Saturday, December 16, 2006


EUReferendum links to this Observer article with the words:

the language of appeasement. Weep you can, but it won't do any good.
The Observer piece reports:
Cabinet ministers have been told by the Foreign Office to drop the phrase 'war on terror' and other terms seen as liable to anger British Muslims and increase tensions more broadly in the Islamic world.

The shift marks a turning point in British political thinking about the strategy against extremism and underlines the growing gulf between the British and American approaches to the continuing problem of radical Islamic militancy. It comes amid increasingly evident disagreements between President George Bush and Tony Blair over policy in the Middle East.
Now, here's a thing. In a recent interview, Donald Rumsfeld was reported as saying this:
I don’t think I would have called it the war on terror. I don’t mean to be critical of those who have. Certainly, I have used the phrase frequently. Why do I say that? Because the word war conjures up World War II more than it does the Cold War. It creates a level of expectation of victory and an ending within 30 or 60 minutes of a soap opera. It isn’t going to happen that way. Furthermore, it is not a ‘war on terror.’ Terror is a weapon of choice for extremists who are trying to destabilize regimes and, [through] a small group of clerics, impose their dark vision on all the people they can control. So ‘war on terror’ is a problem for me.

I’ve worked to reduce the extent to which that [label] is used and increased the extent to which we understand it more as a long war, or a struggle, or a conflict, not against terrorism but against a relatively small number of terribly dangerous and violent extremists. I say violent extremists because an extremist who goes off in a closet is extreme, but he’s not bothering people. An extremist who has those views and insists on imposing them on free people strikes at the heart of who free people are. There are people who want to be able to get up in the morning and go where they want, do what they want, and that is exactly the opposite of the vision of violent extremists.
Rumsfeld is right but his reasons are different from those of the Foreign Office, unsurprisingly. By implication, we should be talking more of a struggle against extremists.

While the Foreign Office is certainly guilty of appeasement or worse - directly employing Islamic extremists, for example - one does not have to be an appeaser to feel the phrase "War on Terror" is inappropriate. As Rumsfeld himself shows in the quotations above, it's difficult to avoid the word "war", but less so the word "terror".

We are at war with Al Quaeda and various other Islamist groups, some of whom are sheltered by or connected with specific overseas governments, some of whom live in countries that are our allies. We should say so, identify them, identify objectives and most important of all identify what we would consider a victory. If we don't, we face an unending intensification of erosions of civil liberties in the name of a civil emergency, appropriate only to time of war, but with no conceivable end in sight.

This state of perpetual war was envisaged by George Orwell in 1984 as a precondition for a state of permanent tyranny. Orwell could not have foreseen the threat we face today, but otherwise his prediction is correct. Terror cannot surrender; Al Quaeda can. Rumsfeld also remarked:
At any given moment during the Cold War, which lasted 50 years, you couldn’t say if you were winning or losing. The Civil War, as well. There aren’t straight and smooth paths. There are bumpy roads. It’s difficult. The enemy has a brain. They’re constantly making adjustments. Think of the faces of the Cold War when Euro-communism was in vogue, and people were demonstrating by the millions against the United States, not against the Soviet Union. And yet, over time, people found the will - both political parties and Western European countries - to persist in a way that ultimately led to victory.

The circumstance we are in today is more like that than it is like World War II. People are going to have to get more familiar with that idea. It’s not a happy prospect. There are people in the world who are determined to destabilize modern Muslim regimes and re-establish a caliphate across the globe, and anyone who wants to know about it can go on the Internet and read their own words and what their intent is. They’re deadly. They’re not going to surrender. They’re going to have to be captured or killed. They’re going to have to be dissuaded; people are going to have to be dissuaded from supporting them, from financing them and assisting in their recruitment, providing havens for them.

We’re in an environment where we have to fight and win a war where the enemy is in countries we are not at war with.
I disagree with him on one point, I am more optimistic. I think they will surrender. But first, we have to admit, openly, that we are at war with them, and not at war with an emotion or a tactic.

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