Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Nuisance of Semantics 

I have always felt that a more accurate nomenclature for the GWOT should be something along the lines of "Jihadi War", as that is the moniker by which our declared enemies identify themselves. That, of course, is not suitable as the term "jihad" is also a legitimate word used to describe the personal struggle of faith all Muslims engage in daily and the potential for the war to be misunderstood or intentionally mischaracterized would be even greater. I agree with many of the ankle-biting detractors that "terrorism" is not so much an ideology as it is a chosen tactic of Jihadism, or Islamic Fascism as it is more often called. Regardless of what you call it, I feel it is the central issue of our time and that it will continue to demand our attention until it is resolved one way or the other.

Much has been made of John Kerry’s expressed desire to return to a time when terrorism was a "nuisance" by both the Bush campaign and the right-leaning blogocracy. Others have compared this sentiment with Bush's well-publicized "admission" that the GWOT is "not winnable." In all fairness, there is a similarity in the desired end state expressed, in that each has stated their belief that terrorism, like other forms of evil that men do, can never truly be completely eliminated, especially not in a society that loves and values personal freedom, but that the final resolution at which we will eventually find ourselves is one in which the potential and nature of the threat from "terrorism" is at a par with the other dangers one faces in normal life. The real gulf, then, lies in what the candidates' perceptions are as to where we are, where we have been and how we get to where we want to be.

I see President Bush's view as being that we have basically been asleep at the wheel. Global threats and dangers gathered and metastasized while we deluded ourselves as to our relative invulnerability, omnipotence and stature. Despite several warnings, including very direct, pointed warnings from the terrorists themselves, we felt that they could never move against us here, and if they tried we'd know about it. That illusion came crashing down three years ago in chaos, fire and rock as we found ourselves stung by the blindworms of the earth*. We must now not relent but continue to pursue and press them, removing all resources and avenues for support. We may not be able to simultaneously press at all points, but we must continue to do so where we can and to steadily chip away at their tools and reach until, like the racist violence of the KKK and Nazism in the 20th century, the troubles seen from Jihadism will largely be issues for domestic law enforcement.

Senator Kerry's position on Global Terrorism seems to be entirely consistent with his foreign policy throughout his time in government and can be summed up in two words: Peaceful Coexistence. In his eyes we were wrong to go into Vietnam, and once there the best thing was for us to leave. He did not believe in confronting the USSR, but, rather, in détente and getting along. His Nuclear Freeze pedigree speaks volumes on this, including his current antipathy towards current US weapons research and development vis-à-vis the "nuclear bunker-buster." I think there is no question by now that he supported a policy of containment in the case of Saddam, waiting for something to happen but with no aggressive action on our behalf.

But more disturbing, he seems to wax nostalgic for the "good old days" when our head was in the sand and we had a false sense of security. When we went whistling down the street, good-time Charlie, never knowing about the four goons in the alley waiting to jump us. When he expresses what he sees as the end-goal of the GWOT he sees a world in which we coexist with terrorism like we coexist with prostitution and gambling. I will take my cheap shot here and evoke his word "nuisance." And how to get to this wonderful vision? By coming together with our pals in Europe to learn what they know about dealing with terrorism.

The candidate's wife has also referred to Europe, how we need to learn to deal with terrorism like they have. A good friend of mine, stranded in Prague as a result of 9/11, heard this same sentiment expressed by Europeans. "Too bad, really terrible, but you just need to learn to live with it like we do." At this point I drag out George Bernard Shaw's famous quote "The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him. The unreasonable man adapts the surrounding conditions to himself. All progress depends on the unreasonable man." I, for one, believe the world must be adapted and molded into the future vision of the President's than returning to a deluded status quo and changing our perceptions in order to "deal with it."

So, in my eyes there is a clear choice before the electorate. Do we cede our prerogatives and freedom to the Jihadists, opting for a "peaceful" coexistence that is an illusion of slowly eroding freedom, safety and security or do we dare to try and change the world, declaring organized global terrorism as universally despised and shunned as colonialism and the slave trade are today? Do we choose to coexist with murderous thugs who co-opt and pervert a term of significant personal religious meaning for millions, letting them forever taint the meaning much the same way that Nazi appropriation of the swastika virtually eliminated the use of an ancient and previously respected symbol? I say no, that we instead fight, knowing that with us many Muslims, in the course of finding their way past the heresy of the fascists and embracing a life of freedom in the modern world, are more actively engaged in traditional jihad than the terrorists never intended. Perhaps even to the extent that, in time, history will look back upon what we today call the GWOT and recognize it as the Global Jihad it truly is.

(* As much as I'd like to, I cannot claim credit for these phrases. They are from part of a monologue I remember from way back in High School. I can't remember the playwrite or the title, but it was basically in free verse and included the passage "This world came tumbling down from chaos, fire and rock and bred up worms; blindworms that sting each other here in the dark.")

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