The "War" on Terror
War? On Terror
The United States has been at “war” since the attacks on September 11, 2001. George W. Bush, in responding to the attacks said, “The deliberate and deadly attacks… were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war.” By definition, the war on terror is not a war at all. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a war is “a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations.” War must have a goal, such as capturing land or over-throwing a corrupt government, as the justification for continuing action in the war. The third part of the definition of war as defined by Stanford University is “jus post bellum, or “law after war,” which concerns the justice of peace agreements and the termination phase of war.” The “war on terror” is a political device and not a literal use of the word war. The “War on Terror” is not truly a war because it is not between states or nations, it does not have tangible goals, nor does it have the ability to end.Who is fighting the war on terror? The United States has declared war on an intangible feeling; fear is not embodied by any nation or group. Terrorists are not composed of one country, religion, or ideal. Terrorists come from every country in the world; they fight for their beliefs against different countries in different ways. The War on Terror that the United States is fighting is directed against the terrorists who threaten America and its allies, but these terrorists are no more attackable than any other terrorist group in the world. In the current setting, terrorists have no nation they call home, no one government that backs their actions, and therefore there is no enemy for the United States to attack. The United States has declared war on terrorists, but so far the War on Terror has been the means to declare war on Afghanistan and Iraq. The “War on Terror” has no enemy state only the goal to rid the world of all terrorists. Unfortunately, a terrorist can be any person of any ethnicity, age, religion, or nationality. Any American citizen could be a terrorist, but a country cannot declare war on its own people. The war on terror is similar to the war on drugs in that it is not a real war, but more a commitment by the administration to do everything in its power to destabilize the system that supports terrorism. There is a simple reason why the war on drugs has failed so far: there is no defined enemy and everyone is a potential suspect. Many nations have already committed to stop the support of terrorists within their countries, so the fight against all terrorists has taken an important step. According to WhiteHouse.gov: “The ideology known as Islamic radicalism… exploits Islam to serve a violent political vision that calls for the murder of all those who do not share it.” WhiteHouse.gov makes it clear that the goal of the war on terror is to stop the Islamic radical “broad and adaptive network” of terrorism. Regrettably, no borders or government leaders define the network. It is a very real threat to nations that oppose it, but its anonymity keeps it safe from attack.Without a specific enemy or goal, the war on terror has no clear end. Even if it were possible for the existing terrorist network to be destroyed, a new one would be created in its place. In a war, victory is achieved when the enemy is defeated or a peace treaty is signed, but in this “war” no end is possible. A new enemy emerges when another is slowed or defeated. No peace treaty can be made with terrorism. Terrorists the world over have different goals and different reasons for terrorizing different nations and no single treaty or can stop all terrorists. The current administration’s goal to eliminate the terrorist network is noble, but not realistic. The reason why the conflict has been called the “War on Terror” is because the term is so vague. The word war evokes many feelings in Americans, they remember the Vietnam War and World War II, and they remember the atrocity of the concentration camps and can see the parallels in terrorist action. “Terror” is fear, the fear of the American people. Anything that America is afraid of will be fought against under the heading “War on Terror.” While currently it is being used to justify action in Iraq and massive troop deployment, in the future it could be used in another part of the world.The “War on Terror” is not a real war because it is not between nations, its goal is unattainable, and no end to the “war” is possible. By the definition of war, from Stanford University, every war has three parts: Jus as bellum, Jus in bello, and Jus post bellum. Jus as bellum, or “law towards war,” means the justice of resorting to war. Jus in bello, or “law in war,” is the justice of the actions taken during the war. Jus post bellum, or “law after war,” is the act of ending the war through treaty or defeat. The “War on Terror” has a cause for starting, but without goals or an ending it cannot meet the other two requirements of war. Renaming the “War on Terror” to "International Terrorism Conflict,” or a similar phrase would at least address the conflict that is brought about by the name. By calling the “War on Terror” a war, the administration has gained the war powers, the ability to take actions without oversight. Another use of the word war is to blind the people of the United States to other fallacies in the government’s actions: when a country is at war it tends to get less scrutiny from its own people. The war on terror has been the cause for traditional wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, but it itself is not a war, but more an unreachable goal.
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