Monday, August 01, 2005

In case you hadn't noticed, the "War on Terror" is over. There was no treaty signed, no major battle won, no white flag raised, and no end to the fighting. What there was was a meeting. Very quietly, administration officials last week stopped using the "war" word and began referring to the "global struggle against violent extremism."

Now, back when all us crazy liberals were shouting about the impossibility of winning a war against an abstract noun ("terror"), the administration hawks kept using the war metaphor to describe the conflict, gather power, and go about their agenda.

Then the London bombings happened. And [almost] happened again. And, very quietly, the separation of the "global struggle against violent extremism" and the wrap-up of war-like operations in Iraq. (U.S. Officials Retool Slogan for Terror War - NY Times)

In some ways this is an admission of the failure of the administration's policy. The excuse of fighting the "war on terror" in Iraq "so that we don't have to fight it at home" vanished in the explosions that rocked London in the last month.

A "struggle against extremism" suggests that some solutions might not take the form of large armies going to far away lands. The solution to a struggle might be found in diplomacy, education, and smaller-scale police actions.

In some ways, however, the new phrasing could prove more dangerous. In the eyes of many conservatives, "violent extremism" is a way to describe environmentalists who spike trees to prevent lumbering, or who release lab animals before they can be experimented on. Does the new phrasing signal a new crack-down on domestic dissenters?

Think that could never happen here? Think of the recent appointment of John Bolton to the U.N. post in an end-run around Congress to avoid confirmation. Bolton, who was part of the legal team that James Baker brought down to Florida in 2000 to help W "win" the presidency. And that other recent nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court. Roberts, who voluntarily went to Florida in 2000 to give advice to his good friend, Jeb Bush. Expectations of democracy are largely unfounded in the New American Republic.

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