Doth conscience makes cowards of us all.
Ol' Shakespeare might as well have been talking about me when he wrote those words five hundred years ago. Ever since 9/11, I've been grappling with the immorality and illogic of the so-called 'War on Terror'. While criticising the hubris and stupidity of Dubya's foreign policies, I may have lost the plot and missed the point in the process. Like so many, I've forgotten that we have a serious problem here, and we need to face it.
The cowardly London attacks have completely changed my perspective. We must fight terror. We must use force. And Canada must become involved in a multilateral global effort to end all political murder around the world.
You cannot reason with these people. Any weak-minded fool who subsribes to fundamentalist dogma- be they Christian, Muslim or Jew- is unable to understand a rational argument because they have willfully abandoned rationality. What we are left to deal with is a herd of homicidal sheep led by twisted men who worship only themselves. Once someone decides their own sense of self-righteous purpose excedes the very basic value of human life, they are lost to humanity. They cannot be reformed. They must simply be stopped.
All of this is not to say I support either the principles or strategy of America's War on Terror. Iraq is a farce. The United States went in to satisfy the political and economic interests of the neo-conservatives, and created what could well prove an impossible nation-building project. Oh, and a giant recruiting office for terrorists. This is not the model we need to emulate.
So, how to fight a war on terror? First, we in the western world must take pains to excise hypocrisy from our foreign policies. We must not condemn acts we are guilty of committing. The west has perpetrated and continues to perpetrate acts of terrorism around the world, and are complicit in many others. We must immediately stop these practices and apologize to those affected. We must also not make requirements of others we ourselves are not prepared to fulfill. Only then will our pronouncements on freedom and justice not ring hollow.
We also cannot be selective in the terror we combat. To invade Afghanistan while ignoring Darfur is folly. It allows critics to (rightly) contend that western humanitarian intervention may be about more than just preserving and promoting human rights. Like oil, or votes, or a whole host of other things which tend not to win a lot of support on the ground.
We must attack the circumstances which give terrorists power. Poverty makes people desperate and open to dogma. Unilateral political action and the imposition of one nation's will over another appears as imperialism. Support for repressive regimes who tacitly co-operate with our international aims engenders anger and hatred. In other words, we must truly practice what we preach and work towards political and economic equality around the globe.
Any war against terror must be multilateral and international. In the interests of legitimacy, and indeed ultimate success, no one nation can be seen to lead the effort. More importantly, the war on terror must be fought within the rule of law. No Gitmos. No torture. Fair trials for all. We cannot fight the terrorists with the terrorists' tools. If we lose the central tenants of our civilization in our struggle against terrorism, there will be nothing left to protect.
And finally, we must be willing to fight, to put our lives at risk to eliminate terrorism. This is not a conventional war. Invading foreign nations with tendentious connections to terrorism may ape 'war as usual', but it is totally ineffective. We need new strategies, new methods. And we can never accept civilian casualties. If we do, we are no better than our enemies.
In short, fighting a war on terror is going to be hard. It will be expensive. It will involve serious soul-searching in Western nations, and a painful reckoning with history. It will take a long time. There will be casualties. But we cannot afford to be kept captive by mediaevally-minded murderers, or our own illusions, any more.