One good thing about terrorism is that it makes conventional war look stupid.

The true weapon of terrorism is collateral damage. When terrorists consider people collateral they don’t become any worse terrorists because they are already at the bottom. When governments consider its own people collateral it is reprehensible. It is of the highest order of reprehensibility when a government uses its minorities as collateral.

Fights with terrorists begin with governments as the good guy and terrorists as the bad guy, but invariably, the governments begin to look like the bad guy and the terrorists, well, they stay terrorists. A government may actually take back its real estate in their war with terrorists but the win will not last, because the relatives and friends of the collateraled will not forget.

A few days after 9/11 I met an older friend in a café in Washington, D.C. We had arrangedto meet even before the terrorist attack on America. Bush had just said he was going to hunt down the terrorists in Afghanistan. I asked my friend, He was a retired senior civil servant, a democrat and a good Christian, something I would have been embarrassed to ask anybody else but family or friend. What if, I asked, America was to say to the world: We respect human life and we will not endanger a single life to seek revenge; Join with us to eliminate terrorism. My friend said flatly that Americans can’t do that. Later, I posed the same question to my husband and then my son, both gave a flat no.

They are all going to be proven wrong, because conventional war is becoming just too untenable.

Five years after Afghanistan was carpet-bombed the Taliban is creeping back. Iraq is a mess with Arabs and Americans dying every day. Americans are being hated more and more around the world, when in actual fact the average American’s respect for fellow human beings would put many societies to shame.

Terrorism can only be fought with good will, and sooner or later the guys will figure it out.

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