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Countering Violent Extremism

In his retirement, Donald Rumsfeld must be enjoying a good chuckle right now as he reads that the Obama administration has decided to rename our war against the … whatchamacallit. Out is the Global War on Terror (GWOT). That’s so Bush administration. The preferred name of the Obama folks is “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE.

Reading that report, I knew the term was somewhat familiar but couldn’t quite place it. Where had I heard it before? Oh yeah, that’s right. It’s nearly identical to the wording Rumsfeld tried to enact in 2005 when he began referring to the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism (G-SAVE). That was ultimately nixed by the White House, which (for once) didn’t appreciate the defense secretary’s freelancing.

It’s funny how the search for euphemisms — nobody wants to say we’re fighting Islamist fanatics — leads the current gang to adopt a nearly identical version of a slogan coined by their bête noire. Perhaps that’s fitting because on many fronts — especially in the use of targeted assassinations via Predators, in wiretap authority, in renditions, and in holding terrorist suspects indefinitely without trial — the Obama administration has continued the policies of its predecessor. It’s actually whacking more terrorists in Pakistan than the Bush administration ever did. The changes so far have been mainly cosmetic — notably the so-far-failed effort to shut Gitmo and the equally failed effort to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in a civilian court. Substance is ultimately more important than sloganeering and, for all my differences with the Obama administration, I have to admit their anti-terrorism policies are, on the whole, better (i.e., tougher) than we could have expected from the Nobel Laureate.



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