Yesterday I mourned the loss of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” slogan and the appearance of its less than inspiring replacement, “a global struggle against violent extremism.” For an administration that prides itself on horribly misleading catchphrases - “death taxes,” “Healthy Forests,” “Clear Skies,” “Saving Social Security” - its Luntzian wordmeisters have let us down.
Of course the new, more complex slogan is intended to distract from Bush’s utter failure to make strides in “winning the war on terrorism” as promised - indeed, to distract from his contributions to terrorism’s growth - and to introduce as well the novel idea that perhaps this problem is bigger than p.r. glitz and raw firepower can conquer. As reported, “The shifting language is one of the most public changes in the administration’s strategy to battle Al Qaeda and its affiliates, and it tracks closely with Mr. Bush’s recent speeches emphasizing freedom, democracy and the worldwide clash of ideas.”
Oddly enough, the new slogan - the “shifting language” - also tracks what liberals have advocated all along.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers said this week that he had “objected to the use of the term ‘war on terrorism’ before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution.” By “before,” Myers meant prior to Bush’s reelection, which critically hung on rousing, flag-waving talk of uniformed force crushing the enemy single-handedly.
It’s been all military up till now, which liberals have repeatedly criticized - for which they’ve been repeatedly ridiculed by the right. Most famously Karl Rove reminded us of how thrillingly gladiatorial it all is, and by inference always should be, when he talked of conservatives having “prepared for war” and been anxious to “unleash the might and power” of the military while liberal weenies, side by side with the attackers, moaned on an analyst’s couch.
Now that Bush is a safe distance from reelection, however, it is Gen. Myers who’s unleashed to confess the problem’s solution is “more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military.”
That could have come right off the pages of John Kerry’s campaign talking points. In fact, it did.
As early as late 2003 Kerry said as president he would launch “a major initiative in public diplomacy” to lead “the next generation of Islamic youth” toward democracy, work to overcome anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, block financial resources for terrorists and rebuild international alliances.
To this wide-ranging proposal that it now parrots, the Bush administration then responded that Kerry was "misguided [and] hypocritical.”
It’s more than just Myers touting the Kerry line. The Bush choir is in full harmony with, for example, national security adviser Steven Hadley saying “It is more than just a military war on terror - it’s broader than that”; and under secretary of defense Douglas Feith crooning that if our strategy is restricted to “attacking and disrupting terrorist networks, you’re on a treadmill that is likely to get faster and faster with time.” To “ultimately” win, he says, we must examine “the ideological part of the war that deals with how the terrorists recruit and indoctrinate new terrorists.”
Here’s a tip, Doug. Foreign occupations tend to spur recruitment and facilitate indoctrination.
So to make any progress they’re finally coming around to others’ point of view, just like they had to do on North Korea - but only after the harm had been done. On that front Bush’s negotiator “sent several signals that the United States would take a more flexible, possibly softer negotiating line” regarding the crisis, now that the North Koreans have had time to quadruple their nuclear inventory.
I asked yesterday if the administration’s more enlightened language on terrorism might reflect “a fresh strategy of some benefit.” But it’s too little too late and the lasting harm has already been done. And once political pressures here and abroad drive us out of Iraq - as they inevitably will - its Shiite-dominated government will likely get on with a Sunni-slaughtering rampage that’ll cause the world to stir with nostalgia for Saddam Hussein.
But by then George will have kicked back in monied retirement and left the whole damned mess in someone else’s lap - probably a Democrat, who will then be crucified for the inherited mess by the clowns who created it.