Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Violent Extremists or Islamic Terrorists.

I watched a debate last night of Fox News between Bill O'Reilly and conservative pundit Monica Crowley. In the wake of the attempted bombing in Times Square the issue of war terminology has reared its head again. Ever since Obama took office his administration has not used the phrase War on Terror, preferring instead the term Overseas Contingency Operations. Administration officials have also been instructed to use the term violent extremists instead of Islamic Terrorists. This tactic is being increasingly criticised by the Republicans especially since this latest attack is considered to be the fourth attempted attack on the US since Obama took office in January 2009.

Pakistani American terrorist Faisal Shahzad attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square

The general narrative from the right is that you cannot defeat something if you are unable to identify it. I would generally go along with that. However I have seen no indication in a practical sense that President Obama is unsure where the might of American military power should be directed. He has utterly decimated the Al Quaeda and Taliban leadership with UAV drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If he uses softer language in order to avoid unnecessarily angering the Muslim World then what possible harm can come from this. The only harm I can think of is that flag waving pundits like Crowley and Hannity are denied the use of soundbites which make them look tough.

The key phrase is Unnecessarily. Why would any supporter of the American campaign against global terrorism want to unnecessarily anger the Muslim World. There are times when it will be necessary to be blunt and this can't be helped but the pundits and politicians that get some sort of Joy or are attempting to score brownie points with the public by subtly insulting the Islamic world should be put in their place. Constantly referring to Islamic Terrorism after every incident can have a negative impact on relations between America and the Islamic World. Using the phrase achieves nothing.

I know people will argue that the Muslim World is always angry and a minor change in terminology will not alter this. Perhaps but it occurred to me recently that the difference between the most prominent hawks and liberals regarding terrorism is actually very simple. Hawks believe that terrorists hate America because of what America is, Liberals believe it is because of what America does. That's it, that's the difference between a George Bush and a George Galloway. I think a reasonable person should be able to admit that the truth lies somewhere in between. The Muslim World can be unnecessarily antagonised. If it has to be done then it has to be done, but to do so when it achieves nothing is counterproductive.

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