Thursday, July 07, 2005


Most people will eventually conclude that the “war on terrorism” is ineffective. They will realize that waging war in Iraq is not the same as solving the problem of terrorism. Most will come to understand that terrorism is a form of asymmetric warfare, which means that terrorists will always strike targets we've chosen not to--or perhaps cannot--defend. A few may finally see that free societies will always be vulnerable.

Most people will someday realize that terrorists are criminals and that the rule of law, rather than being "obsolete" and “quaint” (as Alberto Gonzales described the Geneva Conventions), is in fact our greatest resource against terrorism. They will understand that torturing suspected terrorists in Guantánamo not only failed to prevent attacks in Bali, Istanbul, Madrid, Casablanca, and now London, it probably helped in recruiting those willing to commit those atrocities or atrocities yet to come.

But perhaps declaring a “war on terrorism” was not about making us feel more secure as much as it was about making us feel more powerful in the face of our vulnerability. If so, the good feelings engendered by displays of our power will fade with each reminder, whether on the streets of London, Baghdad, or elsewhere, of our vulnerability. Eventually, most will decide that it is better for our government to do something that makes us more secure than to do something that merely tries to make us feel better about ourselves.

Someday, but not today—at least not among our leaders. In response to the bombings in London, President Bush said, “The war on terror goes on.”