Re "Another name for 'war,' " Opinion, Nov. 2
The military threat posed by Syria, Iran and Al Qaeda (and in the past by Iraq) is terrorism -- the belligerents exercise terrorism to wage war. This has been horrifically demonstrated in the campaign against Israel and in the present conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Terrorism in the Middle East is a form of war wrapped in an Islamic religious cloak sanctioned by the exploitation of religious extremism. How do we confront the war on terror? By acknowledging its special attributes compared to traditional wars in which the Geneva Convention has been applied. Timothy Garton Ash, through his use of semantics, criticizes the very concept of the true war on terror, and as a result he betrays our military.
\o7Arroyo Grande, Calif.
The best word to describe an offensive for a moral purpose would be "crusade." The fact is that mankind has declared a global crusade against terror. Death squads, gangs, outlaws, mobsters and assassins all exhibit criminal behavior and act outside the laws that govern civilized societies. Other words don't convey the moral righteousness of a battle between good and evil.
Ash gives the phrase "war on terror" a weight that its etymology and construction can't support. Like the wars on drugs, crime and poverty that preceded it, it's a flaccid metaphor created only for short-term domestic political consumption.
More to the point, it's an impossibility. You can't wage war on a technique. It's like railing against your enemy's unfair use of artillery or propaganda leaflets. Next to the central conflict that confronts you, it's trivial to the point of irrelevance.
Unfortunately for Ash and others, Americans seem to relish being in a perennial state of war. Since the (undeclared) Korean War, we've had the Vietnam War, Cold War, war on poverty, war on drugs and now this. Perhaps it's the only way we feel comfortable in addressing a problem.
Of course, using war as the metaphor provides our president his justification for suspending constitutional guarantees and exercising virtually unrestrained authority over alleged prisoners of war. Terrorists, be they Timothy McVeigh or Osama bin Laden, are criminals and should be treated as such. We derive no higher moral authority by declaring war on them.
GEORGE M. MOOD
I was struck dumb by Ash's suggestion that we need "an alternative" name for the war on terror, and that to his mind the "word that keeps popping up is 'struggle.' " Funny, our terrorist enemies think along the same lines he does -- they already call this war a struggle: "jihad."
GABRIELLE RABIN TSABAG