One of Obama’s most enduring characteristics (one he shares with many on the left) has been his belief in the power of words [emphasis mine]:
When the Right, in trying to figure Obama out, says “watch what he does, not what he says,” they’re using a principle that seems self-evident. But it’s not that way for liberals and the Left, who are often far more interested in declarations of intent, in eloquence rather than achievement. If a person has the right goals in mind, if a person sounds like a good person, that’s the most important thing. And if liberals and the soft Left (the hard Left is quite different) are moved so mightily by words and speeches, they tend to conclude that everyone in the world shares that tendency.
Aha, you might ask, but what about Reagan? When conservatives credit Reagan’s bold words in a speech for the fall of the Soviets, they’re making the same mistake, aren’t they? But when Reagan said “tear down this wall” the words were not spoken in isolation. There was conviction behind them, but far more importantly, they were not “mere words.” They were embedded in a lengthy policy of many years’ duration towards the USSR (he made the speech in June of 1987), plus knowledge of Russia’s own internal weaknesses and the ascension of Gorbachev the reformer.
This is not only very typical of left, it’s true of post-modern trends in academia. Obama has long been surrounded by people for whom “text” and “narrative” reign supreme.
But PC academia is about as far as you can get from the sphere of ruthless leaders and nations jockeying for power and position in an armed and very non-abstract world. Does Obama truly believe that the administration’s efforts to verbally re-brand our enemies will matter to anyone except a few English lit professors [emphasis mine]?:
Rogue states” is being pushed aside in favor of the less confrontational “outliers.”
“Islamic radicalism” is being converted to the less religiously freighted “violent extremism.”
And in one of the most important speeches of his presidency, Barack Obama omitted a term that was the Bush administration’s obsession: terrorism – part of a larger effort to de-emphasize the problem in Obama’s relations with Muslim states…
The White House often tries to downplay the changes, but observers say officials must expect that the linguistic shifts will have substantive impact – otherwise they wouldn’t bother with moves that leave Obama so vulnerable to criticism.
“They are taking a significant political risk when they do these kinds of things, when they make any kind of deviation from the status quo,” said Dan Drezner, a professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. “These sorts of things generate all kinds of blowback. They have to think the blowback is worth it, otherwise making the changes would be both stupid and thankless.”
The administration defends the moves, saying that by needlessly antagonizing or alienating nations and groups, it can make it harder for the U.S. to build alliances against them.
The Obama administration has shown zero understanding of how to build alliances even domestically, much less internationally. But in general, alliances are built by finding common goals and/or by quid pro quos in the real world that appeal to self-interest. Without such grounding in reality, words are flimsy meaningless things—otherwise known as BS.
As for convincing Muslim nations to ally with us against terrorists, they will do so if they find it worth their while. In this endeavor, does Obama truly think anything is served by refusing to use the word “terrorists?”When last I checked, many Muslim countries themselves suffer at the hands of terrorists and are quite Draconian in the methods they use to fight them.
Joe Lieberman seems to get it:
“This is not honest,” Lieberman said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Three thousand Americans were killed not by some amorphous group of violent extremists or environmental extremists or white supremacist extremists. They were violent Islamist extremists motivated and organized by the ideology preached by Osama bin Laden.”
“And unless we’re honest about that,” he said, “we’re not going to be able to defeat this enemy.
Of course, it will take a lot more than honest language to defeat terrorism. But honest language is a requisite step, and dishonest language fools no one. The Obama administration’s refusal to call things by their proper names communicates nothing but pandering and weakness rather than resolve and strength. And even Osama bin Laden knew that the Muslim world admires a strong horse and looks down on the weak.
[NOTE: Therapists often adopt the same verbal ploy Obama is using here. They call it "reframing;" here's a post I wrote a few years ago about how this phenomenon works in the world of therapy vs. the world of terrorism.]