The War on Terror

While listening to NPR this morning, I heard a news piece on the changing strategy of this administration for “The War on Terror.”
What struck me, as I think about my own reactions to things and the common responses we make as a nation, is the idea of where we go first within ourselves and within our national psyche when we respond to events and threats. Do we go first: to force, to negotiation, to acquiescence, to isolation, to dialogue, to the old tried methods, to the trendy, to the violent, to the verbose, or to the hypocritical? What is the nexus of our reaction: pride, haughtiness, fear, confidence, humility, true concern for others, cowardice, selfishness, arrogance, or intentional ignorance? Our better selves, or our worst selves?
There were two approaches, two worldviews, two mindsets battling for attention right after 9-11 as we searched ourselves for the right response. One approach was that of empire, force, dominance, and arrogance. The other may be based on a sense of self-absurdity that requires humility. We could have approached this tragedy and the complex issues surrounding it with a response by which we are able to convince the majority of people who we see as the “problem” of our way, our perspective – peace, freedom, co-existence, development, mutual respect if not agreement. It can be said to be a battle of minds, ideas, or beliefs. It seems that the way of Rumsfeld eclipsed the way of Powell. Military vs. State.
We settled for a “War on Terror,” rather than a battle of ideas and ways of thinking for the hearts and minds of those “other” people. We settled for a war that requires no sacrifice on the home-front, just our sons and daughters in foreign lands and the countless killed in other own countries. Are we more secure or not? Are Iraqis better off – really? My hope is that we will in fact come through this in one piece and that Iraq will develop into a stable democracy. Yet, only after undeniable failure is this administration finally willing to consider that “staying the course” will only make things worse. A new way of thinking is needed – perhaps the way of thinking that was rejected in the beginning.
There are those who will fight to kill and with whom there is no mutual agreement possible – they will kill to achieve their goals. They are tyrants and dictators. These people are not the majority of Arab and Muslims, but the majority could come to sympathize with the terrorists. If we choose to respond and react like those who will kill and destroy to achieve their ends, we become like them – unworthy of the respect, cooperation, or allegiance of those found in the middle of the crisis and on the battlefield.
We have been losing the battle of ideas, of minds, of affections over the past years because we try to be tougher and more menacing then the terrorists. We have become like them, and we have lost the minds, the emotions, and the respect of Arabs, Muslims, and much of the world. I really don’t care whether we are liked or not, but I do care whether we are respect for our integrity, honesty, consistency, and willingness to seek solutions that enable everyone to be a piece – perhaps not agreement or acceptance, but at least at peace. Idealistic?, perhaps, but we really do need a new way of thinking about the situations we are in worldwide.