War On Terror A 'Total War'?
The War on Terror is a new kind of total war. It is not Sherman's March to the Sea, the Siege of Leningrad or even the Tet Offensive in terms of military scale or involvement.
Yet it is a total war, in that it requires a total concentration of the proper resources to fight this war, with human intelligence, international cooperation, law enforcement, and bribery, assassinations and perhaps even extra-constitutional means of extracting information all put to proper use. We need to be even more asymmetrical than our asymmetric enemy. We still need the military option, but it is only one weapon among many. The Pentagon had the right idea in deemphasizing the 'war' aspect of the GWOT because it plays up too much on the military as the solution. Much of the ridicule this concept received was unjustified.
It is cliché, but true: if we change the way we live, the terrorists have won. Prior worldwide conflicts such as World War II demanded huge changes in lifestyle for the people. Paradoxically, in the War on Terror the people maintain their morale by not changing their lifestyle, which would be an admission to the enemy that they can really affect us as a group. Nor is there as much need to even change the status quo on the homefront, this conflict is not nearly as intense or extensive as World War II, Korea, or even Vietnam. I am sure that the World War II generation felt that conflict was far more intrusive into their lives than this War on Terror.
This is not to say that the War on Terror is a trifle compared to past wars. Unlike those wars, our very home is now threatened. And threatened no less by the possibility that the most dread force of all, nuclear weapons, might be detonated here in America. The threats posed to us, the nature of its delivery system, the origin of the threat, the selected targets--everything is different about this war.
Our new enemy is an elusive shadow, not an army of mechanized divisions, and he must be fought in the shadows. If we can't find the shadow, we must remove his hiding places among the reactionary middle eastern states that harbor him. Our best weapons are ballot boxes, the spread of information and, seriously, protest babes. And so not only are the challenges of this new war quite different, the solutions are different as well, and not the old-style 'total war' sledgehammer approved of by some. This war requires a scalpel instead. We are, after all, defending ourselves against a cancer.