Thursday, July 28, 2011

The War on Terror

The War on Terror cannot be won, I've read many times. That's true, but I can't remember I've read anything more downright stupid.
First of all, the reverse is also true and much more important: they can't win.
And second, it is irrelevant that we can't win. Why?

Remember that other (in)famous statement: The War on Drugs cannot be won. Let me add a third one, that anyone would agree on: The War on Crime cannot be won. How long are we fighting crime? At the very least since the beginning of modern police, almost 200 years ago. And we still have rampant crime. So we lost that war? Let's assume we would stop fighting crime, what would happen? Theft, robbery, fraud, murder, mayhem would multiply. We would have vigilantes and many unsavory types of self-defense.
The only real question is: should we do more? Or could we do better? Is the sum total of all our efforts worth the trouble? We can't win the war on crime, unless we somehow could prevent people having criminal intentions. That seems a long way off, if at all doable. The question is even if that would be desirable. A society without crime may have negative side-effects we could consider undesirable. The only real questions are if we can be more effective and if we can be more efficient in our crime fighting.

That is the same question with the war on terror: are we effective enough and are we efficient enough? Could we direct our efforts better? Should we do more? Can we do better with the resources we are spending? At least theoretically, and probably also practically, the answers to those questions are affirmative.
The War on Poverty and the War on Hunger are not won. Still, a larger percentage of people are not hungry and not poor, compared to where we have been before. We are not doing really good, but we are not doing really bad either. We should seek room for improvement, not give room to despair. We need realism, not fatalism. The road to fatalism is fatal. Even more fatal than the road of Great Expectations.

In fighting the War on Terror, we need also realism, not fatalism. And we don't need absolutism. If we want to be sure that no children would ever be abused in their families, we need a form of control that would bring its own abuse. We shouldn't go there. And, of course, we shouldn't simply accept that children are abused in families. We should always seek to improve on present conditions.

With the War on Drugs, we may also do things that are counterproductive. Therefore, many people advocate legalizing drugs. Those people have a point, I think. Think about the War on Alcohol, that helped institutionalize an organized crime that we are still suffering from. But legalize alll drugs for everybody all of the time? Seems wrong, and worse: counterproductive.

Terror is the ultimate social evil. But we should not forget that terrrorist regimes create much more havoc than terrorist groups. In my book How People Make the World, I consider Terror the oldest and most fundamental of the ten global challenges we are facing. We should go on fighting that war, as smart and as tenacious as can be. And efforts to prevention are an essential ingredient. Let's set realistic goals, let's have an effective strategy, let's have smart tactics (yes Sun Tzu, we are listening!) and let's have efficient execution.

And let's not forget the War on Weakmindedness. Can't be won either.

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