Lieberman: Obama decision on terror terminology “Orwellian”

posted at 11:45 am on April 11, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Joe Lieberman offered the first sharp criticism from the Left over Barack Obama’s decision to eliminate the terms “Islamic extremism” and “jihad” from national security policy statements.  He blasted the decision as “Orwellian” on Fox News Sunday this morning:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on Sunday called the administration’s proposal to avoid the term “Islamic extremism” in national security references “absolutely Orwellian and counterproductive.”

Lieberman revealed on “Fox News Sunday” that he had sent a letter to the president’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, saying in part: “The failure to identify our enemy for what it is, violent Islamist extremism, is offensive and contradicts thousands of years of accepted military and intelligence doctrine to know your enemy.” …

Lieberman said that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were not carried out by “some amorphous group of violent extremists or environmental extremists or white supremacist extremists.”

“It’s absolutely Orwellian and counterproductive to the fight that we’re fighting at risk of great life every day to stop violent extremism of an Islamist base,” he said.

I’m not sure I’d go as far as Orwellian, although it’s certainly a defensible accusation.  The entire notion seems to me to be based on two impulses.  One, Obama seems to want to create his own imprimatur on the war on terror simply by redefining all of the terms.  It’s the mark of an incompetent manager, one that focuses on the paperwork rather than the mission itself.  Changing the lingo requires no real heavy lifting, plus it has the virtue of tying up bureaucrats for a space of time in a way that makes them look busy rather than doing something productive.

The second impulse is the same one that drives Academia to issue campus speech codes.  These universities believe that a change of language equals a change of behavior.  Instead, people simply find their way around the codes, pushing everyone to be Talmudists rather than speak honestly and debate actual issues.  That kind of policy also creates a lot more work as its victims find ways to victimize each other, putting the administrations into powerful positions as arbiters of acceptable thought.

Either way, this kind of silliness is a tremendous waste of time and energy that ends up fooling absolutely no one except the academics who issue these proclamations.  It may also be Orwellian, but the real problem is that this administration is focused on terminology to the detriment of actual counterterrorism.  They need to start getting a lot more serious at the White House.


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Comments

IlikedAUH2O on April 11, 2010 at 2:31 PM

I got an email.

Yes I know about The One and the drone and other strikes. Pushing buttons is easy. Going on the ground like a meter reader or watching your poll numbers as the body bags and boxes hit Dover is another whole thing.

I know what this country really wants. Wars over fast just like in the movies.

We lose a plane they lose a city. And the nuclear dust will help with global warming. And get rid of the mess at airports.

IlikedAUH2O on April 11, 2010 at 2:51 PM

Everything about the rhetoric out of the Democrats for the past 10 years has been “Orwellian”.

crosspatch on April 11, 2010 at 2:58 PM

Obama may be going “Orwell” but those running the show in the military seem to be going full bore 1984, Animal Farm, Alice in Wonderland, One Flew over the Coocoo’s Nest, Planet of the Apes and Twilight Zone, not to mention Dhimmi.

I recently re-read a paper by a highly decorated special forces officer, Maj. Jim Gant, that is credited with helping to promote the tribal-council option in Afghanistan. Praised by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gens. David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal on down, the paper is called “One Tribe at a Time,” and it describes how Gant and his team in 2003 formed an arbitrary alliance with one tribe, fighting its enemies over grudges, admiring its culture (even rationalizing its misogyny), and developing a bad case of hero worship for its old chieftain whom Gant dubbed “Sitting Bull” (for that perfect touch of cultural self-loathing).

Gant tells a story about the tribal concept of revenge in action. “When at one point, members of Hezb-e-Islami (HIG) accused [Sitting Bull] of letting Christianity be spread in his village, we both knew and understood this was a lie. However, it was the issue of his tribe’s honor that caused our combined reaction of violence towards HIG.”

In other words, this undoubtedly brave officer took U.S. forces to war for worse than nothing: to avenge the “honor” of an Islamic tribe besmirched by Taliban allegations of Christianity contamination. What Gant describes is the perfect PC battle in a post-modern crusade that can only end in a triumph for nihilism.
– Diana West

MB4 on April 11, 2010 at 3:03 PM

I am not going to go to war with 1 billion Muslims; that would truly be a destructive war, making WWII look like child’s play.

rbj on April 11, 2010 at 12:31 PM

Convert or pay the jizya and submit to Sharia Law and we may spare you.

Aleph on April 11, 2010 at 3:19 PM

MB4 on April 11, 2010 at 3:03 PM

Make fights terrifying, swift and decisive and all sides will avoid them.

Of course, you lose the weak hearted vote and contributions from the defense lobby.

IlikedAUH2O on April 11, 2010 at 3:21 PM

rbj on April 11, 2010 at 12:31 PM

Use the right hardware. No problemo.

IlikedAUH2O on April 11, 2010 at 3:22 PM

You all keep missing the point.

Obama & co want to use the anti-terror stuff to target their political opponents inside the U.S!

You are the target, not AQ! This is just the set up to justify their next actions.

When Obama loses the Congress, the “law enforcement” arm of the Executive Branch of government, will go after the “real” threat to America, you.

CrazyGene on April 11, 2010 at 3:44 PM

“New Speak”.

Johan Klaus on April 11, 2010 at 3:51 PM

“We love Death and you love Coca-Cola.”

BTW that terrorist is dead and I’m drinking a Diet Coke. Just sayin’.

SurferDoc on April 11, 2010 at 3:54 PM

There was an article (not sure if on here)that I read in the last few days about one of our military leader’s in charge of a battle that killed civilians who went to meet with the family and was going to make a sacrifice and cut the throat of a lamb to apologize for the accidental killing of their family members. This was very disturbing to me that our military would be required to do something like this to appease them, and something that wouldn’t be allowed in this country. Was anyone else bothered by this?

silvernana on April 11, 2010 at 3:57 PM

The events of the last days are acts of grace and judgement toward man. When those who despise and reject Godliness, increasingly loathe what is Ungodly and seek the path to Godliness (by grace does man seek GOD), then know you that the end time has come and is even at the door! The desire of Heaven is for peace in creation (reconciliation between GOD and man) this is achieved through great events (the passing away of the first heaven and earth among these) all done in a pre-ordained course (Angels, Saints, and all the host of Heaven praising GOD) Glory to the GOD of grace, Father Hosanna

GD on April 11, 2010 at 4:21 PM

The repugnicans are as PC bound as the rest .

borntoraisehogs on April 11, 2010 at 1:36 PM

Yes but they lick Muslim balls against the grain.

[email protected] on April 11, 2010 at 6:38 PM

Ed is really losing his touch.

He’s infected with nice guy mealy mouthed wussy speak.

fossten on April 11, 2010 at 8:35 PM

The entire notion seems to me to be based on two impulses.

Big mistake by you. I say Obummer wants to divert focus away from his Islamic buddies to the whole world is involved in terror. Political Correctness will kill us all.

Herb on April 11, 2010 at 9:50 PM

All enthusiastic followers if Islam are evil. No exception to this statement lives.

proconstitution on April 11, 2010 at 10:32 PM

I still think James Taranto’s terms, “Muslim Supremacist,” and “the Muslim Supremacy,” are the most accurate and least offensive. No rational white guy is offended by the term, “white supremacist,” because he is offended by white supremacists themselves and so naturally disassociates himself from the term. And, since “supremacist” is being used to describe disreputable whities in the first place, it’s easier to accept.

And, the bottom line is that these guys are supremacists in the fullest meaning of the name – just as bad as the Nazis (worse, maybe because they think God is on their side, while the Nazis didn’t like any God-fearing people – 5 million Christians and agnostics went to the gas chambers with the Jews).

Solid terms are useful tools for moral purposes. Phoney terms are reflexively derided and are turned against those they are meant to protect. For example, “retarded” was originally invented in order to avoid calling the mentally handicapped, “idiots” (which was also originally intended to soften the language). Then people started to use “retard” as an insult, so then they came up with terms like, “challenged” and “special.”

Last week, I made a dumb mistake and screwed up something I was working on. My daughter immediately said, “Dad, you are SOOO challenged.”

Cricket624 on April 11, 2010 at 11:12 PM

Here’s the problem solver: officially declare the U.S. a “terror-free zone”. Isn’t that the all encompassing statement to allow the President to fully focus on his domestic agenda?

ocbrat on April 12, 2010 at 10:42 AM

Instead, people simply find their way around the codes, pushing everyone to be Talmudists rather than speak honestly and debate actual issues.

You misuse the term “Talmudist”. The Talmudic analysis is designed to be fully honest and debate actual issues. The point of Talmudic analysis is to so precisely define the terms and discuss the boundary conditions, that the exact point at issue can be defined and understood precisely. Changing the terms in the way that the President has done is the exact opposite of a Talmudic analysis.

sabbahillel on April 12, 2010 at 12:47 PM

The repugnicans are as PC bound as the rest .

borntoraisehogs on April 11, 2010 at 1:36 PM

Yes but they lick Muslim balls against the grain.

[email protected] on April 11, 2010 at 6:38 PM

made me snicker. ty.

skeedro on April 12, 2010 at 12:54 PM

Yes but they lick Muslim balls against the grain.

[email protected] on April 11, 2010 at 6:38 PM

sorry for the 2nd post but i had to figure out that “quote” trick. again, thanks for the laugh.

skeedro on April 12, 2010 at 12:56 PM

“The failure to identify our enemy for what it is, violent Islamist extremism, is offensive….”

Criticisms of objective reality based on purely subjective criteria are fundamentally invalid.

Anything can be “offensive” to anyone at any time and for any reason, including no reason at all. It is an argument that has absolutely no rigor attached to it. This is why it is a favorite the left. Anyone can claim to be “offended” when presented with facts they cannot refute. Leftists will always shift the rules of evidence from the real to the subjective when they have a losing argument, and this is merely the easiest way for them to do so.

For Lieberman to use this term in his criticism undermines his position, and needlessly so because the factual arguments he does make are very strong.

leereyno on April 12, 2010 at 3:01 PM

So; Now we call suicide bombers “popcorn people”?

Cybergeezer on April 12, 2010 at 6:11 PM

So; Now we call suicide bombers “popcorn people”?

Cybergeezer on April 12, 2010 at 6:11 PM

As in, “Pop goes the weasel”?

Mary in LA on April 12, 2010 at 6:27 PM

Mary in LA on April 12, 2010 at 6:27 PM

Aaaaahaaahaaaaaa!
Obama’s legacy; “Obama’s Fairy Tales”!

Cybergeezer on April 12, 2010 at 6:42 PM

Barrack has always lived in an alternate universe.

Cybergeezer on April 12, 2010 at 6:58 PM

things like this make me forgive that he is a lib and about the only lib I really like simply because he is honest and doesn’t do double speak.

mooseburger on April 13, 2010 at 3:33 AM