'Kinetic military action' is still hell
President Obama says there's no reason for him to return the Nobel Peace Prize he won two years ago, shortly after taking office, despite the obvious "irony" of America being involved in three different wars.
Uh, make that two wars and one "kinetic military action." That, at least, seems to be the administration's preferred term for describing the enforcement of the UN-declared no-fly zone in Libya. In fact, military and national-security officials can't seem to stop talking about America's current "kinetic options" and "kinetic capabilities."
Certainly, administration spokesmen have taken great pains to avoid referring to the ongoing operation as a war -- which would, of course, require the president to get congressional approval.
Now, there's nothing particularly new about this bit of Pentagon-speak. It simply means the use of active military force -- dropping bombs, firing weapons, and the like -- as opposed to things like cyberwarfare and the use of nonlethal, high-tech electronic gadgetry. Indeed, the Pentagon has been using the term since the early days of post-9/11 action in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Back then, though, the term was ridiculed. Timothy Noah, for example, called its use by Donald Rumsfeld "unconscionably euphemistic, with antiseptic connotations derived from high-school physics."
Of course, Team Obama is well known for its use of euphemism when it comes to fighting radical Islam -- recall that the Pentagon once suggested replacing the term "global war on terror" with "overseas contingency operation." Not to mention that the very term "Islamic radicalism" was dropped from the National Security Strategy early on.
Still, to paraphrase Shakespeare, a war by any other name is still a war.