Mini-Essay #2 The War on ‘Terror’ Lauren Stemler



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Mini-Essay #2 – The War on ‘Terror’

Lauren Stemler

September 15th, 2011
Just as the chorus in Country Joe’s song goes, “what are we fighting for” (McDonald)? This is something I often wonder when considering the current war on ‘terror’ occurring in our world. The war on ‘terror’ was prompted by the attacks on the USA on September 11th, 2001. The attack on the World Trade Center buildings, the pentagon and the plane hijackings were reported to be caused by al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. The USA’s response to these events was to go to war; 10 years later we’re still there fighting the war on terror. According to Albert and Shalom (2001) the attacks that prompted the war on ‘terror’ were in response to what those groups thought of as threats to themselves. Now after our ten years in the war on ‘terror’ it seems that both sides have acted as terrorists in different ways and the war is never-ending (Albert & Shalom). However, there is still time to apply the ideas and techniques brought up in Ury’s The Third Side to work through this conflict in a non-violent way from this point on.

Since this war on ‘terror’ has broken the threshold of non-violence into the violent, destructive ‘solution’ for conflict, we need to bring this struggle back into the realm of non-violence in order to make more significant progress (Ury, 113). I feel that the roles in Ury’s text of the “witness” (170) and “referee” (176) would help to bring the violence to a halt. The role of the referee would help to maintain limits on the violence that both sides are committing, while in conjunction the witness would help give attention to some of the issues that have been underreported in at least the last decade (Ury, 170-177). Though I am not sure who would best play the role of the referee, organizations like the UN or presidential leaders from all countries involved may fit these roles well. The role of the witness could be played by all individuals even remotely involved in the war, especially citizens of the countries that are being affected by this war such as the US, Iraq, and Afghanistan. This would be a simple responsibility that all citizens have – namely to pay attention to the acts of their county within the land and abroad – as well as helpful in de-escalating the violence.

After the violence is de-escalated, it will be important to take more steps in order to address the issues that caused this war to start. First, I think all parties involved need to work with a “healer” (Ury, 161) in order to address the emotions and relationships that were affected with the September 11th attacks and now in the war. The healer can help to fix the lines of communication so apologies can be made or misunderstandings can be acknowledged – this will be essential to moving on and trying to mediate with the parties involved and facilitate their process in finding a solution that addresses the needs of all sides involved (Ury, 143 & 161). The use of the “mediator” (Ury, 143) role is ideal since it gives the parties involved a chance to work out their own solution without being mandated to abide certain outside rules, however it may not be possible in this situation, and as a last resort the role of the “arbiter” (Ury, 149) should be called upon. Once the conflict has been addressed and de-escalated, it is essential for all parties involved to learn way of better communication, working on making sustainable relationships, and learn how to fulfill the needs in a non-violent way; all of these essentials can be addressed by applying the roles of the “provider…teacher…bridge-builder” (Ury, 116) to the parties involved in the war on ‘terror’.

Only after these steps occur can we truly move on from the idea of having a war on a word which has turned into a war on our world. My hope is that this happens sooner rather than later and hopefully the ever-expanding pie of knowledge (Ury, 90) can help me to stop spending my time wondering “what are we fighting for” (McDonald)?


Albert, M. & Shalom, S. (2001). 47 Questions and Answers on the War in Afghanistan. Retrieved at http://www.globalissues.org/article/280/47-questions-and-answers-on-the-war-in-afghanistan#11
McDonald, C. (1965). The Fish Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag. Country Joe and the Fish.

Ury, W. (2000). The third side: why we fight and how we can stop. United States: Penguin Books.


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