Daily Archives: May 3, 2011

Gideon Rachman agrees with Peter Beinart that the “war on terror” should come to an end.

This is not the same as saying that the US and Europe can now stop worrying about terrorism. The west will need a serious counter-terrorism policy for many years to come. But the Bush-inspired drive to make terrorism the centrepiece of US foreign policy was a mistake. The declaration of a “Global War on Terror” distorted American foreign policy and led directly to two wars – in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war on terror has guzzled billions of dollars in wasteful spending and spawned a huge and secretive bureaucracy in Washington. The death of bin Laden gives President Barack Obama the cover he needs to start quietly unwinding some of these mistakes.

Gideon is always interesting and persuasive, and I agree with much of what he says, but again I want to distinguish between “war on terror” as terminology and “war on terror” as substance. My view on terminology is, what’s in a name? War on terror. War on drugs. War on want. War on poverty. Politicians are constantly declaring war on things. It doesn’t commit you to anything. It just sounds urgent and grave. Sometimes, it is right to sound urgent and grave. Sometimes, a politician has no choice but to.

Recent poll numbers made it unsurprising that Canada’s Conservatives won yesterday’s federal election, but the scale of the win was impressive. The severity of the once-mighty Liberals’ drubbing was even more so. Previously either in government or constituting the main opposition party, they were reduced to a dismal third place behind the more left-leaning, pro-labour New Democrats. The NDP and the Liberals both advanced the cap-and-trade approach to greenhouse gases. This is hard to sell (especially west of Ontario) in a country that is a big energy-exporter with hopes of expanding the industry still more.

Michael Ignatieff, the Liberals’ leader, said, “We have seen tonight, I think, the emergence of polarisation in Canadian politics.” He lost his own seat, resigned as Liberal leader, and appears to be quitting politics altogether. That seems a shame.

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

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