The current challenge is not a struggle against a totalitarian foe.
It is not, as Bush has said, "the ideological struggle of our time."
It is not an ideological war.
It is not a battle against an enemy called "Islamofascism" -- a confected category that conflates Bush's idea of war not only with the Cold War but also with World War II.
Most important, it is not a struggle for national survival against an existential threat. Jihadism and its use of terror are, of course, a dangerous threat, but they do not, and cannot, destroy the United States as the Soviet Union could do.
I live on a narrow, winding rural road 10 miles from our county seat. The county was experiencing a rash of mailbox vandalism some time back (kids, shotguns), so I signed up for a post office box. The time to pay the annual renewal has come and the PO is suddenly demanding two forms of ID and a signed form fully filled out with all personal particulars in addition to a fat check. The people at the PO are apologetic. It's a small town. We all know each other. The demand for personal information is irritating.
Last week I went to a meeting at a Democratic Congressman's office. Some people -- "experts" and interested parties involved in the meeting were not introduced. Names and titles were important -- we all wanted to know who we were dealing with. (The unknowns appeared to be representatives of the Department of Homeland Security and contractors doing business with that agency.)
Courtesy is what keeps me from naming the Democratic member of Congress who appears to be assisting the administration by hiding something. For now, anyway, while there's still a chance that the information will finally be given.
The Congressman's staff are eager to collect my personal information. When I called the representative's office, I'm asked (not kidding) for my birthdate and other personal particulars. I'm asked why I'm asking for the information. But they do not provide it.
(All of this is minor compared to what some go through if they want to fly or, heaven forbid, apply for flying lessons.)
America is no longer just a scary country from the point of view of, say, Europeans or Middle Easterners. It has become scary to all of us. It may be a low-grade scariness of the kind I'm experiencing, coming from the realization that the government is demanding much more information from us than it used to and -- even worse -- it is withholding public information from us at an increasing rate. But it's not the grinding anxiety of an American family with, say, an Egyptian or Lebanese or Jordanian name.
As Sidney Blumenthal, quoted above, writes today, we are faced with "the distortion, corruption and subversion of American law and the U.S. legal system, from the abrogation of the Geneva Convention against torture to the suspension of habeas corpus. The corruption is an aspect of a general hostility to and undermining of not only the law but also our senior military, our intelligence community, the Foreign Service, and international institutions including the United Nations and the World Bank."
Out here where I am, only the mildest tremors of the "national security" earthquake are being felt. But we're feeling undermined, too. The tremors of that quake are being felt in familiar situations like a Congressman's local office, and at our friendly post office. I'm not feeling reassured about my security, are you?