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I try to not to take too much directly from Lee's site, and God knows I don't agree with him on everything, but he's right on with this.

The left-wing asshat brigade has been going full tilt after this story hit the wire this morning.

In an interview on NBC-TV's "Today" show, Bush vowed to stay the course in the war on terror, saying perseverance in the battle would make the world safer for future generations. But he suggested an all-out victory against terrorism might not be possible.

Asked "Can we win?" Bush said, "I don�t think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the-- those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."


Look, this is quite simple. What is the goal of the war on terror? To defeat America's enemies and keep Americans safe. If that is the objective is met then we win. This is what "winning" means in this sense. It's figurative, not literal. There is no end, in the sense that we're going to get Osama bin Laden signing the Articles of Surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri, after which we can wipe our brows and say, "Well, I'm glad that's over!"

The war on terror is analogous to fighting crime. There's never going to be an "end" to crime, so in that sense it can never be defeated. Is the fact that there will always be criminals reason not to fight them? Of course not.

The war on terror is being fought on many fronts: militarily, diplomatically, economically, and so on. Bush is absolutely right that it can never be defeated in the sense that Islamofascism is an ideology and not a country or a military force, and terrorism is its tactic. We have to continue to fight and remain vigilant, forever, for it is only through vigilance, strength, force, will, and perseverance that we ill prevail.

Of course, the media would have to believe that Bush is too stupid to tie his shoes in the morning, so obviously he's not smart enough to be, ya know, philosophical!
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so obviously he's not smart enough to be, ya know, philosophical!

The problem with that is the slew of actions his administration has taken (e.g. the designation and legal limbo of "enemy combatants," which has previously only applied under conventional wartime conditions) which are only legitimated by the stance that it is a literal war.

To reconcile this statement, he's left himself with two choices: (1) Taking the position that the word "war" in this context has been metaphorical all along, and dealing with the consequences of having treated it as literal, or (2) Sticking with the position that it is literal, and appearing to contradict himself.

The wise choice, and the one I'm guessing they'll take, is (1). As things have developed with the Guantanamo hearings, etc., the consequences are already in play, so there's really nothing to lose by shifting to a more metaphorical interpretation of the phrase. Meanwhile, the people interpreting it as (2) and calling him on the apparent contradiction get well-earned egg on the face.

This might earn more respect from me if there were an acknowledgment that approaching it as a literal war was a mistake, or even that he did so, but I'm not holding my breath. Some call it a strength and others a weakness, but either way such things simply aren't in the man's vocabulary.

As it is, the best I can muster is "better late than never." *shrug*
I don't think Lee is saying that the use of 'war' is either figurative or literal, but that whether we can 'win' is figurative or literal. And I agree with him that this is the kind of war that probably isn't going to be 'won' in the sense that it will end, like the 'war on drugs' or as Lee points out the 'war on crime'.
like the 'war on drugs' or as Lee points out the 'war on crime'.

But these are figurative "wars" -- nobody's pulling gang-bangers off the street and designating them enemy combatants, or trumping constitutional checks and balances to bust crack houses.

We can't figuratively win a literal war. The concepts have to match, one way or the other. So Lee may not have stated that Bush is speaking of the war on terror as a figurative war, but IMHO it's necessary for his argument to hold water.
We can't figuratively win a literal war.

LOL... as I read it, that's the very point that he's making.
What, that we can figuratively win a literal war? Because in that case, sorry, I think he's out of his tree.

If you mean his point is that we can't, then I stand by the necessity of reading the war on terror as figurative for Bush's statement to make any sense.
I think we're going in circles here. In any case I'm starting to get a headache ;)

My stand, and I think Lee's, doesn't have to do with the war itself being literal v. figurative. I think the war against Islamofascism is very real and very... literal, I guess ;) The debate Lee mentions has to do with the word 'winning', and the fact that since this is a different kind of war than America has had to fight before, 'winning' is not going to have the same meaning that it did in, say, WWI and II. We can destroy cells, we can take down dictators, but can we stop groups like Al Qaeda from hating the Western World? I don't think so. Certainly not in our lifetime. Yet I also believe that when we destroy cells and stop dictators and keep our shores safe, that's a victory.

Cute icon, btw :)
I think we're going in circles here.

A little, maybe, but sometimes you have to. If you rephrase on each go-round, you have a better chance of the other person getting what you're actually saying. ;-)

So, breaking it down...

My stand, and I think Lee's, doesn't have to do with the war itself being literal v. figurative.

Got this part. What I'm saying is that I don't believe it's possible, under the present circumstances, for it to have nothing to do with that.

I think the war against Islamofascism is very real and very... literal, I guess ;)

I think there's a difference between its being real (which I agree it is) and its being literally -- or, to be more precise, legally -- a war. "War" is something very specifically defined in both U.S. and international law.

If you want the benefit of those laws, you have to assert that it fits that definition. That definition includes finitude.

If you're using it as a figurative label for a moral and ethical struggle that might well go on forever, you can speak of achieving specific goals that don't end the "war" as "winning." But you don't get the benefit of the laws defining war.

can we stop groups like Al Qaeda from hating the Western World?

Even if we could, such a thing would be irrelevant to the literal winning of a literal war. It would be a moral victory in a moral struggle that can be figuratively termed a "war."

Yet I also believe that when we destroy cells and stop dictators and keep our shores safe, that's a victory.

Absolutely, or at least 1 and 2. I'd place 3 in the neverending category.

And, on closer examination, Bush has a rhetorical out in that the second statement under debate -- "We will win" -- is general enough that it can apply to things like this. He's pretty carefully not saying "We'll win the war."

Which to me means the people having a field day with comparing the two statements are focusing on a false contradiction. On that, I totally agree with you.

I just picked up from there to say that they're ignoring the actual contradiction. Hence, egg on faces. They look like idiots (which, oddly, will happen when you behave like one). Meanwhile, he continues to define the nature of the war according to the expediency of the moment, leaving me cranky.

Which is, essentially, my own problem. He doesn't -- and, in terms of sound campaign strategy, probably shouldn't -- care what I think. At this stage of the game it would take a lot to convince me that I wouldn't prefer a potted plant in the Oval Office, and he has much more promising game to hunt. *shrug*

Cute icon, btw :)

TYK! The expression just cried out for it. KP rocks.
If you want the benefit of those laws, you have to assert that it fits
that definition. That definition includes finitude.


Hm, so you're saying that in order to call something a 'war', it has to have a end point?
Hm, so you're saying that in order to call something a 'war', it has to have a end point?

:: ponders :: Hmmm. It's fairly implicit, but I don't think it's part of the explicit definition, and it's not quite what I'm saying. Sorry to be unclear.

What is part of the explicit definition is that a war is finite in the sense of being a conflict between groups of people -- nations, ethnic populations, etc. Other groups might join or leave, as in the World Wars, but you can still keep some kind of score and deal with them as finite entities.

You can have a literal war with Al Qaeda or Hamas; they're not states, but they are finite entities acting on their own behalf. We did have a literal war with the Baathist regime in Iraq, which is complicated by the fact that the original enemy is defeated, but other entities (like the Sadr militia) have maintained the state of war. But it's still finite.

Terrorism, as you pointed out earlier, is a practice, not an entity. It's not finite or identifiable, and can't act on its own behalf. It can't participate in a war. So a war declared on it has to be, like the war on drugs or the war on crime, is a war only in a figurative sense.

That doesn't make it any less real or important. It just makes it not a war.
Hmm, I think I still have to disagree with you on the last point. I really can't look at 9/11 and call it anything but an act of war.
I really can't look at 9/11 and call it anything but an act of war.

Of course it was. But "terror" didn't commit it. A finite entity -- Al Qaeda -- did.

I was, and am, more than fine with acting against that entity in response to their act of war.

I was, and am, more than fine with the "war on terror" as a metaphor for describing a moral stance.

I draw the line at confusing the two. I am deeply unhappy that the people running my country don't. And they clearly couldn't care less.
I really don't think it's that they 'couldn't care less'. I mean, as we're illustrating right now, different people have a very different way of looking at this subject. I can kind of see where you're coming from, for instance, but it doesn't change how I personally see the situtation. Although I've enjoyed the conversation... it's refreshing compared to some of the yahoos that drop in here every once in a while ;)
I really don't think it's that they 'couldn't care less'.

I'd like to believe that, but the private concerns would have to be very different from the public face. If you're not 100% behind every step they've made, you're coward and a traitor and worthy only of derision. I've seen absolutely nothing to indicate otherwise.

I can kind of see where you're coming from, for instance, but it doesn't change how I personally see the situtation.

Which is as it should be. People are losing the art of debating with the aim of informing the other party instead of bludgeoning them. I can see exactly where you're coming from, and will count myself in deep trouble the day I can't.

Although I've enjoyed the conversation... it's refreshing compared to some of the yahoos that drop in here every once in a while ;)

Schoolyard "debate" tactics turn me off when I agree with the person employing them. *rolls eyes* When the highly educated so-called adults we sent to Washington are throwing four-letter words at each other public debate, something is severely screwy. I figure it's up to us to do better.

P.S.: And this is still ALL YOUR FAULT! ;-D
P.S.
Your "awake" icon is stunningly appropriate, and going to give me nightmares...