Quest for 2004: Identifying the enemy before starting a war

This United States government of ours has become too quick on the draw. Without properly identifying the enemy, it has wasted no time in declaring all-out wars.

First it was the war in Vietnam … then the war on Poverty… followed by the war on Drugs. And now it’s the war on Terrorism.

Our elected leaders have failed to recognize that wars cannot be won until the enemy is identified, battled and subdued. And time after time, these leaders have not even reached that very first stage: identification.

Without admitting the obvious defeats, America laid down its weapons and declared both Vietnam and Poverty as no longer battlefields. However, two other wars, against Drugs and Terrorism, are alive and well, sucking the nation’s human energy and economic resources and dumping them into a bottomless pit. Our “Man from Washington” has found his mean and evil giants in what many of us see nothing but obvious windmills; except that in this case, unlike the Man from La Mancha, the knight leading this blind charge lacks a sanity excuse, and therefore a reason for moral redemption.

In a pigheaded way, our leaders continue to misidentify who the real enemies are, and by so doing, pit Americans against other Americans in a civil war of minds and hearts.

Our government has for three decades fought the war on Drugs with lofty moral rhetoric, brandishing its weaponry in scrimmages with a self-perpetuating decoy: drug supply… instead of fighting the real enemy: drug demand.

Four presidents have named their knights-of-virtue, dubbed as “drug czars,” to keep America free from temptation. Czars without vision, from self-anointed moralists- some might add, with questionable morals; to military men with doubtful expertise. But all the while, countless billions of dollars have done little to diminish the supply of drugs entering the country, or curb the demand.

And we consider ourselves experts on what free markets are all about!

Forget about another emperor, king, or moralist czar. Our government needs to publicly acknowledge that the enemy is demand, not drug supply. Then, put enough resources to decimate that demand, and then decimate it again with a comprehensive multifaceted program of education, rehabilitation and fair punitive enforcement. In the short term, the savings from not having to house a gigantic drug-related penal colony will likely cover the cost of a continuing program to keep the country reasonably drug-free.

As for the war on Terrorism… our elected officials might be wise to consider why we are targets of terrorism. It won’t take much of a research effort to find why we have become targets of hate… not of envy, but of hate. Unless we prefer to continue blindfolded, or in a state of denial, the answer is crystal clear: our foreign policy is not evenhanded, no matter how we defend it or rationalize it.

If American elected officials insist on maintaining a self-righteous stance, they must be willing to accept international criticism. And if Americans keep electing leaders who advocate policies of hegemonic unilateral action, prejudicial treatment of foreign peoples and nations, and overtly declare America above international laws… then, we must be willing to accept the consequences.

If only our government in Washington would have the wisdom to pause for a moment, reflect on its actions and take stock on what is best for the country, for all of us, identifying the enemy would become a simple task. Perhaps 2004 can bring that wisdom and change some minds, and some hearts. At the very least, it will bring us an election… an opportunity for self-cleansing, for humanizing renovation.

Meantime, we can always remind our leaders day after day who the enemies are in these two wars we are fighting. Demand is the enemy in the war on Drugs. And a flawed Foreign Policy is the principal enemy in the war on Terrorism.