The "War on Terror", a defining statement of the George W. Bush administration is not simply political rhetoric or a sound bite that has shaped American foreign policy since 2002; it is carefully crafted statement aimed at manipulating the American psyche.
The American psyche is conditioned by a sense of all encompassing divine purpose derived from the battle for independence from colonial rule, the later conquering of the new frontier and the struggle against Communism.
This belief was cemented during and after the Spanish American War and the Mexican American War. During these two conflicts, the United States defined an expansionist policy known by the catch phrase of “Manifest Destiny” - the belief that the United States had a divinely inspired mission to expand, spreading its form of democracy and freedom. Advocates of “Manifest Destiny” believed that expansion was not only good, but that it was obvious ("manifest") and inevitable ("destiny").
When shaping their approach to combating actual, perceived and made up threats, the Bush administration tapped the Terror management theory (TMT), first proposed by Sheldon Solomon, Tom Pyszczynski, and Jeff Greenberg, suggests that people adhere to cultural worldviews and beliefs in order to suppress death and mortality-related thoughts. TMT suggests that people combat the terror of their mortality with the same cognitive abilities that cause this terror to arise, by developing death-denying cultural belief systems.
More importantly, TMT suggests that individuals must feel that they are significant contributors to this worldview and derive their sense of self-esteem according to whether or not they meet culturally determined standards. If the standard defined by the establishment and promoted by the media is based on an all-encompassing struggle and war with imminent loss of life, it is obvious why the "War on Terror" statement was so easily sold to the large majority of the American people.
Peter Beinart writting for the Daily Beast says Obama should openly embrace the argument that the "War on Terror" isn’t a “war” for three main reasons. First, the term “war” should be reserved for direct armed confrontations, and common American rhetoric about “wars” on poverty, cancer, drugs, and such have diluted this strict meaning. Second, the term gives the executive branch cover to destroy civil liberties in the name of security. Third, it gives the false impression that bullets and bombs are sufficient to eradicate threats.
President Bush decision to conflate Iraq and the War on Terror into one thing, was a calculated decision to manipulate the American psyche.