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Ending the GWOT

Eric C and I have decided to stop using the phrase, “The Global War on Terror” in On Violence posts, and we are deleting the category from the sidebar. This is the what, now on to the why.

When we started On Violence last year, we debated whether we should use the phrase "The Global War on Terror." We ultimately decided to use it because it was common parlance. As wikipedia says, it is the "common term for the military, political, legal and ideological conflict against Islamic terrorism, Islamic militants and the regimes and organizations tied to them or that supported them."

It was standard, so we used it. But the label "Global War on Terror" has serious problems. Frankly, it really is a misuse of the word “war.” Like previous wars on metaphysical concepts--poverty, drugs, cancer--it will never end. "Terror" is a tactic, not an ideology.

So we don't feel comfortable using this phrase anymore. President Obama stopped using the phrase GWOT and the Army has as well. If the President and the Army aren't using that term anymore, then we don't need to either.

One of the biggest things I have learned while writing for On Violence is that words mean something. To that end we shouldn’t let words give terrorists credit or stature they don’t deserve.

The result should not be that noticable. Our categories will shift slightly. Between Counter-insurgency, Foreign Affairs, and Military Affairs, our categories will shift slightly, but we can still cover all the same ground. We will avoid using "Global War on Terror" to describe America's ongoing wars abroad.

ten comments

I think that’s really good of you guys.
Personally I never agreed with it anyway, because that was all just to keep the public entertained. The real war is elsewhere.


I’m kind of surprised we even used it. It was the standard term, but it is so misleading.


I agree, the term is misused and our current wars mislabeled. I find it interesting that Wikipedia has the term specifically coined as a term for Islamic terrorism rather than terrorism in general. As if Islamic militants are the only users of such a tactic. It’s naive. I understand this isn’t a statement by Wikipedia of what GWOT is, merely how it is used, but it’s still bothers me.


…yet you (and I, for that matter) still use “terror” which is even more devoid of meaning.


Matty, that really says a lot about Wikipedia, doesn’t it?
Anybody can really get any opinion registered there, as long as he disguises it as “fact” and as a so called “definition” of a term. I’ve f.ex. seen some really bad (covert) attacks on individuals disguised as definitions. Can’t believe that this is legal!
Well, I’m sure it isn’t but it always takes a lot of time and money to go to court and that’s why many don’t do it.


@ AJK – What’s funny about the word terrorism is that it implies causing the other person fear, and yet many Marines, Navy Seals and Army personnel will say that their goal is to make the “enemy fear us more than they hate us.” (Quote from Lone Survivor)

Isn’t that the definition of terrorism? I totally agree, the term is misleading, and yet it is so common, I don’t think we can replace it.


How about holding an international symposium on a retitling of the “GWOT”. I am going to put forward “The Multilateral Campaign to Counteract Violent Extremism and Preserve Freedom from Fear”. Maybe it needs a trim!


War on Al queda, or…


Careful Eric; if you’re definition is too narrow, you limit future options for engagement…


Calling it a war limits our options.