Monday, January 29, 2007
all the things she said, running through my head:
John Bellinger, the State Department's legal adviser, is blogging at Opinio Juris, and introduces a new meaning for an old term:
The phrase "the global war on terror"—to which some have objected-- is not intended to be a legal statement. The United States does not believe that it is engaged in a legal state of armed conflict at all times with every terrorist group in the world, regardless of the group’s reach or its aims, or even with all of the groups on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Nor is military force the appropriate response in every situation across the globe. When we state that there is a “global war on terror,” we primarily mean that the scourge of terrorism is a global problem that the international community must recognize and work together to eliminate.
This is, to the best of my recollection, just not true. The "global" in GWOT is first meant to signify that we'll act globally against the terrorists, as opposed to any one particular theatre of war. Secondly it's meant to say that the enemy is, as the old phrase used to have it, "every terrorist group of global reach." (In fact, that very line from Bush's September 20, 2001 speech to Congress held that the GWOT "will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated." Bellinger, like most intelligent people, figures that Bush can't possibly mean what he said, and judging by his actions, he doesn't.) I suppose a third-order meaning might be that it's the fight of the globe, and not just America, but to substitute that nice mulitilateralist meaning for the one that everyone understood until Bellinger's blog post is a bit rich.
--Spencer Ackerman
Ah, we've finally crossed the T.A.T.U. barrier, eh?
Blogger Marty Lederman | 5:15 PM

It was playing at a bar I was at not long ago. Rush of memory & all that.

Marty, what did you make of Bellinger's comments?
Blogger spencerackerman | 6:13 PM

I remember when the "war on terror" phrase was first used. I shrugged it off, taking it in the same context as the "war on drugs" or "war on poverty" or "war on disco" or whatever, to mean "concentrated government effort to deal with this problem". Rather than, you know, a literal war.

But it's been quite a few years, and a lot of assorted liquids under the bridge. I remember the "Global War on Terror" patches (or medals or whatever they were) that people who fought in the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war were originally supposed to get, instead of thingy-bobs for the actual war that they had served in. And I remember a lot of people talking about how wussy evil Democrats would treat terrorism as a "law enforcement" problem, instead of, you know, a war. And so I think it's a bit rich for a guy in the government, NOW, to say "Oh, we didn't LITERALLY mean a war when we said a war. How could you be so silly?"
Blogger Tom | 1:31 PM

Marty: I was gonna say, seeing Mr. Ackerman spew psuedo-lesbian dancepop was brain-wibbling.

That said, administrations have been misusing the word "war" since, what, Ike? The War on Poverty, the War On (Some) Drugs, and now the War On (Some) Terrorism. (I can't recall the last time an abortion clinic bomber was referred to as a "Terrorist" of any persuasion ideological or religious.)

This "war", unlike those others, involves the projection of military force and presupposes a responsibility to strike on foreign soil, so likening the GWOT to the WO(S)D is an odd attempt to distract us from the truth that men and women are dying for it.

(Although Radley Balko will argue that the WO(S)D is becoming increasingly militarized).
Blogger Elf Sternberg | 9:23 AM