September 11 Started a War at Home
These are the times when we define ourselves--as individuals and as nations. Are we confronters or evaders? Philosophers or actors? We pursue our *personal* destinies in our support, condemnation, or indifference regarding our nation's pursuit of *its* destiny. The result: USA in war abroad, and in turmoil at home. While we all agree that the attacks were horrific and unjustifiable and that a rapid response was desirable, the responses we condone diverge dramatically. The impassioned dissension among Americans is echoed here on campus, with the Coalition Against Terrorism advocating war and the Peace Network impugning it.
No surprise that our emotions are running high, with so much at stake. Countless lives are in jeopardy, in US and the middle east, given the endless possibilities for physical, chemical, and biological warfare, and the presence of nuclear weapons simpler than many household appliances. We have enough reason for disquiet without adding clashes on the homefront to the list. Yet each side accuses the other of kneejerk reactions: the patriots call the pacifists habitual apologists and anti-Americans, and the pacifists label the patriots' military response an act of fury and rage.
Surely there is some confusion on both sides. The fact that very few have crossed party lines supports this point. If there were any broadly convincing facts, we might find people who traditionally support the US stance opposing the war, or vice versa. But those who have always been in favor of American foreign policy are the strongest supporters of the war effort, and those who have always been most cynical of it are the strongest detractors. This is not to say that neither side has good reason for their positions, merely that they have the same kind of reasons as before. It seems that everyone is using these events to pursue their personal ends.
What else can we do? No one knows whether the balance of the consequences of war will be positive or negative. Will the civilian lives lost while unbalancing the Taliban outweigh the oppression of the Afghani people under that fundmentalist regime? Will the swift and forceful response against terrorists deter terrorism or incite further anti-American hate? Will the Northern Alliance be enough of an improvement over the Taliban to justify the costs of the operation? We have no clue. The variables are infinite and immeasurable, and that's that. One simply can't use such arguments to justify a decision of war vs. peace. Only the smaller scale decisions lend themselves to such calculations: all else being equal, the less civilians we kill, the better. At least we can agree on that.
On the issue of war vs. peace, we should agree to disagree. Since we can't...