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Fightin' Words: What's the Polite Way to Say "War on Terror"?

Fightin' Words: What's the Polite Way to Say "War on Terror"?


"An enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism." (Wordy!) "Go after." (Bush-esque.) "Ongoing struggle." (Lacks confidence.) "Win this fight." (Aggressive?) "Twilight struggle." (Sad, geriatric.)

President Obama's national-security team has been brainstorming a more precise (or nice?) phrase to describe the war on terror. What's the problem, besides the uncomfortable word "war?" Terrorism is a tactic, not an identifiable enemy, and it's considered inaccurate because it cannot be won by military means alone. In the parlance of Nancy Reagan's war on drugs, it's like saying the "war on syringes."

The White House says there's no official ban on the mutual use of those three words, but President Obama has only uttered them once (in a speech to the State Department) since inauguration. One administration official admitted they were looking for something a little more hopeful.

Considering the phrase "war on terror" is thought to have rallied terrorists, even President Bush shied away from it in the end. To find out what alternatives Bush used, read more.

Bush turned to the "war against violent extremists" in the final years of his presidency, which surely assuaged all the "violent extremists" out there. At least he never tried to call it "My Struggle."

But that wasn't the first attempt the Bush administration made on the war on terror's livelihood. The State and Defense Departments tried to rename it the "Struggle Against Violent Extremism," otherwise known as SAVE. And Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department officially adopted the acronym GWOT for the "Global War on Terror." Not surprisingly, the media never latched onto any of these, and until it does the "war on terror" it is.

What a struggle! (Which, BTW, I nominate.)

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