Search This Blog

Friday, August 05, 2005

Bush struggling with the war on terror

Last week, I blogged about the G-SAVE: global struggle against violent extremists. Reportedly, the Bush administration decided to toss aside the "war on terror" for this new "catchphrase." Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been using some variant of SAVE for over a year, and Joint Chiefs Chair Richard Myers says that the new phrasing recognizes that the threat must be met by diplomatic, economic, and political tools, as well as military power.

Wednesday, August 3, President George W. Bush seemingly canned this new catchphrase:
Make no mistake about it, we are at war. We're at war with an enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001. We're at war against an enemy that, since that day, has continued to kill. They have killed in Madrid and Istanbul and Jakarta and Casablanca and Riyadh and Bali and London and elsewhere.
Bush used the phrase "war on terror" five times in this talk (in Grapevine, Texas). Today, NPR had a nice piece on this topic by Stanford linguist Geoff Nunberg.

Did the President really try to shoot down his underlings? The NY Times reports that the President was unhappy about the new phrasing. Really? The President declared this on August 6, 2004 (link via Atrios):
We actually misnamed the war on terror, it ought to be the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world.
More recently, the White House website has a document called, "Joint Declaration of the United States-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership," which mentions both "the war against international terror and the struggle against violent extremism." August 18, 2004, Bush discussed the "struggle against ideological extremists who have hijacked a great religion and used terror as a weapon."

Actually, if you google the White House website with the exact search term "struggle against," you are rewarded with an interesting idea of the American jihad:
We "struggle against this evil" (actually, "a very long struggle against evil"), a struggle against "these thugs," against "hateful groups that exploit poverty and despair," against "a determined enemy. They're nothing but a bunch of cold-blooded killers," and "suiciders."
I left out the struggles against domestic problems like drugs, breast or prostate cancer, HIV/AIDS, poverty, or substance abuse and the historic struggles against the Soviets, slavery and Nazis.

This is perhaps the President's most complicated image of America's foe -- the "struggle against the violent minority who want to impose a future of darkness across the Middle East."

The Vice President is more blunt. For him, we "struggle against evil." Sometimes, Dick Cheney limits that to a "struggle against the evil of a few."

As early as April 6, 2003, then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice emphasized the "struggle against the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons."

Before I get further side-tracked by google, let me return to the main point. I think Bush's advisors recognized that they need the war because to talk otherwise would be to acknowledge what I wrote last week. His critics are correct, the "war on terror" should include greater use of non-military tools of American foreign policy. And as Peter Howard writes, using the old "war on terror" language allows Bush to "claim significant powers and the mantle of a Wartime President....Bush has successfully used the language of War to legitimize much of his policy agenda."

Does all this make you long for the simpler days, when all we had were wars on poverty or drugs? Or maybe the days when the energy crisis was the "moral equivalent of war"? In Jimmy Carter's era, we were "uniting our efforts to build and not destroy."

Maybe that's what General Myers wants to do too? And the President doesn't like it.

No comments:

Post a Comment