Magazine article The Humanist

The Issue at Hand

Magazine article The Humanist

The Issue at Hand

Article excerpt

Daily reports of armed conflict, terrorism, and torture reveal a disturbing hollowness in the supposed U.S. victories in Afghanistan and Iraq. For this reason it seems appropriate that the Humanist directly address the "war on terror" from the standpoint of sound judgment and humanistic justice.

Toward this end, in "Terror, Evil, and the New Cold War," John Buell shows how policymakers have misjudged the nature of today's terrorists and hence have chosen unsound policies for dealing with them. The terrorists of today are hypernationalists, people in the thrall of a monolithic concept of national ethnicity, religion, and culture which drives them forth in an effort to purify their chosen nation as well as the world. The Humanist alternative to such an attitude is a flexible and continually evolving democratic pluralism--not the angry and self-righteous superpatriotism that has emerged of late. Indeed, nations that become monolithically extreme in response to terrorism end up mimicking the terrorists and thereby becoming terroristic in turn.

Furthermore, the harm caused by superpatriotism isn't only the violence it visits upon enemies but the compromises in liberty that it forces on a nation's citizenry and its friends. Government surveillance of civilians increases, freedom of expression is curtailed, and--if the nation's wars and aspirations require it--military conscription is instituted. John Swomley in "The Return of the Draft?" warns how imminent this form of indentured servitude is and calls for immediate action to prevent it. …

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