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War and Terror

Every time I hear the phrase "war on terror," I cringe. To begin with, war is terror, as far as I'm concerned. A "war on terror" is an oxymoron.

Assuming we ignore the apparent distaste for semantic coherency displayed by the Media and most governments, it is still difficult to accept that this "war" is a war at all.

We could note, for example, that wars end. One of the results of war is that the population of the countries involved feels the pain, and therefore pressures the government to compromise on a solution, and this happens either because of social or economic pressures. If the government is a dictatorship, and thus able to ignore or repress the population, the country might self-destruct, as it was the case with Germany in World War Two. But today, when wars can be fought by remote control and media access is carefully controlled and regulated, can war have its effect in pushing the population to press for change? And if not, doesn't this "war" become less of a conflict than a permanent state of affairs?

There is also the matter of what a war means, or at least what it meant until a few months ago. Take World War Two. In the siege of Leningrad alone, which lasted almost two years, more people died than the casualties for both the US and the UK for the entire war combined. In the winter of 42-43, the famine in Leningrad was so terrible that people ate anything they could find. Soap was a common meal. This was a single episode of the war. Dozens like it existed around the world, and they went on for five years.

Now, how can we say that World War Two and this "War on Terror" are both "Wars"? How can we accept those terms? We can't. By accepting it, we are not only minimizing and trivializing the tragedy of the past into a ten-minute CNN segment and a documentary in the Discovery Channel. We are also setting ourselves up to accept so-called "assymetric conflict" as the state of affairs in the world, ignoring that while military intervention can be, sometimes, necessary, most of these problems can be solved by building schools, factories and hospitals, not tanks and aircraft carriers, in other words, by reducing hunger, and disease and inequality world-wide.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 16 2002 at 3:31 PM

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