The end of the war on terror will come with the end of believing in the concept of the war on terror. This is a war with no precise boundaries in space or in time, with no apparent aim other than striking out against vaguely-defined enemies, with total blindness to how our aggressive military actions and disregard for international norms alienate our allies, energize our adversaries, and turn world opinion against the USA . Dick Cheney shooting his friend in the face last year is a worthy analogy for the shameful results achieved by the misguided foreign policy of this trigger-happy administration.
Of course, the defenders of the Bush policy of unlimited international aggression will point to 9/11, piously intone "never again," and argue that "we have to fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here." That is to say, they will try to terrify the American people into trusting in military force as the only possible guarantor of security for the United States. We have to stand up and say, NO! This is not the way to any kind of real security, unless we are planning to kill every person on earth who disagrees with or criticizes the United States. We have to say, yes, there are extremists in the world who do sometimes carry out acts of terrorism, not only in America or against us, but more often in other countries against other peoples, but much of this vicious activity can be undone through patient, quiet police work, not military invasion, which may only incite further terrorism.
We need to say, we have to stop using force and brutality against people "over there," so that others will not want to come and do the same "over here." We have to say, we want a world of rational, humane laws, where no one can be arrested and thrown into prison for years on end without the arresting authorities being required to produce substantial evidence of criminal activity, not mere hearsay or vague suspicion of a "terrorist threat." We need to start believing again in being a good neighbor to the rest of the world, and extending a helping hand rather than a fist and a threat. We need a morally sound and psychologically astute foreign policy that treats other nations with respect and fairness, and invites them to imagine us as partners and equals, not bullies and invaders.
It is time to STOP being afraid that the sky will fall on us if we stop threatening the entire world with our military. It is time to STOP believing that there is a terrorist under every rock and behind every wall. Put very simply, it is time to STOP being afraid all the time. That is the real secret to ending the war on terror: to refuse to be terrified anymore.
It is time to STOP being obsessed with 9/11. It is time to START realizing that we are not being attacked all the time by enemy forces, except in Iraq, where we are, after all, the enemy invaders, and they are the ones defending their homeland. If we had not invaded them "over there"and turned their country upside down, they would not be attacking us "over there" either.
It is time to STOP believing that we have a right to attack others in all the "over theres" of the world, just because we feel frightened or insecure about other nations' intentions. It is time to realize that a free and easy use of U.S. military force around the world opens the door to other nations doing the same when they feel insecure or threatened, and could turn the whole world into a charred battlefield. It is time to return to the older, wiser policy of only using military force in self-defense, and to reject the paranoid, self-defeating logic of "preemptive" strikes or invasions.
It is time to START asking our government whether the billions spent on security measures and military matters are actually doing anything more than simply pumping up the profits of defense contractors. It is time to START demanding that government spending be redirected to meet actual needs and problems, like health care, wage stagnation, collapsing infrastructure and underfunded education systems.
Perhaps there are aspects of the so-called war on terror that are valuable. If so, let us rationally examine them, keep those that have proven their usefulness, and discard the rest. We have so many other things to do. Let's stop frightening ourselves with imaginary bogeymen and phantoms. Let's start imagining what we could do to improve our own country if we stopped wasting our resources, including our precious young men and women, invading other countries. To borrow an excellent phrase from John Edwards, let's start being patriotic about something besides war.