Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Something About Wars

Have you noticed there are two kinds of wars? The first kind is literal war. World Wars and Country Wars are in this category. You can identify these because the word 'war' can always be said at the end of the phrase, like 'Korean War' or 'Revolutionary War.' (One never hears 'War on Revolution' or 'War on the World.') These wars are fought with armies against entire peoples in certain regions or countries. The World Wars were so named because armies fought against multiple peoples in multiple countries at once.

Then there is the other category of war, the figurative one. Thus we see the 'War On Poverty' or the 'War On Drugs.' These wars are 'fought' against things, not peoples or territories, because there is no geographical boundary and no clear face on the enemy. These wars always begin with the word 'war' and then identify the thing or the condition that needs correcting. Unlike the other kind of war, these wars don't require massive fighting forces to win. They are best 'fought' with education, economic assistance and the creation of viable alternatives.

I propose that the 'War on Terrorism' is the second kind of war. In its pure form, it is not about territory or any particular peoples or country. It is a war against a thing, a condition. There is no clear face on the enemy. It could be anti-abortionists in the United States, elite forces in Israel, religious fanatics in Ireland, Maylasia or Saudi Arabia.

The first kind of war can be won, the second cannot. In the first, two nations can sign a peace accord, the loser conceding things to the winner. Not so, in the second. But drugs and poverty can be contained and reduced to a manageable form by applying education and economic assistance, and offering viable alternatives.

To win the first kind of war, all you need is the biggest, most powerful set of fighting forces and weapons of mass destruction. To win the second kind of war, you need to identify the root causes of the condition and cure it, much as you would with a disease. It takes intelligence, caring, generosity and open-mindedness to abate the undesired condition.

We can't win a 'War On Poverty' by bombing poor neighborhoods. The 'War On Drugs' won't end by supporting the conditions under which people get very, very rich selling drugs.

We aren't going to win or even abate the 'War On Terrorism' by bringing terror to entire peoples.
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