Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hopelessly Befuddled

An article in the New York Times, “U.S. Command Shortens Life of ‘Long War’ as a Reference,” illustrates the utter confusion and lack of clarity in Washington, D.C. about the war they are supposedly fighting. There seem to be disagreements between the White House and the Pentagon on what to call this exercise.

It looks to me like they want to wage something like the Cold War, which means a long-term effort that is half assertion and half appeasement instead of all-out war.

“This is a generational war, and we are going to be in it a long time,” said a White House official, who declined to be identified. “Nobody I have heard around here is talking about dropping it.”

At the same time, they are so afraid of offending anyone in the Middle East that they tie themselves in knots trying find language to which no one can find offense.

An earlier push to change the way the Bush administration describes its strategy against terrorism was notably unsuccessful. In 2005, the Pentagon argued that the phrase “war on terror” should be replaced by “global struggle against violent extremism.”
I knew they were afraid to mention Islam in their pronouncements, but I had not known they were also afraid of the word “war.”

We have a Pentagon that if afraid to use the word “war.” This is what we have come to.

To give them credit, they are not waging war -- not a serious war with the goal of defeating the enemy -- so maybe they should give up using the word.

The piece ends with this,

Admiral Fallon does not appear to have come up with a catchy substitute for his predecessor’s turn of phrase.

“We continue to look for other options to characterize the scope of current operations,” said Colonel McLaughlin, the spokesman.

They do not how to characterize what they are doing because they do not know what they are doing. Their purposes are contradictory and irreconcilable, thus they are confused.

This is the bind that altruism has America in. Our leaders are trying to make the contradictory premises of self-sacrifice and self-defense work together in some pragmatic policy that will seem coherent for the moment. The contradiction has them hopelessly befuddled.

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