Two months ago — before the Inaugural — I blogged “The ‘war on terror’ is over.” At that time, the British Foreign Secretary said that the UK no longer used the phrase.
Now, apparently, the US will stop using the phrase as well:
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 Washington Post story quotes some government officials who seem to be less-than-certain that this shift in rhetoric has occurred.
On February 16, a report issued by the International Commission of Jurists recommended that the US and other states back off of their war on terror. This is from their press release:
The Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, established by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), has based its report “Assessing Damage, Urging Action” on sixteen hearings covering more than forty countries in all regions of the world.
“In the course of this inquiry, we have been shocked by the extent of the damage done over the past seven years by excessive or abusive counter-terrorism measures in a wide range of countries around the world. Many governments, ignoring the lessons of history, have allowed themselves to be rushed into hasty responses to terrorism that have undermined cherished values and violated human rights. The result is a serious threat to the integrity of the international human rights legal framework,” said Justice Arthur Chaskalson, the Chair of the Panel, former Chief Justice of South Africa and first President of the South African Constitutional Court…
The report calls for the rejection of the “war on terror” paradigm and for a full repudiation of the policies grounded in it. It emphasises that criminal justice systems, not secret intelligence, should be at the heart of the legal response to terrorism.
Plenty of domestic critics have critized the framework as well:
“Declaring war on a method of violence was like declaring war on amphibious warfare,” said Jeffrey Record, a strategy expert at the US military’s Air War College in Alabama.
“Also, it suggested that there was a military solution, and that we were at war with all practitioners of terrorism, whether they threatened American interests or not. ‘War’ is very much overused here in the United States – on crime, drugs, poverty. Everything has to be a war. We would have been much smarter to approach terrorism as the Europeans do, as a criminal activity.”
John A. Nagl, the former Army officer who helped write the military’s latest counterinsurgency field manual, said the phrase “was enormously unfortunate because I think it pulled together disparate organizations and insurgencies.”
“Our strategy should be to divide and conquer rather than make of enemies more than they are,” said Nagl, now president of the Center for a New American Security, a defense policy think tank in Washington. “We are facing a number of different insurgencies around the globe — some have local causes, some of them are transnational. Viewing them all through one lens distorts the picture and magnifies the enemy.”
Search the Duck archives, and you’ll find ZERO uses of the phrase in the title of this post. I wonder how much that will change in the next four years?