War and America

I've been thinking lately that the United States isn't good at solving our problems. We have ongoing racial tensions, a failed war on drugs, and a failed war on terror.

More to the point, we look at every problem as being a war. There are soldiers of some variety that fight the war. They do battle against the enemy. But who or what is the enemy when it is the War on Poverty? Or the (generally non-existent) War on Christmas? Who are the soldiers and how do they conduct battle?

We can't look at through the whole world with this kind of narrow lense.

How did we get here?

It's worth considering how we ended up in this situation. Why would we view most problems as being a war?

To a certain degree, it's almost certainly related to the fact that many of the foundational events in the history of the United States were wars. The Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, The U.S. Civil War, World War 1, and World War 2. All large conflicts and all conflicts with a big bad enemy that wanted to do something horrible to us. The United States came to exist and remain free as a result of war.

However, our social problems don't involve big bad enemies that are trying to kill us or subjugate us in any way. They have a complex mix of causes and aren't necessarily solved by directly applying brute force.

Take the war on drugs for example. Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars, marijauna use has increased while most other drugs have remained at similar levels. Yet this ongoing "war" has made it difficult or impossible for addicts to seek treatment without fear of imprisonment.

Where do we go?

We need to shed our old ways of thinking and stop going to "war" whenever we have social problems. We can't combat complex social issues merely by applying direct force and hoping it solves the problem. Instead, we need to disect and disassemble these issues to be able to better understand them and to solve them.

What can we gain from taking a different approach? Portugal decriminalized drugs in 2002 and has seen a fall in rates of addiction since they have. It's definitely an indicator that there may be a different way to do things and with marijauna now legal in Colorado and Washington it may be a sign that we're starting to move on from our warlike ways.

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