Here we are years out, governments in Oz and the UK having effectively flipped and a certain perspective has started to take root about that post-post-9/11 era which I wrote about over two-and-a-half years ago and which Johnny Come Latelies (though Johnny Come Latelies with actual connection to power and the thoughtful observation of power) are admitting may now be upon us. Arguably to that end, as Darcey has noted, this was announced late last week:
The words "war on terror" will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public, the country's chief prosecutor said Dec. 27. Sir Ken Macdonald said terrorist fanatics were not soldiers fighting a war but simply members of an aimless "death cult." The Director of Public Prosecutions said: 'We resist the language of warfare, and I think the government has moved on this. It no longer uses this sort of language."The usefulness of any given terminology needs to be considered on a periodic basis if we are not to fall into mere jingoism and belief. Back on a date closer to 9/11 than now, I summarized my thoughts on fear in this post and, for the most part, I continue to understand the world is as I thought then: there is less actual fear and less to actually fear now than there was in the Cold War, when the threat was second fiddle to Red nukes. That to a large degree is why I have never liked the term "war on terror" or its former larger version "the global war on terror" - hard to top having 17 nukes aimed at my old town for unsettling the mind.
But this is not to say that the warring on terrorists is not useful or necessary. Quite the opposite - I have now doubt that the efforts of western military and other forces have made up more safe given the long term and patient plans of Al Queda. It is just that the term is so general that it does not inspire the imagination or even inform the public in the way that it acts as marketing rather than explanation of the idea, leaving even our leadership embarrassingly scratching their heads as to why the people are not with them. Like the lack of war bonds, the failure to provide information about what is happening has led to a vacuum in the public mind which will not be filled with PR bits about handing out toys desite a lack of a Marshall Plan style of general reconstruction in Iraq.
So what should replace the term the "war on terror"? I suggest different terms for different aspects of the whole. In certain contexts, the words of Ken Macdonald above are quite correct. Terrorism as a local even is a police matter so should we not speak of religiously motivated hate crimes? The police arrest them, the criminal courts convict them and the jails hold them with any luck as murderous dangerous offenders. Conversely, when referring to Afghanistan perhaps "The Push for the Tribal Areas" would be better given that this area in Pakistan is arguably now the hiding place of much of what we have to deal with and where we may have to go - whether our government knows it or not. Where our darker forces are in the field, well, maybe little more need be said specifically though maybe a little more needs to be said as well. Do we move to language like "the Fist of the Free" or something less Captain America v. the Red Skull? What would that be?
When the older generation in my experience speaks of 1939 to 1945, they rarely discuss World War II. I've heard about D-Day from a neighbour who was there or the sinking of The Hood from a kid who read about it in the paper. I heard about how someone I knew shelled the German lines in Holland as they themselves were shelled in reply. People knew the details. The uselessness of "The War on Terror" has always been its inability to tell the story in terms of what is happening today. But can new language be introduced now to do the job this branding never could?