Thursday, August 04, 2005

"War on Terror," Rest In Peace

The “War on Terror” is no more. It has been replaced by the “global struggle against violent extremism.”

The phrase “War on Terror” was chosen with care. “War” is a crucial term. It evokes a war frame, and with it, the idea that the nation is under military attack – an attack that can only be defended militarily, by use of armies, planes, bombs, and so on. The war frame includes special war powers for the president, who becomes commander in chief. It evokes unquestioned patriotism, and the idea that of lack of support for the war effort is treasonous. It forces Congress to give unlimited powers to the President, lest detractors be called unpatriotic. And the war frame includes an end to the war – winning the war, mission accomplished!

The war frame is all-consuming. It takes away focus from other problems, from everyday troubles, from jobs, education, health care, a failing economy. It justifies the spending of huge sums, and sending raw recruits into battle with inadequate equipment. It justifies the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. It justifies torture, military tribunals, and no due process. It justifies scaring people, with yellow, orange, and red alerts. But, while it was politically useful, the war frame never fit the reality of terrorism. It was successful at consolidating power, but counterproductive in dealing with the real threat.

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