The fallacy in declaring a "war on terror," as President George W. Bush did after the 9/11 attacks, is that it suggests an eventual end to the fight. After all, even the so-called Hundred Years War had a conclusion. But 15 years later, we know the terror war, like the war on poverty and the war on drugs, is a never-ending battle.
Every new act of terrorism is a reminder of that, including the Sept. 17 bombing that injured 29 people in Manhattan and a rampage that same day at a St. Cloud, Minn., mall in which 10 people were stabbed. ISIS claimed the Minnesota assailant was a "soldier of the Islamic state," but it has been silent about the man arrested for leaving bombs in New York and Elizabeth and Seaside Heights, N.J.
At some point, Americans will have to accept that our terror war has no foreseeable end; that no battlefield victory in the Middle East or arrest of homegrown jihadists on U.S. soil will completely erase the possibility of another attack, most likely carried out by some radicalized lone wolf rather than masterminds like those who planned 9/11.
Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, who was shot and captured after leaving pressure-cooker and pipe bombs in New York and New Jersey, may have made the devices by following instructions in Inspire, the online newsletter published by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Dahir A. Adnan, 22, the knife-wielding Minnesota attacker shot and killed by police, needed no instructions to use his weapon.
Such incidents are likely to occur so long as there are people who succumb to the siren song of jihadists who use the internet to recruit and indoctrinate. There should be no reduction in efforts to blunt their ability to inspire violence. But as intelligence work and related military operations abroad continue, we must reassess the terror "war" and consider how that approach empowers those who seek to weaken us.
Much of the racial violence that has occurred in Charlotte, N.C., and other cities in recent months is about more than the police shootings of unarmed black men. If you listen closely to the protesters you will hear them express frustration with a litany of ills affecting urban Americans that boils over when one of these shootings occurs. Police reforms are only part of the solution.
It surprised many to see fast-growing Charlotte, touted as one of the most progressive Southern cities, fall into chaos Tuesday after a black police officer shot Keith Lamont Scott. Police said Scott was holding a handgun when he got out of his vehicle, and that it was recovered near his body. An attorney for Scott's family said police videos show that he was calm and not aggressive.
"Everyone looks at us as this trendy place, this diverse place, this wealthy place. But there is even more poverty with racial division, and the divide is getting deeper," said Gerald Johnson, publisher of the Charlotte Post, an African American newspaper.
Not even the novelty of seeing professional athletes engage in pre-game protests has put enough focus on the social ills that feed the violence that occurs after police shootings in communities enmired in poverty, joblessness, and crime. Perhaps if as much emphasis were placed on those battles as the terror war, the violence would subside.