Dad, what did you do during the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism? I was a war-blogger, son.
Did I miss a recent Howard Kurtz media column in the Washington Post? Why didn’t anyone tell me that the New York Times has merged with The Onion? Or that the New York Sun had hired the editors of the Old Pravda? That should explain the story in the Times on Tuesday, “New Name for ‘War on Terror’ Reflects Wider U.S. Campaign,” which reads like one of those Onion spoofs of real news. But this is actually real news, the kind that originates these days among members of the Faith-based community in Washington, one of the world’s last bastions of Philosophical Idealism, according to which the whole world is mental construction. Say it is so, and it is so. The Bushies, it seems, have decided that the “war on terror” is no more and that from now on and/or until the National Committee to Rename Wars would convene and come up with something new, we should call whatever “it” is, the “global struggle against violent extremism.”
According to the Times piece, written by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, President Bush’s senior national security advisors have been very busy in recent months. Discussing how to defeat the insurgencies in Iraq? Or perhaps to find ways to capture Osama and Company? Nope. Since January they have been taking part in many meetings that eventually resulted in the “revamped campaign,” which in turn, reflects “the evolution in Mr. Bush’s thinking nearly four years after the Sep. 11 attacks.” You see, it’s “more than just a military war on terror,” explains Steven Hadley, Bush’s national security advisor. “It’s broader than that. It’s a global struggle against extremism. We need to dispute both the gloomy vision and offer a positive alternative.” He really said that. And the administration is also trying to reassure those in uniform who have begun complaining that only members of the armed forces are being asked to sacrifice for the war on terrorism, oops…sorry… the “global struggle against violent extremism” or G-SAVE. So if you dear readers are pessimistic about the mission in Iraq or angry that members of your family will have to stay in that country for another year or two or three, well, just say G-SAVE, and things would look very, very upbeat.
We are winning the War of Ideas. Indeed, the article ends with a quote from the Man of Ideas himself, Douglas Feith who explains that the key to “ultimately winning the war” is “addressing the ideological part.” That’s right! And that explains why Feith and his colleagues didn’t care too much about post-war planning in Iraq. That’s a job for Realists, not Idealists.
And do you still have some doubts about the March to Freedom in Iraq, the Broader Middle East, and Planet Earth? Cheer up. The New York Sun informs us that things are going to look quite different when lawmakers return to Washington this September and vote in favor of a “new legislation that would commit America to ending tyranny the world over.” Indeed, the headline in Wednesday’s Sun proclaims that “‘Universal Democracy’ Is the Goal as Congress Eyes New Legislation.” Reporter Eli Lake reveals that:

“tucked inside the House version of a bill that authorizes spending on foreign aid is the language of what is known as the ADVANCE Democracy Act. The act instructs American ambassadors and embassy staffs to draw up democracy transition plans for unfree (sic.) regimes, with input from nonviolent opposition movements in the various countries. While Congress has passed laws that require America to work with democratic opposition groups for specific countries – such as the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act – never before has it considered a law that would, as ADVANCE proposes, ‘commit United States foreign policy to the challenge of achieving universal democracy.'”

Wow… Now the Senate seems to be ready to adopt a similar bill, with Republicans and Democrats on board. Lake also discovered that “despite some of the official objections, there is evidence that Foggy Bottom is quietly making preparations for when the ADVANCE Democracy Act becomes law.” “We like the idea,” he quotes one administration official. “But we would also like more flexibility. We want to change some of the ‘shoulds’ to ‘shalls.'” Got that? Perhaps the next “regime change” would not even require one of those meaningless debates in Congress about whether the U.S. “should” go to war. It shall.
So now with G-SAFE and ADVANCE do I really feel safer than during the Cold War when I was protected by Dr. Strangelove’s Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). Not really. On a second thought, I would have chosen WWIII or WWIV. But if we need to change the name of a war why not go back to the source of all wisdom, to the Masters of Propaganda in the Comintern and the Old Kremlin. What’s wrong with the Great Patriotic War?

Leon Hadar (author of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).)