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Sowing Dragon's Teeth

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President Bush, in his recent State of the Union address, identified "radical Islam " as America's latest mortal enemy. Given that prior to its annual marketing release a SOTU address has undergone more revisions than Phyllis Diller, one would assume such a term was not chosen lightly.

The war on "radical Islam " is the latest fork in the meandering etymological road down which this country has been misled since September 11, 2001. What started as the war against terror, proclaimed by the president to Congress in the aftermath of the attacks, has undergone many a metamorphosis.

First was when the "war on terror " was admitted as misnamed by the President in the summer of 2004. "It ought to be the 'struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies who happen to use terror as a weapon to try and shake the conscience of the free world. ' " Later that summer, the President was roundly vilified for his refreshing candor when he stated that America could never actually "win " the "war on terror ", and that we should instead be satisfied in reducing terrorism to the level of "nuisance ".

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2005 renamed the "war on terror " the "global struggle against violent extremism ". Like old flypaper at the Crawford ranch, it didn 't stick. After all, what president wants to be a "struggle " president when he can be a "war " president? And so the name was changed once again, to the "global war on terror ", and then, briefly, to the war against "the Universal Adversary ".

I don 't know what that last one means either.

Now the President seems to have settled on "radical Islam ", and the U.S. Defense Department has settled on "the long war " as the name of its battle against it. In his speech, the President said that it is the aim of his administration to defeat "radical Islam ". Well, if the strategy of defeating it entails first inflaming it and then swelling its ranks, then by most any measure the administration is thus far astoundingly successful.


For rather than controlling terrorism, our actions in Iraq have licensed it. Through our invasion of choice, not of necessity, we have created a nation-sized terrorist training camp far larger and more live-action than bin Laden could ever have dreamed to build in Talibani Afghanistan. We 're breeding terrorists faster than we can kill them, and incubating the next generation of global terrorists.

Ultimately, the US Army in Iraq is training the future resistance to itself.

That is not to say that "radical Islam " should be conflated with "terrorism ". Not every "radical " Muslim is a terrorist. Not every "radical " Christian is an Eric Rudolph. A very few "radicals " of any religious or political persuasion ever resort to violence. By conflating the two terms, and indicting any form of Islam as our mortal enemy, the President has validated Osama bin Laden 's oft-repeated claim that the largely Christian West is on a crusade against the Muslim world. A "long war " whose end cannot be seen is indeed in the offing, a civilizational clash beyond the wildest dreams of bin Laden and revelational fantasies of fundamentalist Christians.

War cannot, and never will, defeat terrorism. War cannot, and never will, defeat "radical Islam ". By his insistence that it can, the President is sowing dragon 's teeth, and breaking the backs of our military and treasury with his burden of the unachievable.

 

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Todd Huffman is a pediatrician and writer living in Eugene, Oregon. He is a regular contributor to many newspapers and publications throughout the Pacific Northwest.

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