There’s nothing like a bad metaphor to really sow misunderstanding and mayhem. When the thing being described is as serious and complicated as the threat from stateless terrorists, the consequences of a bad metaphor have corrupted our public discourse and foreign relations, decimated our Constitution and military infrastructure, and made us all less safe from all kinds of threats, internal AND external.
“What War on Terror?” asks Larry Johnson, who has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism, thus has a rather more “serious” perspective than the pants-wetting warmongers on the teevee and tubes:
The threat of terrorism, particularly for the U.S. military, has become a raison d’etre in the same way that the Soviet Union fueled budgets and weapons systems during the cold war. But with this critical difference–the Soviets actually had a five million man Army, thousands of ships, intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear subs, and a genuine first strike capability. All of the terrorist groups in the world, even if they combined their forces, do not begin to approach the scale and scope of threats the west faced during the Cold War.
At some point we need to recover common sense in dealing with terrorism. The threat is genuine but not ubiquitous. No terrorist organization in the world has demonstrated the ability to project and conduct sustained operations outside of their geographic support base. This means that coordinated, sustained pressure to disrupt financing, training, and recruitment will pay significant dividends in reducing the scale and scope of terrorist activity.
When the history of the Bush Administration’s “war” on terrorism is written, two critical shortcomings will emerge–the failure to sustain operations in Afghanistan and completely dismantle Al Qaeda and the failure to create a coordinated counter terrorism strategy that employed the vast resources of the Federal Government. The Bush Administration has talked a good game but, in terms of execution, it has fumbled the ball.