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.