It’s Not A War, It’s A “Kinetic Military Action”

ABC News reports that the White House wants to make clear that what’s going on in Libya is not a war:

In politics as in physics, nature abhors a vacuum, and with so many unanswered questions, the situation in Libya feels like that vacuum.

Happy to fill that void are Republicans eager to take advantage of the opportunity to push President Obama off his stride.

“I respect your authority as commander in chief and support our troops as they carry out their mission,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote in a letter to the president yesterday. “But I and many other members of the House of Representatives are troubled that U.S. military resources were committed to war without clearly defining for the American people, the Congress and our troops what the mission in Libya is and what America’s role is in achieving that mission.”

Boehner added, “In fact, the limited, sometimes contradictory, case made to the American people by members of your administration has left some fundamental questions about our engagement unanswered.”

Not so says the White House. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters aboard Air Force One last night that “what we are doing is enforcing a resolution that has a very clear set of goals.”

According to Rhodes those goals include, “protecting the Libyan people, averting a humanitarian crisis, and setting up a no-fly zone. Obviously that involves kinetic military action, particularly on the front end. But again, the nature of our commitment is that we are not getting into an open-ended war, a land invasion in Libya.”

As James Joyner noted only a few days ago:

Iraq War vet and CNAS scholar Andrew Exum observes, “When you resort to force to achieve a political aim that you could not achieve through peaceable means, that’s war.” The link goes to Amazon’s listing for Carl von Clausewitz’ On War.

In the Obama Administration, I guess that would be Clausewitz’ On Kinetic Military Action. Welcome, my friends, to the world of bureaucratic doublespeak.


FILED UNDER: Africa, Military Affairs, National Security, US Politics, World Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. B. Minich says:

    Its a building enrubblefication program! (Thanks, Jon Stewart!)

  2. Ole Sarge says:

    “No one starts a war-or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so-without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.”
    – Karl von Clausewitz

    It’s already too late.

  3. Kylopod says:

    Somewhere, George Orwell is laughing.

  4. bandit says:

    It’s a jobs program for Libyan gravediggers.

  5. Vast Variety says:

    Vietnam and Korea weren’t wars either then?

    They could call it an International Urban Redevelopment Program