8.12.2006

The Danger of "Thinking World War II" in a War on Terror

During the last weeks, conservative blogs, radio, and even legitimate media outlets have been hammering World War II metaphors into audience members as a strategy to gain support for Bush administration policies in the Middle East.

One "commentator" on local AM radio even plays old clips of Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill, to further influence his target audience.

Using this propaganda strategy, the War on Terror, war in Iraq, and war in Lebanon, have been lumped under the label of "World War III". Any hint of diplomacy is deemed "appeasement". The leader of Iran and Hezbollah are "like Hitler". The enemy is "Islamo-Fascism".

These metaphors and analogies have even made it into mainstream media and print, as when Diane Sawyer on ABC asked a government guest, "Are we in World War III?"

Our president used the term "Islamo-Fascists" in a recent speech.

The glory of this metaphor is that it is extremely effective in garnering support. After all, every American has a great deal of respect for the danger to the world that World War II averted and gratitude for the heroism of the war and its participants.

The crime of this metaphor is that it encapsulates Dinosaur Thinking. The War on Terror is a very different war with a very different enemy that requires progressive strategies and fighting. Clinging to antiquated ways is what has allowed Iraq to descend into civil war and has inflamed Muslim societies, which in turn has produced more terrorists.

The truth is that you can't simply whack this enemy over the head with a Big Bomb or a Big Bone and expect to win.

Fighting effectively means implementing superior police legwork and intelligence operations, finely targeted assassinations and killing, possible embargoes, and superior diplomacy on global and local levels to build alliances and garner intel.

Recognizing the difference between a terrorist who will threaten civilians and an insurgent or guerilla whose fight is tied to regional politics and will stay in the region is key.

Britain wins our kudos for their example. They learned a great deal in battling the IRA.

So, dear Dinosaurs, please drop the World War II metaphors. The insult in the term "Islamo Fascism" may win you approval points but it inflames populations; thereby endangering the lives of our soldiers and citizens.

And please give Dr. Rice your appreciation and gratitude for negotiating a settlement in Lebanon. She is, through diplomacy, saving not only Israeli and Lebanese civilian life but ratcheting down the inflamed passions that threaten our soldiers and recruit terrorists.

What a terrible shame it will be if we read this week that she has been dubbed Cond-Appeaser-lezzar.

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