Tirman.2006 - M A MIT S S A C CENTER H U FOR S E T T S I N...

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M A S S A C H U S E T T S I N S T I T U T E O F T E C H N O L O G Y of the Conventional Wisdom M I T C E N T E R F O R I N T E R N A T I O N A L S T U D I E S Center for International Studies Massachusetts Institute of Technology Building E38-200 292 Main Street Cambridge, MA 02139 T: 617.253.8093 F: 617.253.9330 [email protected] web.mit.edu/cis/ web.mit.edu/cis/acw.html The Audit of Conventional Wisdom In this series of essays, MIT’s Center for International Studies tours the horizon of conventional wisdoms that animate U.S. foreign policy, and put them to the test of data and history. By subjecting particularly well-accepted ideas to close scrutiny, our aim is to re-engage policy and opinion leaders on topics that are too easily passing such scrutiny. We hope that this will lead to further debate and inquiries, with a result we can all agree on: better foreign policies that lead to a more peaceful and prosperous world. Authors in this series are available to the press and policy community. Contact: Amy Tarr ([email protected], 617.253.1965). April 2006 06-06 continued on page 2 1 The War on Terror and the Cold War: They’re Not the Same S ince the autumn of 2001, following the shocking attacks of September 11th, President Bush and his advisers have repeat- edly likened the war against terrorism to the confrontation with Nazi Germany in the Second World War and the long struggle with Soviet communism in the Cold War. But the current anti-terrorist campaign and the related war in Iraq are significantly different from those earlier contests. Where resemblances occur, they are not com- forting to our political values. And the comparative lessons that the U.S. Government is proffering are not the ones that are relevant to dealing with terrorism. Mr. Bush signaled these comparisons in his speech before Congress nine days after the attacks, when he said the terrorists “follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: in history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies.” The analogy, particularly to the Cold War, has been repeated many times since by the president, the vice president, and their lieutenants. After the London bombing in the summer of 2005, two top aides wrote, “At its root, the struggle is an ideological contest, a war of ideas that engages all of us, public servant and private citizen, regardless of nationality. We have waged such wars before, and we know how to win them.” 1 The “war of ideas” theme remains prominent, as is the division of the world into those who are “with us or with the terrorists,” as the president put it. The threat from al Qaeda and other jihadists, and the American response, are understood primarily in military terms. As the 2006 National Security Strategy states, “We will disrupt and destroy terrorist organizations by: direct and continuous action using all the elements of national and international power. . . ; defending the United States, the American John Tirman MIT Center for International Studies
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This note was uploaded on 08/27/2011 for the course GOVT 312L taught by Professor Dennis during the Summer '11 term at University of Texas.

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Tirman.2006 - M A MIT S S A C CENTER H U FOR S E T T S I N...

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