What is wrong with us?

George Soros delivered a commencement speech at Columbia School of International & Public Affairs yesterday, that is both poignant and at times amusing:

Declaring war on terrorism was understandable, perhaps even appropriate, as a figure of speech. But the President meant it literally and that is when things started going seriously wrong.

I would dearly love to pin all the blame on President Bush and his team. But that would be too easy. It would ignore the fact that he was playing to a receptive audience and even today, after all that has happened, a majority of the electorate continues to have confidence in President Bush on national security matters. If this continues and President Bush gets reelected, we must ask ourselves the question: “What is wrong with us?”

Although it sounds amusing, in context the question is quite serious, and Soros elaborates:

We need to engage in some serious soul-searching. The terrorists seem to have hit upon a weak point in our collective psyche. They have made us fearful. And they have found a willing partner in the Bush administration. For reasons of its own, the Bush administration has found it advantageous to foster the fear that September 11 engendered. By declaring war on terror, the President could unite the country behind him. But fear is a bad counselor. A fearful giant that lashes out against unseen enemies is the very definition of a bully, and that is what we are in danger of becoming. Lashing out indiscriminately, we are creating innocent victims and innocent victims generate the resentment and rage on which terrorism feeds. If there is a Single lesson to be learned from our experience since September 11, it is that you mustn’t fight terror by creating new victims.

By succumbing to fear we are doing the terrorists’ bidding: we are unleashing a vicious circle of violence. If we go on like this, we may find ourselves in a permanent state of war. The war on terror need never end because the terrorists are invisible, therefore they will never disappear. And if we are in a permanent state of war we cannot remain an open society.