Thursday, July 28, 2005

Mission accomplished? The end of "the global war on terror"

That's the name, not the "war" itself.

Forget "the global war on terror," it's now "a global struggle against violent extremism".

Honestly, does the Bush Administration think we're not paying any attention to this nonsense? Do they think that they can just change their rhetoric without anyone noticing? Look, Joe's right, the problem is more than just a military one, and it may very well be that "struggle" captures the essence of the conflict better than "war". But what exactly does "violent extremism" mean? I've long criticized the use of the phrase "war on terror," often prefacing it with "the so-called". And I do acknowledge that a "war" on "terror" doesn't make much sense: "Terror" is an intangible quality, like fear, and how exactly do you wage war on something intangible? But isn't it nonetheless true that the enemy, such as there is a definable enemy, is terrorism? Or, rather, terrorists -- those who engage in terrorism, those who use terror as a weapon? Why blur that truth by switching from "war" to "struggle" and from "terror" to "violent extremism"?

Could it be that the "war on terror" wasn't going so well? Ah, there's a thought.

Just like the rationale for going into Iraq -- WMDs, then Saddam's brutality, then the spread of democracy -- the name of this war (or whatever you want to call it) is changed according to political necessity (i.e., when things go bad, the Bush Administration changes the terms -- like when Iraq's WMDs became WMD-related program activities). But you know what? I don't think Osama or his followers care what we call it, and they're going to keep doing what they're doing regardless of how we define them.

Revamped rhetoric pumped out for domestic consumption to prop up a failing presidency simply won't get the job done. And this from a president who campaigned on the war on terror and who has repeatedly touted his war leadership? Yeah, right.

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  • I have always been disturbed by the Orwellian tendency of this (and, in fairness, other) administrations to use labels for essentially propaganda purposes, e.g., "Operation Enduring Freedom" as opposed to, say "Operation Overlord" (D-Day), or the term "Peacekeepers" as the name for the MS missiles during the Reagan Administration. This reflects a disturbing tendency to treat political issues as marketing opportunities. This self-conscious use of terms that apply normative labels to policies is, to me, something that goes against the grain of what I consider plain-speaking Americanism. If this spreads to the domestic front, I guess we will be talking about the "Growth Producing, Freedom Enhancing Central American Trade Agreement."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:40 AM  

  • Tell us what you really think, Nate!

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 10:59 AM  

  • I hear you, Nate. However certain I may seem here at The Reaction, I, too, struggle to work through what I believe. I'm not going through an existential crisis at the moment -- unless it's just the one that consistently plagues our civilization -- but I go back and forth on a number of fundamental issues. I guess that's why I still consider myself a moderate. Regardless, I'm certainly not an ideologue, and I cerainly don't think that I have all the answers.

    By the way, Ronald Beiner, whom I know quite well, is on my Ph.D. dissertation committee at the Univ. of Toronto. He's incredibly unassuming and reserved, but his work, I agree, is excellent. I liked WWWL? a great deal, but be sure to check out Philosophy in a Time of Lost Spirit, an excellent collection of essays.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 1:10 PM  

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