In a thoughtful article in today's Guardian Timothy Garton Ash considers whether we should replace the metaphor of a 'war on terror' by something else. He thinks we should, but I'm puzzled about his reason. He's not re-running the complaint that you can't wage war on an abstract noun - which, if it were true, would go for fascism as well as terror, and merely confuses the word 'terror' and what we use it to refer to. And he's also not endorsing the argument that terrorism should be regarded, and treated, like crime:
[T]he overall metaphor of crime is not up to the job. This is something more than crime, less than - or at least, different from - war.So why is he for discarding the phrase? One reason is this:
[I]t's now inextricably associated with a particular, discredited American policy and a disastrous real war in Iraq.But even if you think the expression has suffered by being associated with bad policies, that wouldn't show that it doesn't have a valid meaning; one can perfectly well defend, and retain, a concept while holding that particular policy uses of it have not been good ones. To say the concept is no good because a policy with which it is associated has been discredited, simply begs the question, unless you can fault the concept itself with arguments - which Garton Ash doesn't. It's significant that he confesses himself unable to think of a good alternative for it. And the claim that the 'war on terror' is different from war - meaning, I guess, from real war - also begs the question. It presupposes that the paradigm case of war (war between states) exhausts the concept of war. But it never has: hence 'civil war', 'war on crime', etc.