America's "War on Terror" is the logical culmination of years of U.S. global involvement. Known for our ability to couch ordinary military action in ideological terms, Americans have always understood that our real enemies transcend the flesh-and-blood soldiers that represent them: we didn't fight German soldiers, we fought Nazism; we didn't fight Koreans, Russians, and the Chinese, we fought Communism; and now, we aren't fighting Arabs, we're fighting Terrorism.
The problem with the present ideological conflict is that its parameters are so hazy and undefined. What terror are we making war on, exactly? Is it fear itself? If so, in which direction do we aim our bullets and missiles? Or is it Arab terrorists in particular? In which case, how do we know which Arabs are on our side, and which ones are the enemy? The list of questions could go on and on, and so far no government or military officials have even attempted to answer any of them categorically or even satisfactorily.
This isn't simply a politically-driven rant, mind you. These questions are very real and very pertinent, especially when you consider just how damaging this shapeless conflict has been. Obviously, some will point out, the damages which instigated the war were just as damaging as those inflicted since. But are they? We live a long way from the fighting, and we don't see how the lives of innocent Afghanis and Iraqis have been torn utterly apart in the interest of vengeance for deeds perpetrated by terrorists.
September 11, 2001 is a date those who lived through it won't forget anytime soon. Hijacked planes crashed into the NYC World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, and it was later discovered the attacks were perpetrated in the name of al-Qaeda, a radical Islamic terrorist organization. al-Qaeda was headed by Osama bin Laden (since assassinated by U.S. operatives), a one-eyed Muslim radical issuing death to infidels from a cave somewhere.
The situation back then warranted such involvement, at least from an American perspective. From 1979-1989, Soviet Russia waged a long and destructive war in Afghanistan designed to add that country to its list of dependent states. Osama bin Laden was a leader in the Afghan resistance, a Saudi soldier bent on waging Jihad against the atheist Communist soldiers, who may or may not have benefited from CIA weapons and training dispensed to the Afghan militias.
bin Laden's hatred has since become legendary. The al-Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11 symbolized this hatred, gave form to it, and was supposedly directed against the perversion and ungodliness of the (somewhat vague and nebulous) West. (It's interesting that when Navy SEALS finally penetrated bin Laden's lair in Pakistan, they found a very large collection of electronically recorded pornography.)
In retaliation, the U.S. attacked bin Laden's supposed base of operations: Afghanistan. The problem with this, of course, is that Afghanistan is a very large country, and to bring military action against a shadowy enemy in a vast unknown region necessarily entails violence against non-combatants. Of course, the U.S. military wouldn't involve civilians on purpose; but civilians were involved on a large scale, just as they had been during the Soviet war in Afghanistan decades before.
From Afghanistan, the conflict spread to Iraq, where Saddam Hussein was ousted and eventually executed. Now that bin Laden and Hussein are both dead, one would think the objectives of the War on Terror have been completed, at least so far as those two countries are concerned, and yet we still maintain an active military presence in both countries. This, of course, has led to confusion, anger, frustration, and bafflement, among both the political Left and Right.
Why are we still there? Granted, there are military and political realities of which the common citizen knows nothing. And yet, the lack of straight answers is worrisome, and stems from one reason alone: you can't support a merely ideological conflict with hard evidence and documentation. The problem with making war on terror is that terror isn't a country or a ruler or a clearly-defined objective. Terror is an abstract concept, subjective, and can be manipulated to fit any situation as deemed necessary.
None of this means that we need to protest the War on Terror, complain loudly, or carry signs around accusing our political leaders of atrocity. It simply means that we should pray for the soldiers fighting, the civilians affected, the politicians making decisions, the returning veterans trying to re-integrate into society, and most of all for God's glory. War is always horrible, whether it's ideological or merely political, and we need to support both friends and enemies the only way Christians can: through prayer and selfless sacrifice.