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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Where Were You When the War Ended?

I know I was kinda busy last week, but still, it was no excuse for missing the news that the Global War On Terrorism was officially ended by the Bush administration. No, they didn’t unveil a “Mission Accomplished” banner on an aircraft carrier; they simply let it be known that GWOT would henceforth be replaced by the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism, or GSAVE. Why the startling change? Eric Schmitt and Tom Shanker of the New York Times explain it as follows:

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club on Monday that he had “objected to the use of the term ‘war on terrorism’ before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution.” He said the threat instead should be defined as violent extremists, with the recognition that “terror is the method they use.”Although the military is heavily engaged in the mission now, he said, future efforts require “all instruments of our national power, all instruments of the international communities’ national power.” The solution is “more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military,” he concluded.

There are two rather obvious comments to make about Myers’ explanation. First, isn’t it fairly well established that wars are prevented, begun, waged, won and lost through non-military as well as military means? And second, hasn’t the use of “all instruments of national power” and “all instruments of the international communities’ national power” been appropriate all along, and certainly since 9/11?Indeed, Myers’ line of reasoning might have come in pretty handy before the Pentagon decided to invade Iraq without a post-Saddam plan for the country, and before the White House decided to let DoD supervise the political and economic reconstruction effort.Indeed, the richest passage in the Times report is a graph about the deep thinking that went into the change of terminology:

Administration and Pentagon officials say the revamped campaign has grown out of meetings of President Bush’s senior national security advisers that began in January, and it reflects the evolution in Mr. Bush’s own thinking nearly four years after the Sept. 11 attacks.

It’s probably going to come as a deep shock to Bush’s conservative base of support that his “thinking” is subject to “evolution,” and I don’t mean just those who support scientific creationism. After all, his entire re-election effort was based on marketing him as an unshakable Man of Resolve, as opposed to the dangerously reflective John Kerry. And speaking of Kerry, Matt Yglesias over at TAPPED rightly points out that the same people responsible for suddenly declaring We’re Not At War savaged Bush’s Democratic opponent for allegedly failing to understand that it was all about the military use of force.These are the people, of course, who never admit mistakes on either side of a flip-flop. But it’s going to take a lot of revisionist history to pull this one off. Matt also notes that GWOT is a term in constant use all over the Pentagon website. I’ll go him one better: it may take a supplemental defense appropriations bill to rewrite the millions of pages of DoD documents that stipulate GWOT as the long-term underpinning of every aspect of national security policy.

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