Thursday, March 26, 2009

No More War, No More Terror

Postmodernism used to be a harmless amusement, best left to students in the humanities. As long as these literary types were deconstructing arcane texts they were leaving real world problems to the grown-ups.

Besides, no one understood it anyway. To most people it sounded like a lot of double talk about discourses, signifiers, and power tropes.

Now, the horse just got out of the barn. The Obama administration has just decided to reset counter-terrorism policy by ridding its rhetoric of words like "war" and "terror."

Homeland Security Secretary went into verbal contortions to avoid using the dread word terror in recent Congressional testimony.

Terrorist acts would henceforth be called man-caused disasters.

Secretary Napolitano later explained the change to a European magazine: "That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all the risks that may occur."

Actually, she is not committing a nuance. Napolitano is abusing language and thought.

And it is not trivial. Postmodernism teaches that thought precedes reality and that we create reality by the way we talk about it.

Ergo, if we want to eliminate terror and its threats all we need to do is repress the word "terror." Voila!

If you don't call it terror, you have nothing to fear. Who know that it would be so easy to eliminate anxiety.

Remember that postmodernists believe that if you eliminate all generic masculine pronouns from the language you will subvert male power and dominance. Gender differences are created by thought and by discourse; change the one and you will necessarily change the other.

But did you notice that Secretary Napolitano renamed terrorist acts: "man-caused disasters."

Clearly, this heteronormative discursive power trope traffics in a stereotype. So I recommend that we start talking about: "person-caused disasters."

I bet you feel better already.

According to J. D. Thayer's post on the Commentary blog site, the administration's new concept eliminates the notion of intention. A person can cause a disaster accidentally or inadvertently. 9/11, however, was intentional.

Hopefully, most of us can wrap our minds around the difference.

You do not mobilize an army to fight someone who falls asleep at the wheel or accidentally floods out his basement.

Now, the administration is further abusing the language and warping impressionable young minds.

It is replacing the "war on terror" with: "overseas contingency operations."

This phrase has the distinction of being unintelligible. No one knows what it means. It is not just overly nuanced; it is postmodernism run amok.

And this is a problem. You cannot set policy and rally the nation to something that you cannot define with clarity and precision. Overseas contingency operations are not even close to being high concept. They are no-concept.

Former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino clarified the issue by suggesting that an overseas contingency operation might refer to our supplying humanitarian aid to foreign countries that have suffered disasters, like tsunamis.

This is a good thing to do. Unfortunately, wars are not the same as humanitarian. We are not talking about two ways of naming the same thing; we are talking about two different things.

Of course, we understand overseas and operations... though some of us might want to know whether said operations are covered by insurance.

The nub of the problem lies in the word contingency. The administration means that it wants to be prepared to respond to anything that might happen, to possible events.

But if we are only going to respond to events as they occur, then we are on the defensive.

The new concept has not just removed the terror, it has removed the war and the fight.

Perhaps the administration does not yet believe in its own tortured rhetoric. It has not laid down arms, but it has surely created a policy muddle. Given this muddle, it will be harder to prosecute the war-- oops, the overseas contingency operations-- aggressively and decisively.

Perhaps the worst part is that an administration whose competence is being called into question, has now become the butt of jokes.

You cannot lead successfully when people are laughing at you.

1 comment:

Nolanimrod said...

Churchill once noted that, as he didn't want to call someone a liar, he would instead accuse him of being guilty of "a terminological inexactitude."

Though even that is vulnerable to definition using words in the English language that people can understand.