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It's Not a War, That's Why
by Brian S. Wise

This author believes the war on terrorism isn't really a "war," but is being characterized as such in order to justify the creation of the Department of Homeland Defense - which will soon be yet another massive federal government agency.

It's Not a War, That's Why
Brian S. Wise
09 June 2002

Regarding the Department of Homeland Defense and all surrounding issues:

One: Restructuring similar functions within the federal government is inherently wise, so long as oversight is organized and implemented in ways distinctly unfamiliar to the federal government (that is, effectively). Unfortunately for President Bush, whatever vision he may have had in mind for the department is nothing more, even now, than a fantasy; a Congress left to its own devices will most certainly always inflate costs and switch things around, no matter the idea, no matter whose it is.

But won’t this reorganization by itself lend to an expansion of the federal government? Absolutely, and this is what bothers some conservatives, because no matter how they adore the idea, they equally despise the very concept of a larger federal government. In this instance, though, you can’t help it; there are the natural costs that come with the movement of a small department from A to B, those costs here will be duplicated dozens and dozens of times. You will have the shifting of employees, surely additional people will be hired for the purposes of oversight and organization, their payrolls will have to be absorbed; additional levels of paperwork, which government so mysteriously worships, will be added to any movement undertaken by Homeland Defense; additional chains of command will be established. There’s no such thing as a bureaucracy that can decreased in size … nothing government does can be limited to a singular motion, the institution at its root is too large. So yes, federal government will expand at the birth of Homeland Defense.

The question conservatives have to ask themselves is, Is it worth it? And the answer is, No one knows, and we’re not going to know until, some years down the line, we can get a firm grasp on those possible attacks stopped in their tracks. Republicans are betting on the fact the idea of Homeland Defense, and thus reorganization, is worth the gamble, not to mention the backlash, should it fail as the FBI and CIA failed prior to the Tragedies.

Two: There is one interesting facet to the debate over Homeland Defense, the rhetoric. Forgetting for now whatever objections Democrats may have, Republicans are attempting to strengthen their position by playing odd and, frankly, disingenuous games with not only the language, but logic as well. For once, our lies and distortions are actually more obnoxious than those being told by Democrats, the largest and most irritating being the continuing assumption we are fighting an actual war or terrorism.

One should be careful how he words such things, as not to inflame already impassioned spirits; these are, after all, times when one can disagree with his president but should still lend support to the overall goal. As far as that goes, most everyone is on board. But the Bush administration has taken to advancing a popular definition of terrorism, one meant to suggest we are continually terrorized by the very idea something is going to happen again, somewhere within our borders, someday; and in the name of this eventuality we should be prepared, but at the same time very afraid. Yes, let’s be prepared as citizens, but in the general sense: be prepared to support your government in the eradication of the forces that will one day strike against us; be prepared to lend whatever love and compassion necessary to those losing friends or family members; but also be prepared to get on with your lives, and be prepared not to live in fear so government can slip one bad idea after the next past you in the name of the “war on terrorism,” as they have since the Tragedies.

Terrorism is, by its very definition, “the use of force of threats to intimidate, etc., esp. as a political policy.” One can certainly make a persuasive argument that the Tragedies were, indeed, uses of force meant to intimidate the United States, to the end of a much more dignified military response, which we have all seen and appreciated.

But only pure intellectual dishonesty leads one to add validity to something like “the war on terrorism.” You cannot, as either a matter of fact or as a matter of common sense, declare war on someone’s fears, or someone else’s ideas for inflicting that fear. This is the same nonsense applied to other “wars” we haven’t won and cannot win, like the “war on poverty” or the “war on hunger.” War cannot be declared on a state of mind or a state of human existence, and those parroting such foolishness are only making the misconception worse, and helping it spread.

The war in question was the Afghan War, an undeclared war, which we managed to win rather convincingly, again without declaring as such. Whatever military action continues from the end of that war forward, in or out of Afghanistan, is a common sense movement against those who seek to destroy us and those who conspire on their behalf. Wherever they may roam, seek them out and eliminate them; we have certainly earned the right to do that, on the backs of 3,000 dead human beings and their long suffering families. Just call it what it is, a response, and stop trying to frighten people into blindly accepting another bad idea.

See all of Brian’s columns