rarity for me.

    I will however add this:
    How unfortunate for us that those born into the early 20th century have, for the most, passed on.
    They would have reminded us of the world they lived in…and scolded us.
    They knew first hand what it was like to live in a world filled with virulent ideologies.
    They would warn us about what happens when people begin to believe in utopian ideals.
    Beware those in power with poorly defined objectives who still believe they can make the world perfect.

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