As members of the Allied Expeditionary Force entered the landing crafts that would transport them to their rendezvous with history in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, they received individual copies of the Order of the Day drafted by their Supreme Commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He had given the go ahead for the massive invasion, code named Overlord, in spite of weather that was less than inviting. He wanted the men to understand what they were fighting for – and against.
He told them:
“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”
In those days leaders weren’t as concerned about the politically correct parsing of phrases and words as some seem to be today. It was clear to them that they were not fighting mere “flesh and blood” but abhorrent ideological wickedness (“Nazi tyranny”). And they passed that clarity onto those who were engaged in the perilous fight.
So, why is it so hard for some today to call things as they are?
We are not fighting a war on terror. We are fighting against a pernicious way of thinking. Terrorism is a methodology – a way to fight a battle. The technique itself is not the enemy. Our foes are people and regimes who, in the name of foul opinion, perpetrate destruction. Just like back in the 1940s.
Can you imagine what it would have sounded like if Ike, FDR, or Churchill had been bound by the sensitivities of our day? We would have been “battling the blitzkriegers,” or maybe “bringing to justice those who dared to attack too early on a Sunday morning,” - hardly clarion calls.
Wars make more sense, and they tend to be conducted with greater vigilance and effectiveness, when we understand things in terms of good vs. evil. But these days it’s hard to even bring up the idea that militant Islam is to blame, much less to frame the current conflict as a war against it. History, however, leaves clues that remind us that there is really not much new under the sun.