Libya–War, Humanitarian Aid, Lies or Damn Lies?

Mark Twain famously remarked that there were lies and then damn lies.  It is hard to figure out if there is any lying going on about our involvement in Libya at the moment.  To start with our gang that can’t shoot straight in the White House can’t even agree on what it is that we are doing.   You have noticed the great lengths they go to avoid using the term “war”.  They quit using that to describe the war on terror from day one.  Now they are international contingencies.  I don’t know why politicians believe that political correctness has to trump honest communication with the people.  Words of course do have meaning and do carry impact.   It is never good to be careless with words.  That is not a new concept with me just read Proverbs or Ecclesiastes.

War is a very important step to take and a dangerous venture to embark upon.  It doesn’t reduce the danger to call it something else.  A rose by any other name… someone who knew a bit about language once said.   Administration hacks in the last couple of days have clearly taken the lead of some policy wonk who we guarantee has never heard the sound of gunfire or smelled the cordite int the air has determined to refer to our military strikes and acts of war as “kinetic military action”.  Uh?   We once were so much more straightforward and honest about matters.  The Defense Department is a fairly recent nomenclature.  All those millions of boys who went to fight in WWI and WWII were under the command and control of the War Department.  Now that is an honest and clearcut name for an institution.  It was only after the War that the Dems and Truman decided it would be more palatable to change the name to the Department of Defense.

Truman stuck with the same trickery with words.  The Korean War was not a war.  His administration made ever effort to never refer to it that way.  Just as the guy in the White House now is not engaged in war with Libya according to his verbage, Truman was not a war in Korea; it was a “police action” authorized and supported partly by the UN.   It is also worth noting that Congress never declared war against North Korea or the Chinese during that conflict.  The Gulf of Tonkin resolution was never intended to authorize the introduction of 500,000 US troops into Viet Nam but Johnson did.  At least there was a mantle of a sort covering his actions.

To any sensible mind when you bomb folks or shoot at them with intention to kill them and break things that is a state of war.  What the hell is the down side to calling a spade a spade?   By avoiding the use of the term will we win over lots of new friends in the Middle East, the Muslim Brotherhood, or any other group or country around the world?  Forget whether or not the military action is justified or practical, what we are doing is an act of war.  The English language is wonderfully varied and flexible.  We have over 400,000 words with which to express ourselves eloquently or concisely and precisely.   Honest and accurate communication will always lead to a better dialogue and prevent misunderstanding and confusion.  When you are dealing with diplomacy and matters of war clear communications are more vital than ever.  We need our enemies and our friends to comprehend exactly what we are about and what our intentions are. 

We can avoid the term war as much as we want but today in this era of instant and visual communications people around the world can hear and see what is occurring.    Are we going to pull that old Groucho Marx routine on them and ask them if they believe  what they see with their own eyes or believe what we tell them?  It is idiotic to refer to what they see on their TV screens as “kinetic military action”.   It demeans a great language and insults the intelligence of the listener, neither of those is a good idea. 

We could at least do as we did in the Iraq war against Saddam and tell everyone we are at war with the leader and his cohorts.  We wanted to take out Saddam and said so.  Some hated us for it, some supported us and naturally some merely wanted to await the outcome to see what would be to their advantage as thus it has ever been.  

All American wars have needed the majority support of the people and that is as it should be.  Wars not supported are poorly executed and the objectives reduced with time or not achieved.  Those that are supported by the people are met with success.  Removing Qaddafi probably would be supported but for the troublesome factor of who would replace him.  There have been literally dozens of civil wars of the last 5 decades.  We did not get involved in the vast majority of them for good reason.  It was none of our business.   It is not too late to state we aren’t sure who the good guys are in this one and let them fight it out internally for a while if that is their wish.  The rebels in Libya may be only a seedling for an Al Qaeda army of the future.  There is no one who can give us assurance to the contrary.  Until we have a much better picture of who these guys are we should let them fight their own battles. 

“society is held together by communication and information”  A quote from Steve Jobs?  Bill Gates?  It was Samuel Johnson an 18th century English man of letters and poet.


1 Comment

Filed under Culture, Economics, Foreign Affairs, history, military history, Politics, War

One response to “Libya–War, Humanitarian Aid, Lies or Damn Lies?

  1. ulag

    There are parallels between Libya and the Bangladeshi freedom movement. What can we learn from the past? My analysis here.

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