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A Frenchie travelling the world...

01 September 2006

Slate - Donald Rumsfeld's ghastly speech. By Fred Kaplan

Dear readers,

I would like to share with you an excellent article by Fred Kaplan about the so-called "War on Terror":
Donald Rumsfeld's ghastly speech. By Fred Kaplan - Slate Magazine. The article is brilliant, well informed and easy to understand for even the least informed about international politics. I am not going to comment on the article itself but about two language issues related to it.

The first is the expression "War on Terror" itself. I am not a native English speaker and therefore my understanding of languange subtleties is somewhat limited. This said, in other languages, we tend to use stronger prepositions than the word "on" when it relates to war. "Against" is the usual equivalent in Latin (contre in French, for instance) or Germanic (tegen in Dutch) languages. "Versus" looks a bit too old fashioned or related, I believe, to the world of court rooms or sports. Again, dear readers, I would appreciate to get your comments on this feeling. I actually have the impression that the use of the expression "War on Terror" gives the idea that the U.S. government is actually making use of the war rather than waging this war against anyone. Like in the expression "living on the land"... Which is very unfortunate but quite ironical, isn't it ?

The second point is the journalist's use of Pew's survey. He quotes that in many lands, America is seen as a higher threat than Iran or North Korea. Point taken, but, in my humble opinion, this is unsufficient. What the American readers of Slate will miss by this comment is the split between Western or pro-Western countries and more Oriental ones, as well as the split inside these countries between more and less educated people. Most people in Western lands, despite Pew's results, don't see America as such as a threat. The question is not biased, of course, but it is formulated in a way which leaves no room for nuances. Most (educated) Western people have nothing against America, they simply don't accept the methods used by the current U.S. right wing Administration. There is a huge difference, I think. And one can safely assume that the comment apply for educated people in the Middle-East too, with lower ratios probably.

Last but not least, there is one good reason for all this people to fear America, and on this point I certainly agree. Iran and North Korea are relatively "weak" states in terms of projection means. America can project force anywhere in the world. So the threat is more a perception of the harm America or rather the American government can do in case it makes a mistake or follows a bad policy, rather than what its moral "evil" or "good" stand. Just my two cents of a thought, of course.

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