Friday, August 18, 2006

The war on terror as a false metaphor

George Soros has written an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal challenging the value of the “war on terror” as a construct of American foreign policy. He writes,
… the "war on terror" metaphor was uncritically accepted by the
American public as the obvious response to 9/11. It is now widely admitted that
the invasion of Iraq was a blunder. But the war on terror remains the frame into
which American policy has to fit. …
What makes the war on terror

• First, war by its very nature creates innocent victims. A war
waged against terrorists is even more likely to claim innocent victims because
terrorists tend to keep their whereabouts hidden. The deaths, injuries and
humiliation of civilians generate rage and resentment among their families and
communities that in turn serves to build support for terrorists.

• Second, terrorism is an abstraction. It lumps together all
political movements that use terrorist tactics. Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the
Sunni insurrection and the Mahdi army in Iraq are very different forces, but
President Bush's global war on terror prevents us from differentiating between
them and dealing with them accordingly. It inhibits much-needed negotiations
with Iran and Syria because they are states that support terrorist

• Third, the war on terror emphasizes military action while most
territorial conflicts require political solutions. And, as the British have
shown, al Qaeda is best dealt with by good intelligence. The war on terror
increases the terrorist threat and makes the task of the intelligence agencies
more difficult. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are still at large; we
need to focus on finding them, and preventing attacks like the one foiled in

• Fourth, the war on terror drives a wedge between "us" and "them."
We are innocent victims. They are perpetrators. But we fail to notice that we
also become perpetrators in the process; the rest of the world, however, does
notice. That is how such a wide gap has arisen between America and much of the

You may read the entire op-ed here reprinted at TPM Café.


Anonymous said...

George Soros palaver aside, we ARE fighting a war on terror against Islamofascists who use terror to advance their agenda of making the world ISLAM !

Anonymous said...


The choice to bomb and occupy
A far-off place, Iraq,
In which real flesh-and-blood must die
As due to "Awe and Shock,"

Confirms that this--an unjust war--
Proposed to be "on terror,"
Turns out is more than metaphor:
The slogan is in error.

However, using language wrong
To "soften" the proposal
Let opposition wax more strong,
Relationship as causal,

Because true nature on the field
Gets obfuscated so
From one´s own self: so much concealed,
So few are there who know.

A metaphor is dangerous
Because, confused with fact,
Can make the needless languorous
When men upon it act.