Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What war?

Republicans seem to have but one justification these days: "We are at war." This is used to justify all sorts of proposals, such as villifying the media generally for doing its job, not voting for Democrats (of course), and even executing individuals accused of treason. There's a problem here though - we're not actually at war.

I'd already been planning a blog entry on this very subject when I received the latest article from the Rockridge Institute, an organization headed by George Lakoff. The article made the vision far more concise than I had been able to formulate prior to reading it. But I get ahead of myself.

By now, I hope it is clear that the "War on Terror" is simply a buzzword for an ongoing struggle against terrorism. Terrorism is a threat we have always faced, from both domestic and international groups and individuals. We need to be ever vigilant, but it is not exactly a new phenomenon. To say that we are at "war" with terrorism, thereby justifying the traditional deprivation of liberty attendant with a time of war is to forever surrender those liberties, for terrorism will always be a threat. Terrorism CAN, however, be combatted quite effectively even without treating it as a war.

The other war so frequently referenced, and the one dealt with by the Rockridge Institute's latest article, is the "War in Iraq." That war, however, is long over. It ended with the defeat of the Iraqi military, several years ago. What we are currently engaged in is the occupation of Iraq. Occupations are often bloody and resistance organizations often engage occupying forces. This, too, is nothing new (nor was it by any means unpredictable). Particularly in the case of Iraq, which has little to nothing to do with the terrorism continually threatening the U.S., there is simply no justification for depriving the American people of any liberties they would otherwise enjoy.

Seeing through the smoke and mirrors of our current 'war' one finds only hollow excuses by an administration seeking to justify its own actions. Those justifications, if unchallenged, threaten to permanently rob of us our liberty.


Anonymous said...

Hi Karl. You make a good point that the war on terror is not a war in any normal use of the word "war". I curious how you would respond to somebody who says technology has changed the world and we can't expect to apply dated standards of freedom to our lives today. In that sense the war on terror is less a response to specific terrorist threats but a admission that to maintain a reasonably secure society we must sacrifice a little liberty. Any thoughts?

Karl Smith said...

Ah, now these are excellent questions. These are the sorts of questions we need to consider as a society, but the decisions are being secretly made and enforced for us. For me, that is a tragic, tragic circumstance.

To your specific question, however, I would start by challenging this notion of "dated standards of freedom." For me, the standard of liberty is generally "freedom from unwarranted intrusions by the government." That standard needs not worry about obsolesence. And while it appears to allow for considerable leeway, I suggest that is misleading. Let's take a particularly bad idea (from my point of view) - CARNIVORE, a system that was designed to process every piece of e-mail, supposedly searching out terrorists. Now, it wouldn't look for words like "hijacking" or "bombing" per se, because terrorists are just a wee bit more sophisticated than that, so it's looking for codes, which means it must sift every e-mail written by anyone, no matter how innocent. So everyone loses ANY privacy in their communications (a gigantic loss of liberty) and the government may or may not get a potential lead. Now, while I view this as a colossally bad idea, others may disagree, and as I started out this reply, that is the kind of discussion we need to have. We do NOT need those decisions secretly made for us.

If this topic interests you further, I strongly recommend reading "Beyond Fear" by security expert Bruce Schneier.