Jonathan Schanzer’s New York Post article “Here’s What All Those Terror Terms Actually Mean” is good to see, not only for its general content but also for its underlying premise.
Schanzer focuses on several conceptual contortions widely used today for the purpose of evading truths about our enemies and what we must do to destroy them. Although I take issue with some of his assumptions (e.g., jihad has no root cause), Schanzer’s article is important because it proceeds from the idea that conceptual precision and clarity are essential to rational thinking and proper action. It’s also humorous and appropriately snarky, given the asininity of some of these popular terms and phrases.
Here’s a sample:
Degrade and destroy: Choose one. If you’re merely degrading a terrorist group, you have probably yet to determine how to destroy it. If you’re destroying the group, there’s no reason to degrade it. Why not just say you want to vanquish your enemy? That way, it’s not a multiple-choice quiz.
Moderate Gulf Arab allies: This term is used to describe Saudi Arabia and Qatar, among others. Other than oil, the Saudis’ top export is Wahhabi Islam, which breeds generations of hate we have yet to even confront. Qatar is the piggy bank for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, and it supports a range of bad actors in Syria. But other than that, these countries are moderate.
New threat: Unless you’re a high school freshman right now, none of this is new. We’ve been at war with this radical ideology since Sept. 11, 2001. And that’s ignoring the first World Trade Center bombing (1993), Khobar Towers (1996) and the USS Cole (2000), to name a few. Don’t forget the Iranian revolution (1979), the Beirut embassy bombing (1983), and the Salman Rushdie affair (1989). Sure, the Islamic State is a new terror group, but it’s got a very familiar beard. . . .
War on terror: A holdover from the George W. Bush presidency, this term may be the worst of them all. Terrorism is a tactic. It’s not an enemy or an ideology. This is akin to declaring war on strafing or sniping. Little wonder we haven’t won the war yet. We might want to make sure we know whom we’re fighting before we devise a strategy on how to win.
Read the whole thing here.