Clearly defining the nation’s enemies

War on terror is vague; al-Qaida is not.

The need for a president to define his or her policies before being able to accomplish them may seem obvious. However, this was one of the greatest problems facing President George W. Bush and his dangerously vague âÄúwar on terror.âÄù Coherent definitions of who, precisely, we were fighting were often in short supply. As CNN analyst Peter Bergen put it in a January editorial, âÄúBush took the nation to war against a tactic rather than a war against a specific enemy, which was obviously al-Qaida and anyone allied to it.âÄù Of course, in that context, itâÄôs impossible to win the war âÄî not because one is physically incapable of defeating the enemy but because one isnâÄôt defining who the enemy is. This is why the Obama administration has been a refreshing change of pace. TheyâÄôve wasted no time defining who the United States is fighting âÄî and who we are not. President Barack Obama defined it in his inaugural address, saying, âÄúOur nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.âÄù He continued, âÄùTo the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.âÄù The address managed to not only define the United StatesâÄô enemy as the al-Qaida network, but also differentiate between the Muslim members of al-Qaida who are enemies of our country and those Muslims around the world every bit as frightened of terrorism as any ordinary American. This clearly defined policy has continued as Obama tours the Middle East. On Monday,while in Turkey, he gave a speech declaring that the United States âÄúis not at war with Islam âĦ AmericaâÄôs relationship with the Muslim world cannot and will not be based on opposition to al-Qaida.âÄù This is not a partisan issue. Rather, it is a simple principle at work: You have to define both your allies and your adversaries. This editorial, accessed via UWire, was originally published in the Daily Nebraskan at the University of Nebraska. Please send comments to [email protected]