While we're on the topic, I'll note that Matthew Yglesias adds his name to the ever-swelling ranks of those who have a problem with the term 'war on terror' but can't find a good reason for having that problem. The phrase represents, he thinks, 'an intellectual muddle'. But his only fresh argument for thinking so is, strangely, that unlike other metaphorical wars the struggle formerly known as the war on terror is a real war. Matt writes:
From the beginning, the idea of a "war on terror" was fatally compromised by the obvious analogy to purely metaphorical wars such as the war on drugs or the war on poverty. Our acclimatization to such metaphorical wars lets the use of the term slip past our censors without real scrutiny of the implications. But efforts against terrorism have, unlike anti-poverty policy, real resemblance to wars. Meaning that the "war on terror" isn't a metaphorical war at all; it's a real one. Yet at the same time, not a real one against a defined enemy and featuring defined objectives. And therein lies the problem.
No defined enemy? No defined objectives? Not how everyone would see it. The enemy could be terrorist organizations and movements, the objective to defeat them or get them to change their ways.
For the rest, Matt tries to re-run ideas that haven't yet shown they can walk, let alone run. The phrase 'war on terror', he says, induces a mentality that 'unduly ennobles terrorists abroad and undermines the rule of law at home'. As to ennobling, he writes:
The German soldiers my grandfather fought during World War II killed people, but they weren't murderers; they were soldiers... Men who blow up nightclubs and train stations and demolish office buildings, by contrast, are murderers.
It's a familiar distinction, but you can only absolutize it by restricting the wars you're willing to look at. Matt might begin by considering, from World War II, Operation Barbarossa and some of what went on on Germany's Eastern Front; that and a few other real wars will furnish evidence aplenty that those fighting them can be, well and truly, murderers. War (civil war, etc) is not universally ennobling. And the claim that by fighting a war you necessarily 'undermine the rule of law at home' looks radically incomplete to me, in the sense that wars have been fought which... didn't.