John McGowan has a thoughtful and moving post about the “war on terror” and whether a violent response is the best response. It’s quite a radical statement, and it may actually be true. Unfortunately I don’t think you’re ever going to convince a majority of Americans to behave so responsibly. When they’re hit, Americans like to hit back, even if that’s not the best way to solve the problem.
Meanwhile, over at Reason, they’ve got a great interview with John Mueller. Mueller makes the case that with most acts of terrorism, what’s needed is a police action, not a military action. September 11 was the exception, because there was an obvious state sponsor, so it made sense to go and invade Afghanistan (though obviously not Iraq).
Since that worked so well (yes, I’m saying it sarcastically), the kneejerk reaction now when there’s another act of terrorism is to go find another country to invade. But Mueller would argue that in most cases, an invasion is not what’s called for — instead, a police-style investigation to find the actual perpetrators is all we can really do. Just as we can’t stop all crime, we can’t stop all terrorism.
I think Mueller’s approach might be more palatable with more people than McGowan’s. Especially with the decline in popularity of the conflict in Iraq, a politician could get somewhere by saying that we’ve got to go after the terrorists, but we can’t do it by starting a war every time a bus is bombed. That’s doing what the terrorists want — they want us to overreact, but we’re not going to do that, because we’re better than them. We’ll coldly and cooly find out who did it, and hunt them down, no matter how long it takes. It may not be as sexy as a war, but it’s more effective. And isn’t that what we really want — something that really works, instead of something that looks good on CNN?