If the debate were about morality, we'd admit that our country commits terrorist acts with relative impunity -- and then we'd consider whether that's the country we want to go on being.
Terrorism is generally thought to be a weapon of the weak, but there's no inherent reason it can't work even more effectively for the strong, at least in the short term. Especially when the strong have the media ability to redefine their terrorist acts as "targeted killings" or, better, "signature strikes."
What's good about the "war on terrorism" (for America) is that it's a war we can't lose. Those foreign terrorists, no matter how you add them up, cannot become an existential threat to the United States. They don't have the numbers or the resources.
So why does the U.S. pursue fundamentally impotent enemies with such implacable ferocity? Especially, why does the U.S. pursue terrorists in ways that create more terrorists than we kill?
Or is that the point?
What if the Point of the War on Terror is to Sustain the War on Terror?
Since 9/11 our government, with the consent of all too many of the governed, has taken us down the road of permanent war against an abstraction -- terrorism -- rooted in a racist premise, that the terrorists are mostly Arabs or Muslims or some sort of poor, brown people.
They envy us our freedoms, as some like to say, with apparently unintended irony, since the course of permanent war abroad has been accompanied by a permanent state of security at home that looks more and more like the latest incarnation of a police state.
That enlarged authoritarian presence in our lives likely contributes to concern about the constitution and the rule of law -- even when those concerned ignore the rule of lawlessness in places like Yemen. Taking this situation as a whole, the constitution looks more and more like collateral damage.
On its face, American anti-terrorism terrorism is insanely stupid in its ineffectual circularity. Or is it fiendishly clever, however planned or unplanned, in its seemingly infinite self-perpetuation?
When our President and our government commit terrorist acts, they do so partly in our name. When our Congressmen and our Senators seek to justify the government's terrorist acts, or to cover them over with a transparent film of legality, they do so partly in our name. When our judges allow the terrorist acts of the American government to go unchallenged and unaccountable, they do so partly in our name.
These are the fundamental elements of our three-branch government conspiring to commit terrorist acts around the world, thereby making us all terrorists, except those who resist.