Farewell to the "war on terror". Welcome instead to the "global
struggle against violent extremists", the new official phrase in Washington
to denote the fight against al-Qa'ida and other militant Islamic groups.
The change was little noticed when the terminology started to pop up in speeches
by President George Bush and other officials. But now it is everywhere, signifying
two realisations: that the "war on terror" is as meaningless a term
as the "war on drugs"; and that it will not be won by military means
As recently as a month ago, Mr Bush was still referring to the "war on
terror", but now the enemy has acquired the human form of "violent
extremists" or, as Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, put it last
Friday, "enemies of freedom, the enemies of civilisation".
This week General Richard Myers, the outgoing chairman of the joint chiefs of
staff at the Pentagon, went further, saying that "the long term problem
is... more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military".
The linguistic shift has been brought on by circumstances. Increasingly, Americans
oppose the war in Iraq, and do not believe the President when he insists the
2003 invasion was part of the "war on terror" that began on 11 September
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military most certainly is at war. But on the
home front, the only visible manifestation is tightened security. It has become
harder to convince the public that the country is indeed at war in the generally