Words shape ideas and ideas have consequences. I've thus long taken care to use terms and phrases that make it easier for me to express my political views clearly and convincingly. Since they might interest fellow friends of liberty, I'll describe my rules of usage in a series of posts. I'll start here with one of my favorites: Always use "Drug War" rather than "War on Drugs."
The former name has one indisputable virtue: brevity. Even if it differed from "War on Drugs" in no other regard, "Drug War" would win on grounds of efficiency. As it turns out, though, "Drug War" proves better than its alternative in other, more substantive ways.
"War on Drugs" wrongly implies that statists (a term that reflects yet another rule of usage) aim to prosecute chemicals rather than people. But chemicals do not suffer imprisonment, forfeiture of assets, or fatal no-knock raids at the wrong address. Although "War on People Who Choose to Create, Distribute, or Consume Certain Chemicals" would prove more accurate, "Drug War" at least does not mislead.
Policymakers who crafted the phrase, "War on Drugs," probably aimed to evoke the relatively benign War on Poverty. "Drug War" evokes a different war from the same era, the Vietnam War. Given that the Vietnam War wasted American lives and liberties in a futile and ultimately failed conflict, "Drug War" proves far more fitting than "War on Drugs."
Lastly, "Drug War" simply sounds better—more brutal and, thus, accurate. Say it a few times to yourself and notice how tough it feels compared to the soft and squishy "War on Drugs." Next, try "Drug War" in conversation. Your listeners probably won't comment. They may not even consciously notice your usage. But your words will, in one very small but potentially powerful way, help liberty to achieve victory in the Drug War.