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Mon, Dec 19, 2005, 6:13pm We are not at War
Politics » USA » Foreign Policy
S government officials continually inform us that we are in a state of war, but are we? Even newspapers and TV/cable news shows parrot the sentiment. As far as I can tell, we are most certainly not at war. At most, the phrase is a rhetorical turn to justify a certain course of foreign and domestic policy.

The war, one assumes, is the vague, never defined "war on terror" (although for a short while it became the "global struggle against radical extremists"). To call it a war, however, is on a par with the US "war on drugs," another never-ending and equally ill-thought-out enterprise. As has been true since its first pronouncement, such a war on terror is not winnable per se, as terror is a technique, and furthermore one used by all sides in different situations. Of course, the term's use is pejorative and simply masques a set of policy desires which can be shaped somewhat near to its supposed subject.

Terror, as a political force, has been around as long as history recalls. In fact, no significant change has taken place in the use of terror in the last decade, despite the sad shock of just over four years ago. However terrible that event was, nothing fundamentally has changed in the nature of tactics, the goals, or the overall success of terror. What is new in US politics is the constant Orwellian talk of our perpetual war on terror, a battle front we must always be ready for, and the way it's been used to enact unrelated agendas and to disenfranchise those not on the same page.

"We are fighting a different kind of war" says Bush, just now on the news, as I was typing. The constant refrain. Different indeed. A war which is constituted only by saying so. There was a time when the word wasn't so watered down, one suspects. If only there were more subtle leaders would could promote a more sophisticated way to protect the country and its interests without a rhetoric which can be, and is, used to steam-roll over more rational approaches to the problems of our time.

What will define the end of this war on terror? Perhaps nothing more than a change of administration. But what we really need to think more about is what happens when there is another instance of domestic terror, which may eventually happen, regardless of US foreign policy. Will we simply dive further into paranoid fantasies until we unwittingly create the kind of military state that we all grew up thinking we knew how to spot a mile away and stop? When your party is in charge and it's a mile away, will you say something at the mile marker, or wait to see what it looks like when it gets closer?

  • John Bachir (Wed, December 21st, 2005, 10:34am UTC)

  • Robert Randolph (Tue, July 8th, 2008, 6:28am UTC)

    Im a major slacker…. and a poor writer. Could you expand on your blog of 12/19/05?

    Fareed Zakaria just wrote an article in the Washington Post (July, 8, 2008) contending 'WE ARE NOT AT WAR" I found it loosely argued, but important. Interestingly, it produced no discussion. Why? Aparently, it's an idea whose time hasnt come. But Why?

    Who profits from continuing to call our involvement in Iraq a 'war'? I suspect it may be that 'war' is a short word, easy for the media to use. And everyone understands what is meant by "the Iraq War" even if no longer fits that definition. (I think we have been 'nation-building' in Iraq for several yrs now)

    And just importantly, Why does it seem no one profits from NOT calling it a "war'

    But this is the pollitical season! Why has no politician talked about us not being at war?
    And just importantly, Why does it seem no one in the media profits from NOT calling it a "war'

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