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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Name Change

Reporters Scott Wilson and Al Kamen of The Washington Post yesterday (Wednesday) told us that the Pentagon is putting the kibosh on terms such as war on terror and long war are out.
In a memo e-mailed this week to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department's office of security review noted that "this administration prefers to avoid using the term 'Long War' or 'Global War on Terror' [GWOT.]  Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation.' "
But, it is DC, so we have Mr Kenneth Baer, an OMB spokesman, saying
There was no memo, no guidance.  This is the opinion of a career civil servant.
I wonder what that means?

The article goes on to note that in February the International Commission of Jurists urged the Obama administration to
drop the phrase "war on terror."  The commission said the term had given the Bush administration "spurious justification to a range of human rights and humanitarian law violations," including detention practices and interrogation methods that the International Committee of the Red Cross has described as torture.
Maybe.  But, I don't think so.  I think blaming Jack Bauer would be more likely closer to the truth.

On the other hand, here is commentary by John Nagl, a retired Army officer and a knowledgeable person in the field.  He is the author of the well received Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife:  Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam.  From the same Wash Post article:
John A. Nagl, the former Army officer who helped write the military's latest counterinsurgency field manual, said the phrase "was enormously unfortunate because I think it pulled together disparate organizations and insurgencies."

"Our strategy should be to divide and conquer rather than make of enemies more than they are," said Nagl, now president of the Center for a New American Security, a defense policy think tank in Washington.  "We are facing a number of different insurgencies around the globe--some have local causes, some of them are transnational. Viewing them all through one lens distorts the picture and magnifies the enemy."
And what does "Contingency Operation" imply?  Per the DoD Dictionary, here is the definition of a "contingency."
"Definition: (DOD) A military operation that is either designated by the Secretary of Defense as a contingency operation or becomes a contingency operation as a matter of law (10 USC 101(a)(13)).  It is a military operation that a. is designated by the Secretary of Defense as an operation in which members of the Armed Forces are or may become involved in military actions, operations, or hostilities against an enemy of the United States or against an opposing force; or b. is created by definition of law.  Under 10 USC 101 (a)(13)(B), a contingency operation exists if a military operation results in the (1) callup to (or retention on) active duty of members of the uniformed Services under certain Enumerated Statutes (10 USC Sections 688, 12301(a), 12302, 12304, 12305, 12406, or 331-335) (2) the callup to (or retention on) active duty of members of the uniformed Services under other (non-enumerated) statutes during war or national emergency declared by the President or Congress."
It should be added that "contingency operation" has specific meaning and force of law in the legal area--with respect to 1) the triggering of UCMJ jurisdiction, and 2) the triggering of certain federal acquisition authorities, among other things.

But, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Regards  --  Cliff

1 comment:

The New Englander said...


Does this mean I have to give up my Global War On Terror medals? Maybe I can trade up for some Contingency Operation paraphernalia.

It's funny, most military members just say "OIF" or "OEF" to refer to Iraq or Afghanistan, respectively, so most won't notice, or care, about the change.

Although I'm normally inclined to drink heavily from the Col. Nagl trough, I just think from a simplicity point of view using "GWOT" to encapsulate Iraq and Afghanistan is better than some other mouthful. Of course, you've got the OEF variant in the Philippines and you've got OEF-Trans Sahel, but I don't see how you're giving some guy in Chad "credit" by labeling your op a certain way.

Bottom line: Doesn't change any of my plans for next year..