Chief of Pentagon Joint Staff Wary of “War” Rhetoric

President Bush likes to remind the country as often as possible that “we are at war.”  (Last night, though, he acknowledged, without irony, that “one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror.”)  The few people who have balked at the rhetoric of “war” as the response to terrorism often have been derided as “unserious” about the threat of terrorism.  But it’s interesting to see that the latest person to reject Bush’s war rhetoric is Army Col. Gary Cheek, the chief of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff:

What is needed, said Army Col. Gary Cheek, is to recast terrorists as the criminals they are.

“It makes sense for us to find another name for the GWOT,” said Cheek. “It merits rethinking. I know our European allies are more comfortable articulating issues of terrorism as criminal threats, rather than war … It ought to be our goal to partner better with the European allies so we can migrate this from a war to something other than a war.”

The “war” moniker elevates al-Qaida and other transnational terrorists, giving them legitimacy as an opposition force to the United States. It also tends to alienate Muslim populations in other countries, who see the war as a war on Islam, and feel they need to support al-Qaida as a matter of defending their faith.

It also tends to frame the fight as one in which the Defense Department has the primary role, when it is becoming increasingly clear that the “long war” against global terrorism is going to be won on other fronts – economic, political, diplomatic, financial. Other government agencies and departments must become more engaged; only they have the expertise to help other countries take the actions necessary to defeat terrorists.

Whole story here.