Two news reports on U.S. strategy in the war on terror offer conflicting images of American policy.
An Associated Press report details the Obama administration's aggressive targeting of terrorist leaders from Pakistan to Yemen, including the killing last summer of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.
"Although the homeland security official in charge of developing the review insists it was a not a deliberate decision, the document is likely to reignite a debate over terminology in the U.S.-led war against al Qaeda that has been simmering through two administrations.
'There was not an active choice' to avoid using terms derivative of Islam, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy David Heyman told reporters on a conference call. President Obama had 'made it clear as we are looking at counterterrorism that our principal focus is al Qaeda and global violent extremism, and that is the terminology and language that has been articulated' by Mr. Obama and his advisers, Mr. Heyman added. He declined to use the I-word."
If it wasn't an "active choice," it's even more unusual to see the 128-page Quadrennial Defense Review similarly avoid references to Islam, but instead include multiple references to "radicalism," "extremism" or "violent extremism."
The approach has U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) scratching his head:
"They're trying to be tougher than Bush overseas but different from Bush at home. They really got the right model for Pakistan and Yemen, but they're really tone deaf at home."
As we noted at in 2008, the nuanced use of language follows the recommendation of American Islamist groups which routinely object to U.S. counterterrorism efforts, while critics argue it ignores the motivation of terrorists trying to kill Americans.
The government has been hesitant to invoke Islam in its investigations into the November Fort Hood massacre, even though shooter Nidal Malik Hasan reportedly shouted "Allahu Akhbar" before firing and had sought religious approval from radical Yemeni cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki.
"We shouldn't be reluctant to identify our enemy," U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told the newspaper.