Friday, May 25, 2007

edwards on the war metaphor

john edwards is increasingly emerging as the legitimate candidate of the true left. in the following speech given before the council on foreign relations the other day, edwards adopts the position that i've been waiting for some national political figure on the left to adopt for some time now, one the george lakoff has already staked out -- namely, that the notion of a "global war on terror" invokes a frame that is in fact ill-suited to the realities of the present situation, that it is in fact an bad metaphor.

some quotes from the edwards speech:
The core of this presidency has been a political doctrine that George Bush calls the "Global War on Terror." He has used this doctrine like a sledgehammer to justify the worst abuses and biggest mistakes of his administration, from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, to the war in Iraq. The worst thing about the Global War on Terror approach is that it has backfired -- our military has been strained to the breaking point and the threat from terrorism has grown. [...]

The war on terror is a slogan designed only for politics, not a strategy to make America safe. It's a bumper sticker, not a plan. It has damaged our alliances and weakened our standing in the world. As a political "frame," it's been used to justify everything from the Iraq War to Guantanamo to illegal spying on the American people. It's even been used by this White House as a partisan weapon to bludgeon their political opponents. [...]

By framing this as a "war," we have walked right into the trap that terrorists have set -- that we are engaged in some kind of clash of civilizations and a war against Islam.

The "war" metaphor has also failed because it exaggerates the role of only one instrument of American power -- the military. This has occurred in part because the military is so effective at what it does. Yet if you think all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.
naturally, this challenge to the governing trope of our myopic worldview is drawing fire -- which is not surprising. the truth pisses people off.
"When you go so far as to suggest the global war on terror is a bumper sticker or a slogan, it kind of makes the point that I have been making over and over again, that the Democrats, or at least some of them, are in denial." -- Rudy Giuliani

"Remember that old Edmund Burke quote, it's a famous quote, 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' And that, I am afraid is the boiled down version of what John Edwards said, is that good men should do nothing. Put their head in the sand and hope it all goes away." -- Mitt Romney
of course edwards does not advocate doing nothing -- the entire second half of his speech details it all quite clearly. only time will tell what other democrats besides biden and kucinich will get behind this position and what kind of traction it will develop. if there's one thing the democrats still have not learned from the republicans that they must, it's to get everybody on message and repeat that message, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

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