The War on Terror is much more than a colossal waste. It is the most potent threat Americans face to their liberties and security. With one spectacular blow al-Qaeda managed to exploit the fantasies of a New American Century cabal inside the Bush administration and sucker the American people and its leaders into a response that serves its interests. The overstated, but publicly honored, War on Terror and the catastrophic invasion of Iraq associated with it rescued the jihadi movement from oblivion by convincing most of the Muslim world that jihadi propaganda about the infidel Christians and Jews was actually correct.
At home, Americans have been so bamboozled by the hysterical imagery of the War on Terror that the absence of evidence of a truly serious terrorist threat cannot even be a topic of public discussion. Politicians, the news media, rival government agencies, defense contractors, lobbyists of all kinds, universities, and the entertainment industry battle ferociously to increase revenues and pump up reputations by posing as more committed to winning the War on Terror than their competitors. Frustrated by their inability to find any evidence of serious terrorist activities in the U.S., law enforcement and related agencies escalate techniques of pre-emptive prosecution and entrapment to justify their enormous budgets.
Terror is a problem, but the War on Terror, because it turns U.S. power against America, is a catastrophe.
Ian S. Lustick is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and Professor of Political Science and Director of Graduate Studies in the Political Science Department at the University of Pennsylvania, where he holds the Bess W. Heyman Chair.