Polls show that more than half of Americans are against the Iraqi war, but a shift in public sentiment hasn't brought us any closer to achieving peace. Nor would we be any closer if all our troops came home tomorrow. The threat of terrorism still calls for a response, and we haven't found one. The American public accepted a "war on terror" as the justified response to 9/11. Our motivation was a mixture of revenge, fear, national pride, and the time-honored habit of meeting violence with violence.
So where are we now? Still afraid, still unsafe, still without revenge, still losing pride every day in the eyes of other nations, and still inflicting violence without purpose. Terrorism in Northern Ireland wasn't ended by the use of British military force. It was ended by a combination of negotiation, public fatigue, international pressure, and moral force. Certainly it was necessary to forcefully counter IRA terrorist acts and to imprison those who committed acts of terror. But without a peace movement, success is impossible in these situations.
Sadly, a peace movement has barely gotten started since 9/11. The Bush administration set down the argument as pro-war versus anti-war. No thought was given by either faction to achieving peace with the sizable portion of the planet who sees us as a militaristic bully. Among Democrats and independents, I don't detect any willingness to take seriously the truth that peace is our only alternative to a ruinous future devoted to more hatred from the Islamic world and endless skirmishes against insurgents and guerillas as they crop up anywhere.
The war on terror has no "exit plan" built into it, to use a favorite phrase of anti-war critics. Pres. Bush warned us that this conflict would basically last forever, as it must if one's goal is to wipe out every terrorist group on earth. But however heinous terrorism is, violence won't end it. Until the public realizes this--and they can only realize it if the opinion elite begins to talk peace--America has no hope of truly leading the world except by force and intimidation.