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 “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.” 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.

Comments 4 comments

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

Well said. Good thinking. Two phrases usually lead to folly: "war on" and "zero tolerance." Once a "war on" is declared our thinking is narrowed and simplistic, militaristic costly solutions are applied to complex problems. Zero tolerance policies also often lead to unthinking, unnecessarily punitive, knee jerk solutions to problems.

SMH profile image

SMH 8 years ago from London

All excellent points. When I was studying in the United States I read your Constitution (something your political leaders have apparently never done) so I also know that the "War" on terror is not a war because only your Congress can declare war, your President has no authority to do so. It is also your Congress and not your President that has the constitutional power to decide when a war ends.

In my homeland the constitutional limits on government and the separation of powers has never really worked; it is unfortunate that Americans are proving so willing to abandon the remarkable principles of constitutional government that you have pioneered.

reg420 profile image

reg420 5 years ago from nomadic 1989 Ford Van !!!

More importantly one has to realize the difference between the war on terror and the war on drugs.

The primary difference is that the war on drugs is a war against the American people, their various culture and beliefs.

The war on drugs is the best example of democracy gone wrong, that is to say 51% of the people telling 49% what to do, and the only way to keep the balance from tipping is to lock up a million citizens a year for marijuana related offences to protect our citizens from crack cocaine.

More and more Americans have come to oppose the wars, the war hawks and high government officials and even the Republican Party is trying to distance themselves from terror war, and the U.S. citizens are more than willing to pull out of Iraq. Cost of the War in Iraq 800 billion and growing. We went there to find weapons of mass destruction and to kill the evil Saddam Hussein, We bombed and destroyed the entire country. Saddam has been captured tried and hanged. Still, the war continues at 60 billion per year and no one thinks it will ever bring about a democratic self sustaining government.

The war in Iraq is costing more than 4 billion a month, as opposed to the $2 billion a month that the Pentagon had originally estimated, it is now said that it's going to take five or more years as opposed to the 60 day miracle war that Bush sold us...

Add to that the continuing war in Afghanistan is costing almost a billion a month. We went there to find and Kill Bin Laden. Blew up the entire country, toppled the government and never found the man. Now Obama wants to send thousands more of our children overseas to die in Afghanistan?

Now we are having bombing raids in Pakistan as well That makes over $5 billion a month for the two battles for "freedom and democratic change". And, still no rational planner has yet been able to put forward a credible possible end-date for any of these enterprises.

Imagine how different the country and the world would be today,

if Bush and Obama had spent this same amount of money to foster economic growth at home?

So once again I throw my hat into the ring. In 2012 we will have a different world, Do you want the same idiots to run (ruin) it more?

Ronald Gascon candidate 2012

Ronald Gascon 5 years ago

Now that Bin Ladin and Saddam both have been killed, the continuation of these activities is simply our combined forces attacking and killing anyone who is willing to fight. Sounds kind of like a bully...

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