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Narrowly defined

The neverending struggle

From Barack Obama’s much-bruited speech on AfPak policy:

I set a goal that was narrowly defined as disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies[.]

Thus do three alliterative verbs aspirationally applied to an unquantified nimbus of immoderate enemies amount to a narrowly defined goal. Let’s hope that the President never feels the urge to define his task broadly?

  1. 1  Roger Migently  December 3, 2009, 8:49 am 

    When I’m King of the World, my narrowly-defined goal will be to make everything better. Oh, and kill all the baddies.

  2. 2  hellblazer  December 3, 2009, 11:33 am 

    Wouldn’t it be easier to defeat them *before* dismantling them?

  3. 3  Steven  December 3, 2009, 11:35 am 

    That’s certainly how I would go about fighting giant robots.

  4. 4  Steven  December 3, 2009, 11:56 am 

    (Although, to be fair, many giant robots are defeated by what is essentially a stepwise process of dismantling?)

  5. 5  Dave Weeden  December 3, 2009, 12:28 pm 

    Well, it _is_ narrowly defined compared to ‘regime change’ and ‘spreading democracy.’ And in a sense, dismantling (which I assume means a combination of assassinations of members near the top of the hierarchy and the isolation of various cells) has to come before defeat, because the Taliban isn’t like a ‘conventional’ army which would surrender if out manoeuvred; they’ll just keep fighting.

  6. 6  Bruce  December 3, 2009, 2:44 pm 

    This narrowly defined thing seems to be a theme. Later on in the speech Obama says:

    In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over.

    So, narrowly defining stuff is bad? Or…?

    One thing is for certain: we’re committed to fighting bad things. Even if:

    We did not ask for this fight.

  7. 7  Mark Clapham  December 3, 2009, 3:29 pm 

    I think it’s only narrowly defined in the sense of excluding any interference in local human rights violations and so forth. Regardless of whether this hands-off approach is better or worse than the Bush/Blair bug-eyed cultural imperialism, it’s a little dispiriting that Western leaders (and leaders in waiting like Cameron) are explicitly selling their policies towards Afghanistan and Iraq as *not* doing anything to advance human rights etc. Even more dispiriting that such a pitch is so warmly received.

  8. 8  Roger Migently  December 4, 2009, 12:49 am 

    What’s important in politics is not that policy be simple but that it seem simple. People should have the feeling that they have grasp of the issues, even if those issues are actually far too complex even for the leadership group to properly comprehend. You know how frequently politicans say, “Let me be perfectly clear about this,” and go on to muddy the waters even further.

    It’s a bit like Nobel Physics laureate Leon Lederman’s ambition that all of physics should reduced to an elegant and simple formula that would fit on a T-shirt. E=mc2 looks simple enough for anyone to grasp but ….

    Obama’s statement relies for its intended effect on the secret Hitler discovered: [If I quote Hitler is Godwin’s Law in play?]

    How lucky for the rulers that the people do not think.

    So let me be really clear. Here’s my simple plan for dealing with the Taliban (and you’ll like it because it’s jauntily alliterative, like a nursery rhyme):

    Pursue, Perplex, Persecute, Pulverise, Prostrate, Prosecute, Punish and Put in the toilet (or, as I like to say, the Hamid Karzy)

  9. 9  Ricardo  December 4, 2009, 1:39 am 

    Would there be a difference between “narrowly defined” and “defined narrowly”. To my ear the first has overtones that suggest that the they doing the defining have done so with a meanness of spirit.

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