Not to provoke you into a negative attitude or anything, especially on so sunny a Friday, but I'd like to invite you to think of some of the things you could imagine yourself wanting to combat - and whether on a regular basis or just now and again. Hypocrisy? Double standards? Sexism? Racism? Poverty? Well, if you don't want any or all of these there, you can make your own list: 'things I might think of combating'. Now, please check off on your list all items in the combating of which you would definitely need a bazooka; or hand grenades, B52 bombers, a regiment, a fleet of ships. No, not so many? Me neither. I can imagine trying to combat most of the things on my list without necessarily getting seriously warlike about it.
I mention this because Marc Ambinder is explaining the rationale for the Obama administration's latest replacement phrase for 'the war on terror' (the rationale whether just as he, Ambinder, sees it, or as the administration itself does), this replacement phrase being 'Countering Violent Extremism'; and he says that when he first came across 'CVE' he...
... assumed it stood for "combating violent extremism." But no - the word combat denotes military action only - Obama's approach combines hard and soft power.
So there's a first puzzle: over why Ambinder has, and/or members of the Obama administration have, so narrow an understanding of what's involved in combating something. Other puzzles concern why anyone should think, as Ambinder implies someone relevant does think, that use of the term 'war' must rule out the use of non-military means in pursuit of whatever objective it is one is pursuing, or why they should find the word 'war' inconvenient in circumstances where actual war is being waged by them; and why these same relevant folk should think it imprudent to acknowledge openly the strong connection there is between what they are actually attempting to counter - in another word, terrorism - and movements that describe themselves as Islamist. Whatever the case, call it FKATWOT.