Most of you probably know that the “global war on terror” is also called the “global war on extremism.” In addition, Condoleeza Rice mentioned in her talks in Lebanon not long ago that she was seeking a way to ensure that the Lebanese could “defend themselves against extremism.” This makes me wonder… what’s so wrong with extremism?
In general, I do not consider myself an “extreme” person. I take the Scriptures and common sayings about “moderation in all things” to heart. I recognize, however, that I believe many things that are considered extreme. I believe in a God, and that my God is the only God and the only path to salvation. I believe many conservative things about how we should behave, and try to live by them. I believe that there is Good and Evil, and an absolute source of these axioms. I would die for my God. These beliefs used to be commonplace in our country, but now they are considered Extreme: more so even than the “X-games” and reality-TV, and right up there with mass murder, genocide, and the world’s new favorite enemy, “terrorism.”
Now, I can recognize a good catch phrase when I see one. The “War on Terror” clearly existed to make people get behind the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it had a reasonably defined (if broad) target: terrorists, specifically terrorists who strike at the US, and even more specifically Muslim terrorists who strike at the US. However, the public lost interest in hating terrorists, so in an effort to make the war even more “appealing” to the public, our country now wages the Global War on Extremism. This concerns me, somewhat.
If “terror” is a broad target for a war, “extremism” is even more so, and dangerously so. Now the war could feasibly target any group of extremists. Ms. Rice herself insinuated that the Israeli government are extremists threatening the well being of Lebanese citizens, expanding the “extreme” category to include not just non-Muslims, but non-terrorists, and in fact a sovreign nation commonly recognized as an ally of the more “civilized” countries in the UN. Now, most people would probably laugh at the idea of Israel becoming a military target of the US, but if they can be classified as “extremists,” what’s to keep them from being enough of an annoyance that they become a target of our War on Extremism? And, going further down that road, what’s to stop groups of people who act “outside of the nation’s best interest” in the US from becoming targets? Who decides what’s extreme enough to be a target in our war? How long is it until “fundamentalist Christians” who believe in terrible things like monogamy and monotheism become targets?
And really, what’s so wrong with extremism, anyways?