Now that Washington has at least six wars cooking
(in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and more generally, the
global war on terror), Americans find themselves in a new world of war.
If, however, you haven’t joined the all-volunteer military, any of our 17 intelligence
outfits, the Pentagon, the weapons companies and hire-a-gun
corporations associated with it, or some other part of the National
Security Complex, America’s distant wars go on largely without you (at
least until the bills come due).
War has a way of turning almost anything upside down, including
language. But with lost jobs, foreclosed homes, crumbling
infrastructure, and weird weather, who even notices? This undoubtedly
means that you’re using a set of antediluvian war words or definitions
from your father’s day. It’s time to catch up.
So here’s the latest word in war words: what’s in, what’s out, what’s
inside out. What follows are nine common terms associated with our
present wars that probably don’t mean what you think they mean. Since
you live in a twenty-first-century war state, you might consider making
them your own.
Victory: Like defeat, it’s a “loaded” word and rather than define it, Americans should simply avoid it.
In his last press conference before
retirement, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was asked whether the
U.S. was “winning in Afghanistan.” He replied, “I have learned a few
things in four and a half years, and one of them is to try and stay away
from loaded words like ‘winning’ and ‘losing.’
What I will say is that
I believe we are being successful in implementing the president’s
strategy, and I believe that our military operations are being
successful in denying the Taliban control of populated areas, degrading
their capabilities, and improving the capabilities of the Afghan
national security forces.”
In 2005, George W. Bush, whom Gates also served, used the word “victory” 15 times in a single speech (“National Strategy for Victory in Iraq”).
Keep in mind, though, that our previous president learned about war in
the movie theaters of his childhood where the Marines always advanced
and Americans actually won. Think of his victory obsession as the
equivalent of a mid-twentieth-century hangover.