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No More “War on Terror” Rhetoric

According to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the Obama administration has essentially discontinued utilizing the language of “war on terror.” This language has, for the past 8 years, served a rallying cry for America’s foreign policy, so its interesting to see the language shift, even though it is, of course not all that unexpected.

I wonder though if this isn’t yet another example of the sort of ideological ricochet that defines America’s international ambitions. The war on terror rhetoric served the purpose of riling the citizenry under the Bush administration, but now that those chickens are coming home to roost we get mad at that kind of rhetoric, so the new administration dispenses with it, showing the volume of the change it is bringing. But all of this is mere window dressing. Dispensing with this rhetoric, ironically has the same effect as its imposition: that of galvanizing the citizenry in their support for whatever foreign policies the government wants to enact.


  1. N. Dan Smith wrote:

    I think Obama has a very skilled rhetorical team. Have you ever seen one of those Obama bumper stickers where the “O” is a peace sign? An incredible non-sequitur, but people bought it.

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 10:50 am | Permalink
  2. Michael Westmoreland-White wrote:

    It is not yet clear whether this change will be more than rhetorical. A “war” on a METHOD like terrorism was clearly illogical and much of the rest of the world translated the rhetoric to “war on Islam.”

    Also, “war” metaphors tend to militarize thought. The “war on drugs” meant that tackling the problem of drug traffic would be approached in a military manner rather than as a public health matter.

    Terrorism, including Islamist-inspired terrorism, does need to be opposed. Now that we are dropping the GWOT metaphor, will we be open to handling the problem through just peacemaking models or will we continue to treat the problem militarily? Obama’s new Afghanistan plans give mixed messages along those lines.

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  3. Hill wrote:

    We’re just going to keep doing the same thing, except not call it a war anymore, a far more sinister proposition in my opinion.

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 8:01 pm | Permalink
  4. Michael Westmoreland-White wrote:

    Hill could be right, but I am not convinced it must be so.

    Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

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