The War on Terror

We have an open-ended war on terror, and the “liberals” don’t like that one bit. The “conservatives” say we need to stop terror wherever it is, root it out and destroy it, poison it and gas it, etcetera, etcetera. The liberals like to think that we can have traditional wars with traditional congressional approval and traditional enemies and traditional victories.

As I am ought to do, I take a middle line. I do not in anyway like the “War on Terror” or the implications it brings. I don’t like the lack of goals and objectivies. I wonder if the war will ever end. I dislike the terminology of war when a war has always been traditionally defined as a conflict between two nations. This is not a “war,” and yet it is a war.

It was simple before. We had one enemy, or any common foe. We had the Soviets or the Communists or the Fascists. We had a simple word, and that is who we fought, and we did it by attacking their countries. Well, now we have the Terrorists, and they have no country, and we cannot declare war on a complete people because a few among them are evil. If we were to attack every terrorist country, we would need to attack most nations on earth. America, Britain, of course Ireland. Most of the Middle East, including Israel.

We can no longer think of war as a cut-and-dried affair of nation conflict. Nor can we expect to end terror through “nation building.” The best way to root out evil is through a multinational coalition. This is the perfect time to create renewed power for the United Nations. For us to recognize that there are certain types of “warfare” that are not tolerated, and for every country to decide that we won’t take it anymore — anywhere.

Some leaders in non-western countries see terrorism as a legitimate form of warfare, like guerilla tactics and other methods used by an underdog with no access to expensive materiél. I understand these concerns. But attacking non-combatents, no matter how much you hate their government’s ideology, is simply not tolerable.

Sure the capitalist system may be flawed or even terribly evil, I have days when I believe that too. But I do not choose on those days to demonstrate my dislike of a system by destroying the human beings who work within it. You can say there are no innocents, and it is true that no one is truly innocent, but if we can’t believe at least that children are not to be targets, then what can we believe?

It is so difficult to address international policy because for every point put forward there is a caveat, but there is one thing we must all agree on — attacks against civilians are dishonorable, and are not fit for the rules of war. When someone lays down their weapons and surrenders they are afforded certain human rights. When someone never picks up a gun in the first place they need to be entitled to much greater rights. And no matter how much we hate the terrorists, those we capture must have the same rights as all war criminals, if we are to think of this War on Terror as a real war and not just an idealogical debate.

Which is it, anyway? A real and legitimate attempt to stop terror everywhere, to create standards of combat, to remove some of the most distasteful aspects of conflict from our society? Or is it simply the same military-industrial-governmental “conspiracy” we always see, one that wants oil pipelines through Afghanistan and free trade worldwide? Perhaps we as a people need to decide for ourselves, and perhaps we need to set forth goals and limits, and then we can have a real war, a legitimate war, a (dare I say it) moral war.