The Obama administration appears to be backing away from the phrase “global war on terror,” a signature rhetorical legacy of its predecessor.
In a memo e-mailed this week to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department’s office of security review noted that “this administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror’ [GWOT.] Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’ ”
The memo said the direction came from the Office of Management and Budget, the executive-branch agency that reviews the public testimony of administration officials before it is delivered.
Not so, said Kenneth Baer, an OMB spokesman.
“There was no memo, no guidance,” Baer said yesterday. “This is the opinion of a career civil servant.”
Coincidentally or not, senior administration officials had been publicly using the phrase “overseas contingency operations” in a war context for roughly a month before the e-mail was sent.
Peter Orszag, the OMB director, turned to it Feb. 26 when discussing Obama’s budget proposal at a news conference: “The budget shows the combined cost of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and any other overseas contingency operations that may be necessary.”
And in congressional testimony last week, Craig W. Duehring, assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower, said, “Key battlefield monetary incentives has allowed the Air Force to meet the demands of overseas contingency operations even as requirements continue to grow.”
Monday’s Pentagon e-mail was prompted by congressional testimony that Lt. Gen. John W. Bergman, head of the Marine Forces Reserve, intends to give today. The memo advised Pentagon personnel to “please pass this onto your speechwriters and try to catch this change before statements make it to OMB.”
The article goes on to quote “military officials” as saying the use of the term “global war on terror” “magnified the enemy” more than they should have been because… well, I didn’t quite understand the cause.
This is not unlike how House Democrats banned the use of the term “global war on terror” in defense budget bills shortly after their return to the majority in 2007.
I suspect this change in terminology had more to do with how international groups felt about it than how those “military critics” did:
Last month, the International Commission of Jurists urged the Obama administration to drop the phrase “war on terror.” The commission said the term had given the Bush administration “spurious justification to a range of human rights and humanitarian law violations,” including detention practices and interrogation methods that the International Committee of the Red Cross has described as torture.
Jonn Lilyea sums up:
Right before we became involved in this global war on terror, the Clinton Administration decided to water down our language and redesignated “rogue nations” to “nations of concern” – the same kind of language the police use. Now our war against terrorists are ‘contingency operations” – it sounds more like meals on wheels operations than a war.
Our enemies think they are in a war, what with all the missile attacks and death and destruction involved. Our soldiers think they’re in a war – their families think it’s a war. Apparently the only people who don’t think we’re in a war are our leaders. It’s just another indicator that this Administration is not prepared for the challenges it faces when it thinks that language is more important than their commitment to dealing with the threat we all face.
Of course, all this really represents is a chldish move away from “everything Bush” – and attempt to cover up the successes of the Bush Administration and hide the fact that this new administration has no intention of doing anything except be the anti-Bush presidency. Four more years of this mental masturbation.
The Obama administration, in typical liberal fashion, is so obsessed with how “the world” feels about the US that it’s willing to do whatever it takes to try and “win back” their “approval.” One can only hope that this is just a purely symbolic move similar to the administration’s stance on the use of the term “enemy combatants” to describe the suspected terrorists they’ll still hold without charges at other detention facilities other than Gitmo, in spite of Obama’s repeated criticisms over the last two years of the Bush administration’s holding of suspected terrorists without charges.
On a much more upbeat note, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby pens a must-read this morning on Iraq, titled “Bush’s ‘folly’ is ending in victory” – make sure to read the whole thing.
Update – 3:45 PM: Here’s Senator John Cornyn’s (R-TX) response to the WaPo story:
“President Obama’s desire to re-name the Global War On Terror will not make terrorism any less of a threat to America. Choosing to focus on semantics, instead of a strategy for victory, reveals a lack of seriousness and sends mixed messages to our allies in this fight. Like the Administration’s efforts to re-name terrorist acts as ‘man-caused disasters,’ this change in rhetoric will not change the fact that radical Islamic fundamentalists seek to destroy our way of life and spend every waking moment devising new ways to spread their hate-filled ideology. It is my hope that President Obama would instead see the Global War On Terror for what it truly is – a critical effort to protect Americans and ensure that future generations will be able to live in freedom as well. Many of our military leaders refer to the effort as ‘the Long War,’ recognizing that it will not be won overnight, much like the Cold War took decades to win. It is my sincere hope that President Obama will reassess his priorities, abandon this rhetorical effort and outline his detailed strategy for fighting and winning the Global War On Terror.”