Well folks, the gig is up. We’ve put up a good fight, but now we must face the truth. We have not only lost the “War on Terror,” but we have become the very thing we set out to defeat. Now it’s time to take a deep breath, look at where we went wrong and try to plot a new course.
Our intentions were genuinely good – we sought to protect our country and our ideals from those who would do them harm. However, in pursuit of this goal, we’ve created a monster that now restricts our liberty, violates our privacy and subverts the will of the people, all in the name of keeping us safe. So where did we go wrong?
The first problem: Our goal in fighting terrorism is unclear. How does one go about defeating a tactic? Presumably, one would have to find those who use terror as a weapon, and stop them. However, there is no agreed-upon definition of terrorism, and the term is applied to such a wide range of actions that accurately defining it seems futile. Perhaps our problem stems here then. We struck out at an illusion, and in the process, did more harm than good. Still, this does not explain our collective shift toward the restriction of liberty and disregard for the ideals on which our nation was founded.
Perhaps our actions can be better explained by examining the polarization of our national dialog. Before, we entertained many viewpoints, and sought to build a consensus between these differing opinions. Now we impose an artificial bifurcation on the world. “You’re either with us or against us” seems to have become the national motto these days, and we masquerade false choices of “us or them.” The complexities of people, religions, political views and ethnic groups cannot possibly be broken down into two positions, but we act as if they are. This ridiculous phenomenon can be seen in the recent advertisements accusing Muslim student organizations of supporting terrorism, and in the constant accusations of anti-Americanism flung at anyone who dares critique our nation. Such childish behavior is to be expected of six-year-olds, but it is hardly befitting anyone old enough to have a vote in our nation’s future.
Such a simplistic view leads to disastrous consequences when applied to the complexities of real life. Our national policies since September 11 will serve for generations as an example of precisely how not to act when confronting difficult situations. The list of hasty and terrible decisions made by our country in this decade goes on for far too long. We have abandoned Afghanistan, dived unprepared into Iraq, destroyed international human rights legislation and tortured innocents, squandered international goodwill and a chance to unite the world’s nations and ignored the dire threat of global climate change and pollution.
By acting without the support of the rest of the world, we have undermined U.S. hegemony to the point of collapse, and instead become the pariah of global society, but this still does not explain why we lost the “War on Terror.” The question remains: What links haste to oversimplification to sacrificing our ideals? What could cause an entire nation to abandon reason for hatred and liberty for security?
The answer is deceptively simple. We, as a nation, have become afraid of our own shadows. We fear nonconformity, avoid confrontation and insulate ourselves from different points of view. Terrorists and violence dominate our news, our entertainment and our thoughts, despite the infrequency of both, and we react by submitting to the will of others. This fear – irrational as it may be – is exploited by our leaders, who happily use it to push their own agendas at the expense of what is good for our nation and our people.
Do yourself and the rest of us a favor. Go out and listen to someone you don’t agree with. Speaking of which, its almost time to go see David Horowitz speak.