By lex, on April 15th, 2010
Back when Dubya was fighting his “Global War on Terror”, the criticism was that you don’t make war on “terror” – that being a tactic – but upon those who would use that tactic. In World War II, by contrast, we didn’t wage a “Pacific War on Aircraft Carriers – we fought the Japanese.
So we were forced to modify our language somewhat. Bush said that our struggle was not against Islam, which after all, is a faith that provides guidance and comfort to some 1.2 billion people, the vast majority of whom mean us no harm. So, before we turned the GWOT into a campaign against “man caused disasters”, we briefly experimented with a “struggle against violent extremism.” To put not too fine a touch on it, this was “religiously motivated” violent extremism, although for my own part I often wonder to what degree the faith is a casus belli and to what degree it is merely a political prop used to dupe halfwits and simpletons into blowing themselves up among crowds of children.
Anyway, we all knew who the enemy was, even if we were too polite to name names. Now policy has taken the place ** of politesse:
President Barack Obama’s advisers plan to remove terms such as “Islamic radicalism” from a document outlining national security strategy and will use the new version to emphasize that the U.S. does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terrorism, counterterrorism officials say.
The change would be a significant shift in the National Security Strategy, a document that previously outlined the Bush Doctrine of preventive war. It currently states, “The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century…”
That shift away from terrorism has been building for a year, since Obama went to Cairo and promised a “new beginning” in the relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim world. The White House believes the previous administration based that relationship entirely on fighting terrorism and winning the war of ideas.
Fundamentally, the motivation here is noble: The Obama administration seeks less to define America as a country that you have to choose sides over, and more about whether it’s the kind of place you’d like to do business with. But Raymond Ibrahim thinks the move has certain drawbacks:
In short, knowledge is inextricably linked to language. The more generic the language, the less precise the knowledge it imparts; conversely, the more precise the language, the more precise the knowledge. In the conflict against Islamic radicalism, to acquire accurate knowledge, which is essential to victory, we need to begin with accurate language.
This means U.S. intelligence analysts and policymakers need to be able to use, and fully appreciate the significance of, words related to Islam — starting with the word “Islam” itself, i.e., submission. It means the U.S. military needs to begin expounding and studying Islamic war doctrine — without fear of reprisal *. In short, it means America’s leadership needs to take that ancient dictum — “Know thy enemy”— seriously.
Deplorably enough, nearly a decade after the Islamist-inspired attacks of 9/11, far from knowing its enemy, the U.S. government is today not even prepared to acknowledge its enemy, which is doubly problematic, as knowledge begins with acknowledgment.
Put another way, we didn’t talk much about Islamic extremism before 9/11. Most of us thought that it was something that happened “over there,” horrid at times, but always distant. We’ve learned a great deal more about the Prophet’s faith, and some among his faithful, since then.
“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War
* 09-29-2018 Link Gone; no replacements found – Ed.
** 09-29-2018 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.