My Review of Steve Coll’s “Name Calling” in THE NEW YORKER

By: David Camp

For my “what works?” this week, I chose to critique Steve Coll’s piece called, “Name Calling,” written for the New Yorker. This article is a chronicle about the United States war on terror, specifically dealing with the terrorist group, “Al Qaeda” and its leader, Bin Laden. The story talks about how other terrorist organization groups keep America at war and how different affiliates and branches were able to spread out from Al Qaeda.

I clicked on this article because I’m very interesting in international politics as well as the war on terror. Recently, President Obama sent another 100 troops to Africa to start a new drone program. Obama’s administration has been criticized, much like the Bush administration, for the use of these drones. Coll does a good job of explaining why America might always be in war because of these expanding terrorist groups.

Coll uses a feature lead in the article and engages the audience by giving history of Bin Laden and his creation of the terrorist group, “Al Qaeda.” This begins with the history of the group and their most recent activities. I think Coll does a good job informing the reader with information they might have not have know or forgot about. The nutgraf would be in the third paragraph in the article, which explains what is going to be talked about throughout the rest of the story. Here is where i think the nutgraf is:

“When President Obama came to office, he scuttled the Global War on Terror—he objected to its Orwellian tone and its imprecision. He has framed, instead, a more prosaic-sounding war, against Al Qaeda and “associated forces.” Obama’s reasoning is that Al Qaeda and its allies distinguish themselves from other terrorist groups with their intent to attack the United States, and that they remain cohesive enough to jointly qualify as an enemy force under the laws of war. Worldwide drone strikes, indefinite detention in Guantánamo and elsewhere, and military trials are some of the policies that flow from this logic.”

Coll goes on to talk about how different terrorist organizations from Somalia and even recently Syria, are trying to overthrow their own governments. He explains how rebels from Syria, who are in Civil War with their own President Bashar-Assad, could be as bad as the people they are trying to overthrow.  The real point of the article is, “when is it all going to be over?” US troops are still overseas and as of now there is no real plan of when they’re coming home. Coll tries to explain to the reader that America is in war with a name rather than a country, which is why I’m guessing the name of this article is, “Name Calling.” I think the name of the title of the story could be a lot stronger than “name calling.” Although I think that the title of the article makes sense with the story, I think Coll could of came up with a stronger title.

The only multimedia used in the article is a drawing of a US drone fly over a map. I enjoyed this picture because it makes sense with the article however I do wish there were more “in time” pictures. I think a picture of a terrorist group or picture of an US drone, or even a picture of President Obama would of worked well in the article. A timeline of how long the US has been in war with terror would also work well in my opinion. Viewers enjoy timelines of all kinds and it also helps the reader understand and follow the story better.