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February 7, 2005

US Errors in the War on Terror


And how to fix them

by Jordan Levine

Almost three years ago, President Bush unconventionally declared war not on one country or world power, but on anybody or anything in a category he referred to as the "axis of evil" countries President Bush wanted the American people to believe were harboring terrorists.

There are several reasons why the War on Terror must be reformed, reasons that all Americans as citizens not of only the United States but as citizens of Earth must recognize.

First, the War on Terror promotes the use of broad, sweeping statements about the characteristics of "all" of a country's citizens. Not all Palestinians are malevolent, nor are all French, nor are all North Koreans, nor are all citizens of any country that is perceived to be opposed to the U.S. Similarly, not all Israelis are benevolent, nor are all British, nor are all Spaniards, nor are all Americans, for that matter. The stereotyping of all citizens of a nation and its allies as "with the U.S." or "against the U.S." only breeds more trouble, and these generalizations should not be maintained. When we hold biases against other cultures, they are likely to do the same to us.

Second, the War on Terror must be reformed because Bush does not hold all nations to the same standards. For example, Israel has violated 138 UN resolutions, while Iraq had violated only about half that number of resolutions of the same seriousness before the U.S. invasion. Many Palestinians are against us because we defend the taking of what they feel is rightfully theirs. Not once has the U.S. under the Bush administration denounced or condemned Israel in any way, shape, or form. I am not anti-Israel, just anti-double standards. Bush must change his one-sided, unfair, hypocritical approach to "compromise."

Lastly, the War on Terror conveniently ignores the fact that, like many U.S. citizens, terrorists are skilled in their profession, which is destruction. Many of the high-ranking al-Qaeda operatives are knowledgeable or have a degree in physics or engineering. The job of terrorists is to evade and destroy, and we cannot stop them with our current strategy. This strategy yields problematic tactics. We are trying to pick needles out of a haystack. In Iraq, for instance, the insurgents (often called "terrorists" by war supporters) are few and far between, but it is logistically impossible to be mindful of the civilian masses while trying to eradicate a relatively small, scattered, yet destructive group.

Our mouse-hunt tactics will not work. We must change our strategy to one of self-reform. We must erase our stereotypes against or in favor of other nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, or forms of government. We must erase our notion that democracy is indispensable for all. To win this war, we must try to honestly evaluate customs and beliefs that to some of us seem abnormal. To adamant practitioners of different ways of life, democracy may seem abnormal.

We have ruined the continuity, stability, and predictability of the average Iraqi's life. An Iraqi citizen can't walk into a coffee shop without worrying that his or her head will be blown away by a suicide bomber, even in the Baghdad "green zone" or on a friendly military base, as we learned not too long ago. Day by day, due in part to this feeling of insecurity, we anger more people and create more terrorists. When we anger Iraqis when we shut off their power, when they can't get to work, when they hear about realtives and fellow citizens being abused in prison we give them one more reason to join a terrorist network, and we create one more terrorist to fight. I wouldn't be surprised if two new terrorists are created for every one we capture. This self-perpetuation of terrorists makes the war even more impossible to win the way we are currently fighting it.

We become more and more of a terror target each day because of our treatment of certain nationalities, our failed yet continuing tactics, and our unconditional affinity for Israel. In order to win the War on Terror, we must value the needs and concerns of all groups equally. We cannot favor one nation over another. Once the U.S. clearly emerges as a nation with tolerance and respect for all people, I believe our terror problem will eventually solve itself.

 

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Jordan Levine is a 10th-grade student in New York City. He is a staff writer for his weekly school newspaper, a leader or participant in several student-run, politically-oriented high school organizations, and an aspiring politician.

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