In my all-too-brief study of rhetoric, I learned that the side that gets to define the terms of the argument most often wins. This often comes down to deciding what to call the two sides. David Eddings tackled his head-on in “The Belgariad,” when the protagonist asked if they were the good guys in the struggle between “Good” and “Evil.” The ancient sorceror answered that he prefers “us” and “them,” as it avoids a lot of useless arguments.
Nonetheless, names mean a lot. This is hugely obvious in the abortion issue, where one side insists that its a matter of “pro-choice versus anti-choice,” while the others say it’s “pro-life versus pro-abortion.” Simply accepting the other side’s name is a huge rhetorical concession.
Similarly, with the argument over the war on terror, ‘our” side has a bit of a dilemma. The other side has staked out “anti-war” as their rallying cray, leaving us to be called “pro-war.” That’s not entirely accurate, at least in my case, and rather damning. So I reject that.
So, what should “we” call ourselves? That’s a tough one.
I thought about “pro-freedom,” but I disliked it. It’s too vague for my tastes. It could mean anything, and therefore means nothing. I don’t like that sort of thing. We need something clearer, more precise, perhaps with some historical context that truly captures the sentiment that we didn’t choose to fight this war on terror, but dammit, we’re gonna win it.
And then it hit me. Let the other side be “anti-war.” If they choose not to recognize that the war started a long time ago, and we’ve only recently started fighting back, that’s their stupidity. We have more important things to worry about than their whining and kvetching.
It’s a good word. It says exactly what our goal is: to win, to defeat the enemy, to stop those out to destroy us and our way of life and impose their tyrannical vision on people.
And it has positive historic connotations, too. In World War II, we built “Victory” ships, bought “Victory” bonds, sent heroes on “Victory” tours. It’s clear, it’s concise, and it doesn’t overpromise or overcommit or flail about in rhetorical helplessness.