War? What War?

President Obama is still uncomfortably close to his roots as an antiwar candidate, so it is understandable that he and his minions would rather not refer to what they are doing in Libya as a “war.” Besides, euphemism is the soul of the Obama administration, from “man-caused disasters” to the “Employee Free Choice Act.” So it shouldn’t be surprising that the administration has come up with something more oblique than “war” to describe its Libyan adventure. Byron York explains:

In a briefing on board Air Force One Wednesday, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes took a crack at an answer. “I think what we are doing is enforcing a resolution that has a very clear set of goals, which is protecting the Libyan people, averting a humanitarian crisis, and setting up a no-fly zone,” Rhodes said. “Obviously that involves kinetic military action, particularly on the front end.”

Kinetic military action! That’s a new one on me, and it seems a bit odd. Akinetic military action might be, say, the Maginot Line. Or immobile cruise missiles.
Be that as it may, the phrase has caught on with the Obama administration. Byron documents a half dozen uses of “kinetic military action” by administration officials who prefer not to say the word “war.” He concludes:

Now, White House officials are referring to the war in Libya not as a war but as a “kinetic military action.” As common as “kinetic” might be among those in government, it still seems likely to strike members of the public as a euphemism that allows the Obama administration to describe a war as something other than a war.

There is indeed a war going on in Libya, a civil war. Our role in that conflict remains unclear; the Obama administration’s resort to euphemism is emblematic of that confusion.