In recent speeches and news conferences, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the country’s top military officer have spoken of “a global struggle against violent extremism” rather than “the global war on terror,” which had been the catchphrase of choice.
Administration officials say the earlier phrase may have outlived its usefulness, because it focused attention solely, and incorrectly, on the military campaign.
General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club on Monday 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.”
He said the threat instead should be defined as violent extremism, with the recognition that “terror is the method they use.”
Although the military is heavily engaged in the mission now, he said, future efforts require “all instruments of our national power, all instruments of the international communities’ national power.” The solution is “more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military,” he concluded.
Administration and Pentagon officials say the revamped campaign has grown out of meetings of President George W. Bush’s senior national security advisers that began in January, and it reflects the evolution in Bush’s own thinking nearly four years after the Sept. 11 attacks.
I, for one, think this is a good thing. It’s just a name change, but we all know there is power in language. It is important to focus on the diplomatic side of this problem, on the things we all can do to help. The timing is also good, dovetailing with the IRA’s statement yesterday.