Thursday the U.S. Senate made an interesting choice.
It departed from the post-9/11 world, where we were "at war" with the people who planned and performed an act of political violence, and entered the post-post-9/11 world, where we are "at war" with those people who support, in various ways and to various degrees, the people we went "to war" with after 9/11.
Now I'm not going to pursue this further; those of you who have read my previous writing here know how I feel about that. And I don't think that this was a dramatic step beyond - it really just formalized what my country has been doing for most of the past decade or so. It's a tad depressing to realize that the notion that the entire world is now a "battlefield" is so unexceptional that it passes without general comment. But not surprising.
But I'd just like to observe that, to me, the fascinating part of all this is how much it reflects the convergence of our "warriors" and the "warriors" we officially fear, hate, and despise.
Here's Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson on the entire notion of presumption-of-innocence in a nation "at war" - "U.S. citizens do not have immunity when they are at war with the United States. Johnson said only the executive branch, not the courts, is equipped to make military battlefield targeting decisions about who qualifies as an enemy."
And here's shoe bomber Richard Reid on why he wanted to blow up a planeload of civilians: "I am at war with your country. I’m at war with them not for personal reasons but because they have murdered more than, so many children and they have oppressed my religion and they have oppressed people for no reason except that they say we believe in Allah."
So my question is - how and when does it end?
Does it EVER end?
How CAN it ever end?
If the "enemy" is everyone you hate...and the "war" consists of when, where, and who you want it to be, whether you're an individual with a grudge, or a government official pondering a potential for some present - or even future - "danger"...how can you ever say that the "war" is over?
Because I cannot see any serious political figure or faction on the U.S. scene that disagrees with this broad formulation that "We Are At War!". Democrats, Republicans...everyone I see and hear, everyone who is in a position to actually effect U.S. policy...all appear to agree in one form or another that We Are At War and that our national foreign, military, and economic policy MUST be shaped by that.
And the people we are "at war" with are in large measure fantasists, goofballs that truly believe in bin Ladin's Caliphate opium-dream, or just angry and vengeful because we have killed someone they care about, or are in it for some other sort of personal revenge. That's not a war that's fought for policy that ends with a peace treaty; that's the sort of "war" that only ends with a grave.
So...does this mean that the United States will be "at war" for the rest of my life?