Lieberman: Obama decision on terror terminology "Orwellian"

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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