During a recent interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, President Obama indicated that his administration is in fact moving away from the of the phrase “war on terror.” Recognizing that “we have a battle or a war against some terrorist organizations,” he sees those groups as not “representative of a broader Arab community.” Presumably, his use of the word “some” in reference to terrorist organizations does not mean he thinks other terrorist organizations are less dangerous, but is just a case of awkward phrasing.
Then again, he did say that “words matter.”
The president told Cooper that “words matter in this situation because one of the ways we’re going to win this struggle is through the battle of hearts and minds.” My question is this: Are we now trying to win over the hearts and minds of terrorists?
Certainly there are issues that need to be debated in the marketplace of ideas. There are a vast number of Muslims in the world who are not radicalized. And we certainly want to use reason, intelligent argument, and appeals to justice, mercy, and compassion as part of a concerted effort to prevent some from crossing over to the dark side.
But for those who are already indoctrinated, immersed, and otherwise in bondage to a fanatical Islamist ideology, it is foolhardy to think that any words from anyone in the west will disabuse them of their destructive notions and deadly ambitions.
Mr. Obama reminded those gathered at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington the other day that he is not naïve. But some of the signals being sent by him and his administration are, at best, mixed on the subject. If you have to say you are tough, you’re probably not. And if you have to say you are not naïve, you just might be.
Frankly, I – along with so many others – have never been a fan of the whole “war on terror” nomenclature. It smacked of vagueness and misdirection, directing focus on one particular methodology in a larger conflict. I have always thought we should be demonizing an ideology – one very worthy of such a characterization.
We should have, all along, been saying that we are in a war against a vile, loathsome, and pernicious ideology – Islamism. It is only a combination of a misguided sense of political correctness blended with a cowering fear of inciting dangerous people that has kept us from telling it like it is.