DoD reports choosing the wrong words to describe terrorism can effectively promote "enemy ideology." The article refers to a National Defense University essay on the subject viewable here.
The essay argues that to use Arabic terms like jihad and mujahideen ("holy warrior"), in effect "define[s] the behavior of our enemies as moral."
They suggest the following terms be used by officials and journalists:
-- "war against Islamic totalitarian terrorism"
--"mufsidun" ("evil or corrupt persons") instead of jihadists or mujiahideen which they argue connotes a righteous or holy cause.
--"global hirabah" (sinful war) not "global jihad."
The authors insist officials and journalists can change people's minds about the issue by using terms that suggest Islam itself does not approve of the 'jihadist.' They call this a more accurate and precise use of terms.
I can see several problems with this approach, although the essay, according to its authors, is simply a primer.
1. The terms jihad, mujahideen, jihadist, and so on, are already in full circulation. It's not likely the widespread usage can be changed now.
2. The US already has other words for jihad etc, they also use "terrorism," "terrorist," "criminal," "murderer" etc.
3. In asking journalists to use these terms, the authors are asking them to make a religious assessment, according to Islam, and to use the terms didactically, with a religious goal, which is not appropriate. It is not the duty of a journalist to interpret the news religiously, or to confer/withold religious sanction on terms. The journalist is not an exegete out to convert Muslim 'heretics.' And I seriously doubt the undecided Muslim is partial to the journalist-exegete, or the Pentagon-exegete.
3. In seeing use of these terms as critical, the authors unwittingly make Islam the measure of all judgment in these matters. Islam becomes the plumbline, the "board" the 'game' is played on, which is no advance to the current situation they describe.
4. There are experts on jihad like Dr. Andrew Boston, and Srdja Trifkovic who would argue the National Defense view is incorrect, and the current use of the terms is consistent with Islam.
On the use of words, the authors also wrote: "It is also important to note that opposing jihad, a basic principle of Islam, violates a classical text of our own. The United States Constitution denies our government the ability to prohibit the free exercise of religion; consequently, we should never use a term, such as jihad, that misstates our current and historical position on religion. " A stunning, and inaccurate statement. Missing is the exaltation of individual rights including the right to be free of coercion and force, vs. the mindless collectivism of radical Islam.
In arguing ideologies, one must make use of reason, not constrain reason by trying to force it into a disguise.