Good news: Obama administration coins new euphemism for "war on terror"

It’s not as catchy as “man-caused disasters,” which remains my personal favorite.

But I do dig the acronym.

In a speech today before a conference on post-9/11 intelligence-reform efforts, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair didn’t once utter the words “global war on terror.” But at least twice he talked about the administration’s efforts at “countering violent extremism.”

Blair’s aides had no immediate comment on how the intel czar came to use the catchphrase. Two officials of another government department involved in counterterrorism efforts, who asked for anonymity when discussing internal administration discussions, said that use of the new buzzwords “evolved” from discussions among counterterrorism officials. (The discussions apparently evolved enough that, in typical Washington fashion, insiders have already granted the phrase its own acronym: CVE.)

CVE has been slowly catching on among the Obama crowd. Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s top counterterrorism adviser, used it in testimony he gave to the Senate Armed Services Committee last month. As Benjamin explained it, “The primary goal of countering violent extremism is to stop those most at risk of radicalization from becoming terrorists. Its tools are noncoercive and include social programs, counter-ideology initiatives, and working with civil society to delegitimize the Al Qaeda narrative and, where possible, provide positive alternative narratives.” He added, “We are working hard to develop a variety of CVE programs.”

It’s almost like a code word, or pig latin. No more politically charged references to “Islamic terrorism” that can be exploited in soundbites on Al Jazeera. From now on it’s an ar-way on errorism-tay.

Actually, this reminds me of last night’s non-bombshell about nuclear policy. In both cases, it’s basically the same wine in different bottles and the diplomatic benefit that flows from each will be exceedingly marginal. But from a linguistic standpoint, CVE is arguably less precise than WOT. Both “terror” and “extremism” are amorphous terms infused with subjective considerations, but by qualifying “extremism” with “violent,” it suggests that we’re not trying to counter regular old nonviolent extremism. Which, I thought, was the whole point of “smart power” and the speech in Cairo, etc. — essentially, winning over Muslims who may be nonviolent but who nonetheless believe that America is the Great Satan even though we’re now led by a Jesus-y demigod. The Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb ut-Tahrir are, officially at least, nonviolent Islamist fanatic groups, but we’re still “countering” them too, I hope.

Oh well. At least we remain “at war with Al Qaeda.” I think. Exit question: Can’t we just go back to “man-caused disasters”? You know, like that earthquake that Deepak Chopra caused last week.

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