Should Canada Fight the War on Terror?
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, American President George W. Bush was quick to declare a “War on Terror”. Canada joined in at least to the extent of marching into Afghanistan, and passing an arguably repressive Anti-Terrorism Act in order to better combat terrorist activity and terrorist financing on the home front.
I always thought the phrase “War on Terror” was a bit silly, for a reason cogently expressed by the Polish-born American strategic thinker Zbigniew Brzezinski :
Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare — political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.
To adapt an analogy that I believe Brzezinski himself has used, my grandfather never went to war against the strategic concept of blitzkrieg. He went to war against Germany and Italy. This is more than a semantic quibble, since it makes the difference between an idealistic crusade against all movements that employ terrorism and a sensible policy of fighting those specific terrorists who represent a substantive threat to Canada and its allies.
Perhaps Canadian troops are not fighting a War on Terror in Afghanistan, bur rather a more specific War on Al-Qaeda or at least a War on Militant Islam. The need for Canada and other western countries to actively fight such a war is obviously debatable, a point I’ll return to in future posts. Insofar as the need exists, however, it arises more from the desire of the jihadists to attack the west than from the tactics they adopt. If jihadists everywhere swore off terrorism, and stuck to more chivalrous tactics, it would still be approximately as necessary to fight with them. It would just be easier.
My other objection to “War on Terror” rhetoric is that it gives too much prominence to a phenomenon that is basically peripheral. Of course a successful terrorist attack is tragic on a small, human scale, but then, so is a car crash. According to Wikipedia, the 3,000 or so 9/11 fatalities amount to well under 10% of the number of people who die in car crashes in America every year.
By all means, we Canadians should take a few sensible measures to protect ourselves from the very small number of militant Muslims who realistically aspire to launch terrorist attacks against us. But let’s fight this minor battle with cool heads, and not let it become a distraction from our real problems.