The ultimate problem in the White House’s new “words-policy,” however, is reflected in this excerpt from the report:
The change [i.e., linguistic obfuscation] would be a significant shift in the National Security Strategy, a document that previously outlined the Bush Doctrine of preventive war. It currently states, “The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century.”
No doubt this important document will soon say something totally meaningless like “The struggle against extremism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century.” Such changes bode ill for the future. For it is one thing to carefully choose your words when directly addressing Muslims; it is quite another to censor American analysts and policy-makers from using the necessary terms that conceptualize who the enemy is and what he wants.
The situation is already dire. There is already a lamentable lack of study concerning Muslim war doctrine in the curriculum of American military studies, including in the Pentagon and U.S. Army War College. Obama’s more aggressive censorship program will only exacerbate matters: another recently released strategic document, the QDR, nary mentions anything remotely related to Islam — even as it stresses climate change, which it sees as an “accelerant of instability and conflict” around the world.
At any rate, as I have argued several times before, the U.S. government needs to worry less about which words appease Muslims — another governmental memo warns against “offending,” “insulting,” or being “confrontational” to Muslims — and worry more about providing its own citizenry with accurate knowledge concerning its greatest enemy.
In short, knowledge is inextricably linked to language.The more generic speech becomes, the less precise the knowledge it imparts; conversely, the more precise the language, the more precise the knowledge. In the conflict against Islamic radicalism — there, I said it — to acquire accurate knowledge, which is essential to victory, we need to begin with accurate language.
This means U.S. intelligence analysts and policymakers need to be able to use, and fully appreciate the significance of, words related to Islam — starting with the word “Islam” itself, i.e., submission.
It means the U.S. military needs to begin expounding and studying Islamic war doctrine — without fear of reprisals.
In sum, it means America’s leadership needs to take that ancient dictum — “Know thy enemy”– seriously.
Deplorably enough, nearly a decade after the Islamist-inspired attacks of 9/11, far from knowing its enemy, the U.S. government is banning itself from merely acknowledging its enemy, which is doubly problematic, as knowledge begins with acknowledgment.
Nor is there much room for optimism: if the Obama administration can easily expose America to attack by reducing our physical defenses, surely a subversion of our intellectual safeguards — that is, a subversion of something as abstract as knowledge — will go unchecked.