David Miliband UK Foreign Secretary has said that the idea of a War on Terror was a mistake because it had unified disparate terrorist groups against the west.
Way to go Dave!
This recognition of gullibility provides us with some classic lessons in the use and misuse of the psychology of social influence. Whether the original decision (that should really read bush-ision my new word for any dodgy decision!)to use the term War on Terror was a deliberate but mistaken use of social psychology we'll probably never know.What we can explain are the methods that have and are being used to influence and change the way we think.
The original idea of the War on Terror is a classic case of the Granfalloon a "a proud and meaningless association of human beings" (K.Vonnegut). This happens when appeals to common ancestry and common enemies are made and involves the social influence technique called Altercasting. Altercasting is when you 'cast' other people in a role, or give them an identity that they weren't previously aware that they had. Once you have done that they come to think of themselves as 'connected', we think of them of them as 'connected' and we both interpret how they behave and should behave as somehow 'connected'.
David Miliband has realised that the bush-ision to start a War on Terror has caused problems and is now using another social influence method called Framing to change the meaning of the term Terrorism in our minds. Quote "Terrorism is a deadly tactic, not an institution or an ideology"
This is more like the truth. Terrorists are undoubtedly highly trained, cunning and committed. They are, nevertheless, more criminals and bullies than philosophers and sages and like all bands of thieves and vagabonds they come together as loose and fragile confederacies made up of socio-pathic self interested individuals who would kill each other and their own grandmother's if there was something in it for them.
To 'cast' them as an equal, an enemy, an adversary in War gives them a status beyond what is credible. Whatever the politics and practicalities, whatever the balance between military action and humanitarian aid, whatever the attack and atrocity, we now have a War on Error. The opening shots have been fired and this new war will be one that is won because terrorists are now being seen for what they are. In turn this will influence the actions appropriate for dealing with them. As always every failure of implementation is a failure of formulation.