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In the end, I suspect, the war on terrorism will look nothing like World War II or the cold war but rather like the 50-year fight to end the Atlantic slave trade in the first half of the 19th century. That was a priority for many nations, but it never defined the national interest of any one of them. The occasional use of military power against slavers usually by Britain's Royal Navy, which held a position like that now enjoyed by U.S. forces was important to the cause. But so were moral persuasion, multilateral diplomacy, economic development and bribes. All will prove useful in defeating terrorism.
Ending the slave trade was a noble undertaking. So is the war on terrorism. But we cannot allow it to define who we are or to shape all the ways in which we act in the world. If we do so to use the old refrain the terrorists really will have won.