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A war by any other name

Los Angeles Times
By Juliette Kayyem

It was President Bush himself who insisted on calling it a global war on terror. He wanted to indicate that this was not just another piddling law enforcement action, but an all-out, full-scale military response to Sept. 11 that would involve U.S. troops around the globe.

"A war between good and evil," he called it. A war "to save the world."

But now, apparently, a decision has been made that the language of war isn't working for him anymore. So in recent days, the "global war on terror" — which had been conveniently shortened to GWOT in bureaucrat-speak — has been shelved in favor of the "global struggle against violent extremism."

Frankly, the Bushies were always conflicted about the word "war." Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that early on he objected to use of the term because it seemed to dump the problem into the lap of the military. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was said to have objected to the word as well, perhaps, in his case, because it seemed to leave his diplomats over at the State Department on the sidelines. But in the days after Sept. 11, Americans wanted war, and that's what they got.

The idea of a global war on terrorism proved its worth. It got us to Afghanistan (rightfully, in my opinion). It then mysteriously carried us into Iraq to eradicate a terrorist threat that did not exist until we got there. It provided the legal justification for the administration's controversial detention and interrogation policies, and it served as the defense for them after they were uncovered. And in November of last year, it won an election.

Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution recently found that Bush used the term "war" three times as often in the six months leading up to the 2004 election as in the six months after. In the month before the election, he invoked it 71 times. But since the polls have closed, it's only been important enough to raise an average of 11 times in any 30-day period.

Even in his last publicized news conference, there was no GWOT, and the term "war" was mentioned only once. In contrast, Bush used the d-word (diplomatic or diplomatically) nearly a dozen times.

War, it seems, is so 2004. Despite Vice President Dick Cheney's insistence that the insurgency in Iraq is in its "last throes," it is difficult to look at the summer of 2005 as a success story for counterterrorism efforts. In London, Israel, Egypt and Iraq, civilians and military personnel are being targeted at alarming rates.

The shift to a more, shall we say, nuanced approach to language is no doubt the result of two important realizations. First, the war analogy may have captured our imagination, but it never really captured the true nature of how to counter the threat we faced. Combining military efforts with diplomatic, economic, political and intelligence cooperation has always been how nations successfully counter terrorism. Only the administration's political use of the 9/11 tragedy kept the notion of war alive. It was misleading and distorting.

Besides, the war analogy is spent, and the administration knows it. With troops facing a deadly and constant enemy in Iraq, with soldiers still deployed in Afghanistan, with recruitment of new bombers seemingly exceeding our ability to recruit troops, we do not have the war option left when terror strikes in the rest of the world. Not in Iran, not in North Korea, not in Pakistan and certainly not, as we now have seen, in Britain, where this month's suicide bombers lived and eventually died.

With polls suggesting that the American people are now questioning all aspects of the war in Iraq and, along with it, many aspects of the war on terrorism, the war terminology has outlived its usefulness.

But the White House should be prepared for the possibility that its new catchphrase — the global struggle against violent extremism — may not bring the same benefits that GWOT once did. Admittedly, "G-SAVE" has a certain optimistic, selfless sound to it. But no one quite knows what it means. Does it reflect a change in policy? Or just a change in rhetoric?

War, struggle, fight, effort, whatever — we still don't seem to be describing the smooth intelligence operation; the tough law enforcement; the suave, cooperative diplomacy; the delicate nation-building and vigilant homeland security that is needed to complement our military prowess. If administration officials put as much effort into getting these jobs done as they apparently put into rethinking their talking points, perhaps we'd have some real success in this global, uh, endeavor. And what we call it would matter a lot less.


Juliette Kayyem, a former member of the National Commission on Terrorism, is a lecturer in public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Her book, "Preserving Liberty in an Age of Terror," will be published in October by the MIT Press.



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SHEESCH! His Nibs dosn't get it, this isn't a PR campaign that you can win by changing the name. It isn't "War on Terror" and never was, nor is it a "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism" (WHO, in hell, thought THAT one up?) Call it what you will, people are dying for a lie that can't be changed or made better by changing it's name. Judging from his foreign policy if W wants to see "Voilent Extremists" he need only look in the mirror.

All I can say is AMEN, HALLELUJIA! to that.

New Title = New Campaign

New title = same old shit

Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism aka G-"SAVE"......Gee, I'm soooooo impressed! Don'cha feel safer already? This would be laughable if it wasn't so pathetic. Does Baby Boy Bush really think a catchy phrase is gonna change the filth and death he's unleashed in Iraq?

I don't know if you coined the term G-Save or if you heard it but it is GREAT, may I use it?

I just wonder if changing the name isn't a new marketing tool for more widens the net and easier to sell.

How bout calling it G-PEG: G-Perpetual Enemy Generator??

I'll leave the analysis for others but who would have thought that the world most powerful military force could not defeat a noun?

Tis is a great name too! Spread it around on the Internet!

It's THEM against US>>> the elite against pesky peons in the way of getting that oil they want to steal and the imperialism they want to forcefeed to the leftover masses (that aren't dead and injured that is)... at first Saddam was in the way, now the upstart Iraquis and their insurgent comrades are in the way.
The nerve of them >>> imagine being upset about an invasion, shock & awe bombing campaign and an occupation. How dare they be upset about innocent civilians dying by the tens of thousands for no WMD. How dare they be upset about the multitudes of permanently injured . Why, oh why, aren't they grateful?

Same old story , different culture... remember when those upstart Indian "savages" were in the way of their own land that the white man wanted to steal from them? Gosh , why do they still not trust the US government to this day?

PNAC were very bold and blunt about their Pax Americana plots and why they want to do it....long before 9/11. It's all over their website , in plain view for years... why should they care what we pesky peons think, as long as they have the power and the muscle to impose their will ?

War against terrorism? Maybe would should re-define the enemy as well.

I'd like to pass this on and ask for a little help.
Every minute detail about the London bombings goes on 24/7 promoted by the American and British government, to raise their ratings, and publicize their new title. They jaw about the one bomber still on the loose in London.The news goes on ad naseam about the arrests, spending what seems to be a half hour or more even interviewing witnesses to the arrests. Once again, where in Iraq people are killed everyday,1800 of our soldiers have died, and there are many bombers on the loose, that situation does not get the coverage it deserves. It’s time to E-MAIL your networks again!

It is easier for people to stick their heads in the sand than to admit they voted for Bush or supported this war. I fly my flag at half staff and post the number of deaths of soldiers and civilians on my house, I have had some very nasty comments and notes for this, but many more positive ones. The nasty ones usually don't have the courage to speak up when challenged though. I feel if you support our troops you must remember them when they give their life not sweep it under the rug and forget . Too many people don't seem to care about the innocent Iraqui dead, no I don't mean terrorists.

Thank you for caring and showing the truth to others.

Did they lose that desperato or what? Hmmm.

Read how we've been manipulated into believing that Zarqawi was out there causing so much suffering and so many insurections all over Iraq all at once and lo and behold he may not even be alive. He may have died in Afghanistan. This war is a movie creation for the Bush Administration. Whatever works.

Looks like we're on the wrong side of this one, too.

Well however you refer to the War on Terror, it's all in the end the same thing, one big mess that George W. Bush refuses to clean up, even as he was reelected to take care of the mess he created.

as someone posted earlier - "New name= same old shit."

Vietnam War lies and reality were exposed by TV news. This brought us "embedded" news. What broke the standard lies in the recent Iraq War? The internet. Therefore, the Internet must be controlled. That is what GSVE translates into, IMHO.


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