No Comment — March 25, 2009, 7:59 am

RIP, GWOT

As I predicted in a column in the American Lawyer, the Obama Administration has laid to rest one of the signature concepts of the Bush Administration: the Global War on Terror, known by its acronym GWOT. The Washington Post reports:

In a memo e-mailed this week to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department’s office of security review noted that “this administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror’ [GWOT.] Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’ “

The decision was hardly revolutionary. It actually implements a consensus upon which Bush’s own Pentagon and State Department had agreed, but the White House had blocked for domestic political reasons. Here’s the essence of the rationale:

John A. Nagl, the former Army officer who helped write the military’s latest counterinsurgency field manual, said the phrase “was enormously unfortunate because I think it pulled together disparate organizations and insurgencies.” “Our strategy should be to divide and conquer rather than make of enemies more than they are,” said Nagl, now president of the Center for a New American Security, a defense policy think tank in Washington. “We are facing a number of different insurgencies around the globe–some have local causes, some of them are transnational. Viewing them all through one lens distorts the picture and magnifies the enemy.”

The same view had been adopted by virtually all of America’s allies in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

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