Monday, January 30, 2006

Is America at War? Yes, actually.

Today's Boston Globe carried a James Carroll opinion column entitled "Is America Actually in A state of War? (registration required). Interestingly enough, Mr. Carroll argued that America is not at war. And the rationale he applied for determining we are actually in a time of peace (peace, of course, being the opposite of war):

1. In Iraq, Carroll opines, "something essential is lacking that would make [the conflict there in Iraq] a war -- and that is an enemy. The so-called ''insurgents," who wreak such havoc, are not America's enemy. They are not our rivals for territory."

2. And concerning the overall war on terror, it "is not real war either, since the Pentagon has proven itself incapable of actually engaging Al Qaeda. . . Bin Laden was a self-mythologized figure of no historic standing until George W. Bush designated him America's equal by defining 9/11 as an act of war to be met with war, instead of a crime to be met with criminal justice.

Carroll concludes his argument that we live in a time of peace by summarizing "Iraq is not a war, because, though we have savage assault, we have no enemy. The war on terrorism is not a war because, though we have an enemy, the muscle-bound Pentagon offers no authentic means of assault."


The easy counter to this column's weak argument is to ask Soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan if they are indeed at war. My guess is their answer would be a resounding yes. That is the low hanging fruit, however, and Caroll's weak argument deserves a more vigorous intellectual drubbing than a mere statement of the obvious.

Carroll proffers the fact that the insurgents aren't attempting to seize territory from us, so therefore do not qualify as a valid wartime enemy. The United States has engaged in several conflicts against foes who have never so much as contemplated stepping foot on the lower 48. We fought the Germans in Europe, not Cape Cod, and my guess is there wasn't a single Globe opinion column in the 1940s entitled "Is America Really at War with the Nazis?".

Carroll's second argument for not being at war is actually twofold: first, he states that we are not at war with Al Qaeda because the Pentagon is too inept to engage the organization; but then Carroll falls back to a 1990's view of terror as a crime, not an act of war, and faults the administration for engaging terrorists as combatants instead of criminals. You can't really have it both ways, James. This argument is more insidious than the first one, since to heed it would actually
imperil American society. To see the war on terror as anything less than a global struggle with a competent, organized (though loosely networked and cellular), ruthless foe is an error that could have tragic, even irreversible consequences. It is safer for all Americans if the government views contemplating the use of chemical or nuclear weapons as an act of war, rather than a felony.

Like the aforementioned example of World War II, it is better to leave nothing to chance, and harness all of the elements of national power to protect the nation and end the threat of terror on a global scale. Law enforcement is just one aspect of the tools available to reduce the threat of terror. Let's face it, on its own, the FBI would have had a much more difficult time of rooting out Al Qaeda in Afghanistan than the United States Army (who, four years later, are still having a pretty rough go of it over there). My guess is the Taliban would not have allowed too many warrants to be served in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

The absolute worst thing about Carroll's argument is that it is illustrative of what the American left offers as a coherent national security plan: absolutely nothing. People who see terror as a true and deadly threat to America have had a peach of a choice during the last few national election cycles: choose the party that is fighting the War on Terror/Iraq in an arguably poor manner, or choose the party that denies we are even at war.



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