The So Called War on Terror is for Weaklings
by Matt Stoller, Tue May 30, 2006 at 10:35:09 AM EDT
There's a blogosphere conversation around the framework of the war on terror concept, and I figured I'd weigh in because the notion of the war on terror is something that frames our politics. John Aravosis wants a real war on terror instead of the fake and incompetent Bush video game war. Parachutec, Chris Bowers, and Atrios take a different and more productive tack. Bush is not fighting a fake war on terror; the war on terror itself is a false metaphor.
Any framework for looking at global politics has to have a mechanism for judging success and failure. It has to self-correct, or it is not stable. Containment contained, and if it did not, the course of action - localized hot wars - made sense. The Cold War kept a geopolitical struggle from destroying ourselves. It was understood to be 'cold' by nature, and keeping it cold was a good metaphor for thinking about the concept of mutually assured destruction.
The war on terror doesn't have a self-corrective mechanism. The only metric for success is arrogant certitude on the part of global elites and fear on the part of everyone else. If we are afraid and Bush acts fearless, the war on terror is going well. That is a false metaphor, and it is the framework of the weak.
Now I am not arguing that the war on terror doesn't have rules, or that terrorism is to be coddled. I am arguing that the war on terror is a framework that values self-delusion, certitude, stubbornness, and weakness.
During this so-called war on terror, we haven't caught Osaba bin Laden. The number of terrorist incidents has dramatically increased since 2001. Global warming and pandemics are threatening our very way of life, fiscal imbalances threaten to wreck the global economy, the government is cooking the economic books, and you can top that off with a severe and looming energy crisis for good measure. Oh, and the Constitution has been eviscerated, we went to war based on lies without politicla consequences, and the military is being ruined.
Under the war on terror metaphor, we have to argue with Darwin deniers, global warming 'skeptics', peak oil deniers, financiers that can't add, a media that can't distinguish between truth and 'narrative', a psychotic and dishonest Defense Secretary, and an economy that is 'good' even though it's producing inflation rather than jobs and prosperity.
It's pretty clear that the metaphor of the war on terror leads to failure and weakness. It leads to weak leaders with bad judgment listening to liars and corrupt yes-men. It leads to oil companies writing energy policy, and insurance companies telling you that you can't go to the doctor without signing eight forms.
It does not lead to catching Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden of course is simply one sign of a failed and impotent analogy that desperately weak leaders cling to in desperation.
We are right now at the tail end of a 100 year historical wave of centralization of power into the hands of global elites. A networked world is breaking down barriers to information control, and the response on the part of those elites is to play a 'great game' of resource fights over oil and power while shoveling propaganda to the unwashed masses. Their system is breaking down, and they know it. The war on terror metaphor, rather than beginning on 9/11/01, is the final metaphor of the 20th century, the last gasp of an international order that broke the League of Nations, allowed the rise of fascism, confused Communism with imperialism, fought the success of the Marshal Plan, and weakened American influence through rogue actions during the Bush Presidendcy.
It is as Chris says a conservative frame, and it is a false metaphor. It is a metaphor for the scared, the dishonest, and the weak. The disinformation campaign conducted against anyone who challenges their weakness is the best evidence for that weakness.
Ok, so the war on terror is a false metaphor. Is there a a better framework? There must be. What is the strong frame for those of us in the 'reality based community'? Well I would look to Bosnia for a successful framework, where Bill Clinton and Wes Clark oversaw an international coalition that stopped a genocide and rebuilt a civil society with minimal casualties. While not perfect, the Balkans is now a tourist destination. This was not done with stubborn self-righteousness, it was done with humility, measured force, cooperation, a clear strategy, and planning for the unknown. None of these are attributes of the war on terror.
The So Called War on Terror weaklings simply deny global warming or other genuine global challenges because it doesn't fit their frame. They deny their own failures, and betray their stated principles whenever it suits their grasp for power. They are weak and dishonest, because the notion of the war on terror implies that they must follow the road to delusion no matter where it leads.