The Global War on Terror (GWOT) is, like all historical events, unique. But both its supporters and opponents compare it to past U.S. military conflicts. The Bush administration and the neocons have drawn parallels between GWOT and World War II as well as GWOT and the Cold War. Joshua E. London, writing in the National Review, sees the War on Terror as a modern form of the struggle against the Barbary pirates. Vietnam and the Spanish-American War have been preferred analogies for other commentators. A Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Anne Applebaum, says that the war in Iraq might be like that in Korea, because of "the ambivalence of their conclusions." For others, the War on Terror, with its loose rhetoric, brings to mind the "war on poverty" or the "war on drugs."
I'd like to suggest another way of looking at the War on Terror: as a twenty-first century continuation of, or replication of, the American Indian wars, on a global scale. This is by no means something that has occurred to me alone, but it has received relatively little attention. Here are ten reasons why I'm making this suggestion:
1. Key supporters of the War on Terror themselves see GWOT as an Indian war. Take, for example, the right-wing intellectuals Robert Kaplan and Max Boot who, although not members of the administration, also advocate a tough military stance against terrorists. In a Wall Street Journal article, "Indian Country," Kaplan notes that "an overlooked truth about the war on terrorism" is that "the American military is back to the days of fighting the Indians." Iraq, he notes, "is but a microcosm of the earth in this regard." Kaplan has now put his thoughts into a book, Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground, which President Bush read over the holidays. Kaplan points out that "'Welcome to Injun Country' was the refrain I heard from troops from Colombia to the Philippines, including Afghanistan and Iraq.... The War on Terrorism was really about taming the frontier."
"Our Indian Wars Are Not Over Yet" / Ten Ways to Interpret the War on Terror as a Frontier Conflict