Technically we are still at “war”, in that we have troops stationed in two foreign countries engaging in military activity. But the slight of hand that the administration has used is to conflate these military actions with the “war on terror” and thus be able to claim a never ending state of war.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are over. What we have now is post-war occupation and policing. If the wars weren’t over would we be engaged in reconstruction activities? I don’t remember the allies rebuilding parts of Germany in 1943.

Rebuilding starts when the enemy has been subdued and the war is over.

The other war (on terrorism) is a metaphorical war, like the war on drugs or the war on crime. Groups of people, “terrorists”, wish to engage in committing illegal activities which may cause harm to others. The only effective response is some combination of policing and investigation. A traditional military response won’t work since there are seldom military targets to attack. Thus, this is not a “war” as such, but an ongoing effort to maintain public order and security. It is what all countries do as a matter of course. Criminal enterprises are never entirely eradicated, that’s why every society has a police function.

So we are not at war, anymore. We are engaged in an ongoing effort to prevent harmful and illegal actions by those who wish to pursue their own objectives. These people can be drug dealers, the mafia, or “terrorists”. The techniques for countering their threats are the same and don’t require extraordinary federal powers.

So let’s not play into the hands of those making a power play and stop using their slanted terminology. The US is not at war. Let’s not let those who wish to abuse their power continue to use this as an excuse for civil liberties abuses.

Iraq and Afghanistan are (to use an unfashionable term) peacekeeping operations and the effort to prevent illegal attacks in the US is just that, a police effort against violent lawbreakers.

This is not a suggestion on how to proceed in either country, I have no military expertise, but rather a plea for us to reframe the discussion so that the administration can no longer equate the military actions with vague police and surveillance activities.

I’ve written previously on the dangers of a secret police effort from an historical perspective. If you didn’t see it before:

Surveillance vs Civil Liberties

History may not repeat, but it is all we have to go on when looking toward the future.

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