To channel Glenn Reynolds, they told me that if I voted for John McCain, we’d get an administration that used Orwellian terms in an attempt to hide its military adventurism — and they were right! While Congress demanded answers from Barack Obama for bypassing Congress to send the American military into battle in Libya, one of his national security advisers told the press that bombing and strafing another nation’s military wasn’t really a war at all. Byron York reports:
In the last few days, Obama administration officials have frequently faced the question: Is the fighting in Libya a war? From military officers to White House spokesmen up to the president himself, the answer is no. But that leaves the question: What is it?
In a briefing on board Air Force One Wednesday, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes took a crack at an answer. “I think what we are doing is enforcing a resolution that has a very clear set of goals, which is protecting the Libyan people, averting a humanitarian crisis, and setting up a no-fly zone,” Rhodes said. “Obviously that involves kinetic military action, particularly on the front end.”
Rhodes’ words echoed a description by national security adviser Tom Donilon in a briefing with reporters two weeks ago as the administration contemplated action in Libya. “Military steps — and they can be kinetic and non-kinetic, obviously the full range — are not the only method by which we and the international community are pressuring Gadhafi,” Donilon said.
As York explains, the Pentagon uses the term “kinetic” to differentiate between violent action and other military operations, such as cyberwarfare or roles strictly relating to logistics and support. They don’t use it as a euphemism for war, but suddenly the Obama administration has adopted it for that very purpose.
It’s not the first euphemism for war that the White House has introduced, either. Almost two years ago, the administration announced that they would abandon the phrase “global war on terror” and replace it with “overseas contingency operations.” Unfortunately, not all terrorist attacks happened overseas, as the Fort Hood shooting, the attempt to blow up Times Square, and the Underwear Bomber proved. In case that term didn’t prove elastic enough, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano introduced “man-caused disasters” to replace “terrorist attack.”
Oddly, these never quite caught on. As it happens, people recognize terrorism as something a little more specific than a “man caused disaster,” and the threat from al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks as more dangerous than a generic “contingency.” Similarly, when one nation sends its military to attack the military of another nation, it’s an act of war, not an example of kinetic energy.
Perhaps next year, Obama and his team of Orwellian obfuscators can experience a kinetic electoral action — when the voters kick their rear ends out of the White House.