When you hear the word "evil," what comes to mind? Osama bin Laden? Dick Cheney? Bank of America? The CIA? Vladimir Putin? Raoul Castro? Whoever or whatever it may be, I'm here to question your decision, not on the grounds that your choice is wrong based on the question, but wrong based on the word. Like "conservative," "liberal" and "progressive," it's easier to use the word "evil" than to come up with a definition.
I reject our tendency to throw "evil" around. We use the word because we don't have to think about what it really is. Instead of "evil," I'll paraphrase, "There abideth these three: fear, greed and stupidity, but the greatest of these is stupidity." I can think of no rotten person or event in human history that doesn't owe itself to one, or a combination, of stupidity, greed and fear. I'll amplify after the squiggle.
Most of us associate "evil" with the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. That it was brutal is indisputable, but why did those people do it? Greed for power and a desire to cripple American democracy - which they did a pretty hood job of. Fear of the Great Satan (which was us) and a sincere belief that crashing planes into buildings and killing innocent people would guarantee a place in heaven, which no god I have ever heard of endorses.
How about the most outstanding example of evil, the rise of Hitler's Third Reich? There's no doubt that this was the most horrific government in world history. Six million human beings perished, a whole continent was nearly destroyed and, more than eighty years later, we still are feeling the consequences. But does calling it "evil" do it justice? Hitler was motivated by the same combination we mentioned earlier. He was insanely greedy - for power (which is just as much a motivator as money). He was constantly afraid - of betrayal, communists, Jews, assassination, etc. and he was incredibly stupid (or crazy) in his blindness to history in the invasion of the Soviet Union. It's easier to dismiss Hitler, therefore, as "evil" and be done with it, but the dozens (or hundreds) of books written about Germany from 1930-1945 still don't tell the whole story.
Another example is Iran in 2012, which we're quick to denounce as "evil." It would be a lot harder if we put ourselves in Iranian shoes and asked how we would view a country that overthrew a popularly elected government and installed a dictator that killed or tortured hundreds of thousands of Iranians and then, when the people got rid of him, armed Iran's arch-enemy Iraq and its leader, Saddam Hussein, in the Iran-Iraq War. How would you, an Iranian, view the United States? This is not to say that Iran's hard-line religious dictatorship is sweetness and light, but it does somewhat explain why detente isn't terribly likely. Wouldn't it make more sense to work on that instead of more sanctions that only hurt the average Iranian who already has reason to hate us?
Speaking of hate, would Cuba be as anti-American if we hadn't supported a brutal dictatorship under Fulgencio Battista and, when the people threw him out, responded with a failed invasion, followed by a series of sanctions, which made us the laughing stock of the hemisphere and turned other countries, like Venuezuela and Brazil, into antagonists. Fear (of communism- which was not defined); greed - by large U.S. corporations like United Fruit Co.; and stupidity - that Cubans would welcome us with open arms (like they did in Iraq). Sound familiar?
Other "evils" include Todd Akin of Missouri, who would probably come in third in a duel of wits with a wildebeest and an anvil. He's not evil, everybody, he's just dumb. Ignorance is the epidemic that produces the Todd Akins, and James Inhoffs and sadly, many of the gasbags who are running the country. But that's not all. Thanks to a political system that runs on high-test campaign money, we also have the other two ingredients of "evil," fear that the next election might be the end of their career and greed for enough money to prevent it happening. The result is a 10% approval rating for the people who make up our government. The oddest thing is that these clowns keep getting elected, so for a majority of the 90%, it's good enough.
Instead of a war on evil, therefore, it might be better to mount an attack on stupidity. With knowledge, we could then start attacking greed, and without that, there wouldn't be nearly as much to be afraid of.