War on terror is not what it seemed – The “global war on terrorism” is over, and was a bad idea in the first place, says Obama’s counterterrorism adviser
By Paul Koring
The “global war on terrorism” is over and calling it that was a bad idea, President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser said Thursday.
The phrase, coined by former president George W. Bush and often rendered in Washington speak as GWOT (pronounced “gee whot”) enraged many of his critics who argued that it was impossible to wage war on a tactic (or a noun). Mr. Obama has studiously avoided the phase and Thursday, John Brennan, the top White House adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism, explained why.
In his first public speech, the veteran CIA agent said that the shift is more sweeping than a change in vocabulary and that it reflects the President’s broad philosophical approach.
“The President does not describe this as a ‘war on terrorism,’ ” Mr. Brennan said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “That is because terrorism is but a tactic, a means to an end, which in al-Qaeda’s case is global domination by an Islamic caliphate. Confusing ends and means is dangerous, because by focusing on the tactic, we risk floundering among the terrorist trees while missing the growth of the extremist forest.”
Similarly, Mr. Brennan said, Mr. Obama “does not describe this as a global war, believing it makes al-Qaeda too big and important.
“Describing our efforts as a global war only plays into the warped narrative that al-Qaeda propagates. It plays into the misleading and dangerous notion” that the United States is fighting “the very image that al-Qaeda seeks to project of itself – that it is a highly organized, global entity capable of replacing sovereign nations with a global caliphate.”
“Nothing,” Mr. Brennan said, “could be further from the truth.”
Instead, he tried to portray al-Qaeda as “seriously damaged,” nearly eight years after the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide hijackings destroyed New York’s twin towers and damaged the Pentagon. However, Osama bin Laden remains at large and “al-Qaeda has proven to be adaptive and highly resilient and remains the most serious terrorist threat we face,” Mr. Brennan said, adding that another major attack with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons targeting an American city “remains the top priority for the al-Qaeda senior leadership.”
Mr. Brennan insisted that the change in thinking is far more sweeping than just a rhetorical rollback of some of the Bush administration’s lexicological overreach.
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