Conservatives have been attacking President Obama over his approach to terrorism and the war on terror.
Among other things, they're attacking his apparent unwillingness to use the words "terrorism," "war on terror," and, especially, "Islamic terrorists."
This unwillingness disturbs me because an important part of any mission is the goal. If you don't know what you're trying to accomplish, you can't even know what resources you need or what steps you must take.
In war, this is especially important. Who are we fighting? Why are we fighting them? Why are they fighting us? Where are they? How do we find them? What kind of weapons will they use? What kind of targets do they seek?
All of these questions and more require that we know exactly who and what we're fighting.
We are at war with a group that has no nation, but they are predominately found in a couple of particular parts of the world. They have a very distinct ideology that is taught in particular parts of the world. Their ideology makes them eager to die for their cause. They make no distinction between soldier and civilian. They see many of their own neighbors as part of the enemy.
They find the majority of their recruits not among the poor but disaffected middle and upper class young adults. They have no common race or nationality; what they share is ideology. Their goal is not land or money or power but the conversion or extermination of "infidels."
Does this describe Nazis or Soviets? Are these Irish terrorists or Latin American revolutionaries? Of course not.
Are we going to go on offense or simply react to their attacks? Can we cut off their supply lines or anticipate their targets?
Everything in this war depends on knowing who the enemy is.
We must name the enemy. Only then can we maintain focus, resist mission creep, and maintain the support of the populace.
Only then can we win.