There is one decisive advantage to the “evildoer” metaphor, and it is this: Combat with evildoers is not Clausewitzian war. You do not make treaties with evildoers or try to adjust your conduct to make them like you. You do not try to see the world from the evildoers’ point of view. You do not try to appease them, or persuade them, or reason with them. You try, on the contrary, to outwit them, to vanquish them, to kill them. You behave with them in the same manner that you would deal with a fatal epidemic — you try to wipe it out.
So perhaps it is time to retire the war metaphor and to deploy one that is more fitting: the struggle to eradicate disease. The fantasy ideologies of the twentieth century, after all, spread like a virus in susceptible populations: Their propagation was not that suggested by John Stuart Mill’s marketplace of ideas — fantasy ideologies were not debated and examined, weighed and measured, evaluated and compared. They grew and spread like a cancer
in the body politic. For the people who accepted them did not accept them as tentative or provisional. They were unalterable and absolute. And finally, after driving out all other competing ideas and ideologies, they literally turned their host organism into the instrument of their own poisonous and deadly will.
The same thing is happening today — and that is our true enemy. The poison of the radical Islamic fantasy ideology is being spread all over the Muslim world through schools and through the media, through mosques and through the demagoguery of the Arab street. In fact, there is no better way to grasp the full horror of the poison than to listen as a Palestinian mother offers her four-year-old son up to be yet another victim of this ghastly fantasy.
Once we understand this, many of our current perplexities will find themselves resolved. Pseudo-issues such as debates over the legitimacy of “racial profiling” would disappear: Does anyone in his right mind object to screening someone entering his country for signs of plague? Or quarantining those who have contracted it? Or closely monitoring precisely those populations within his country that are most at risk?
Let there be no doubt about it. The fantasy ideologies of the twentieth century were plagues, killing millions and millions of innocent men, women, and children. The only difference was that the victims and targets of such fantasy ideologies so frequently refused to see them for what they were, interpreting them as something quite different — as normal politics, as reasonable aspirations, as merely variations on the well-known theme of realpolitik, behaving — tragically enough — no differently from Montezuma when he attempted to decipher the inexplicable enigma posed by the appearance of the Spanish conquistadors. Nor did the fact that his response was entirely human make his fate any less terrible.
Hoover Institution - Policy Review - Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology