In September 2001, President George W. Bush addressed a grieving nation and a shocked world following the horrific 9/11 attacks. During that speech, he put both allies and enemies on notice: "Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." About two months later, during a joint news conference with French President Jacques Chirac he reiterated and doubled down on his doctrine. "Over time, it's going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity," he said. "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror."
The "with us or against us" narrative had an instantly chilling effect in that it almost immediately silenced critics of war, or even those who questioned evidence for the justification of intervention (i.e. Iraq). After all, who would ever want to oppose the fight against terror, or appear to side with terrori sts? Critical thought, dissent and courage were overwhelmingly replaced with fear, conformity, cowardice and an inability to hold power accountable (save for a few exceptions). As a result, in the years that followed, we had an unnecessary and immoral war in Iraq (which is still continuing), drone campaigns and covert actions in a host of other countries, the loss of thousands of U.S. troops and by some estimates, millions of civilians and millions injured throughout the region. But one other unfortunate byproduct of the "us vs. them" mentality often overlooked is the fact that it has galvanized extremists on all sides.