The Error of the War on Terror

Israel’s failure to subdue Hezbollah demonstrates the many weaknesses of the war-on-terror concept. One weakness is that even if the targets are terrorists, the victims are often innocent civilians, and their suffering reinforces the terrorist cause.

In response to Hezbollah’s attacks, Israel was justified in attacking Hezbollah to protect itself against the threat of missiles on its border. However, Israel should have taken greater care to minimize collateral damage. The civilian casualties and material damage inflicted on Lebanon inflamed Muslims and world opinion against Israel and converted Hezbollah from aggressors to heroes of resistance. Weakening Lebanon has also made it more difficult to rein in Hezbollah.

Another weakness of the war-on-terror concept is that it relies on military action and rules out political approaches. Israel withdrew from Lebanon and then from Gaza unilaterally, rather than negotiating political settlements with the Lebanese government and the Palestinian authority. The strengthening of Hezbollah and Hamas was a direct consequence of that approach. The war-on-terror concept stands in the way of recognizing this fact because it separates “us” from “them” and denies that our actions may shape their behavior.

A third weakness is that the war-on-terror concept lumps together different political movements that use terrorist tactics. It fails to distinguish between Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda or the Sunni insurrection and the Mahdi militia in Iraq. Yet all these terrorist manifestations are different and require different responses. Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah can be treated merely as targets in the war on terror because they have deep roots in their societies; yet profound differences exist between them.