There is an interesting dimension to the ongoing circumvention of the Constitution over our latest undeclared war. While some Administration officials are finally calling our attacks in Syria as a “war,” the discomfort over defining this indefinite campaign has led to equal discomfort over naming it. After two months of airstrikes and statements that the campaign will likely go on for years, the Administration still have not named this war. The choice would now seem obvious: Operation Voldemort, the war which must not be named.
Usually, the military loves to give inspiring names to its campaigns, though sometimes the name can reveal a bit of insecurity like “Operation Just Cause” in Panama — a name that only seemed to amplify the questions of the legality or legitimacy of the invasion. Once coined, the name then appears on everything from government contracts to legislation to service medals.
However, the Administration has been in a not-so-private internal debate over what to call the campaign against Islamic State. Like naming a puppy, the naming of a war can create a dangerous achievement to those with commitment issues. As one defense official was quoted as saying “If you name it, you own it. And they don’t want to own it.”
For the moment, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby says that the Administration currently has “no plans to name the operation” but that there is “an effort underway to consider … a potential name for this operation.”
They may have time. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said this week that this could be a “30-year war.” At least the 100 years war between England and France had a name, it was called the 100 years war. You do not even have to be accurate. After all, the 100 Years war lasted 116 years.
Whatever its name, it has its first casualty. Marine Cpl. Jordan Spears was lost at sea after he and another crewman abandoned their MV-22 Osprey when it nearly crashed into the Persian Gulf. They had taken off from the USS Makin Island. For the moment, he will presumably be listed as killed in military operations.
Source: Wall Street Journal
77 thoughts on “Operation Voldemort: The War Which Must Not Be Named”
Eric has been insightful and knows how to dig up the right documents.
Eric, W called Bubba often, and Bubba called the old man Bush all the time. Obama is too smart to consult!!
Nick and Eric – Obama does not go to enough of the briefings to know enough to call either Bushes or Clinton.
As I said to Max-1 upthread, “war” is not by itself a magical legal word. War does have common use and meaning outside of the formal term in the Constitution.
Just to clarify, though, “War on Terror” per PL 107-40 does encompass the formal term since its scope includes state sponsors like the Taliban as well as non-state terrorists.
We should not make war on inane concepts like War On Drugs or War On Ebola or War on Isis. War is reserved for nation states. People who declare that we must declare war on some gang like Isis need to alter their drugs. We can fight terrorists or drug dealers with invoking war powers which are unnecessary and out of tune with our Constitution. Nuff said.
BarkinDog – you left out the War on Poverty which has still not be won, but is being lost as we write.
havehas been so poor.
Nick Spinelli, Paul C. Schulte,
A curious aspect of Obama’s presidency is that he apparently hasn’t consulted at all with his predecessors on foreign policy.
On “Meet the Press” in March, President Carter revealed that Obama hasn’t called on him in marked contrast to his every other successor – the Bushes, Clinton, even Reagan.
Bush has said that Obama only called him to share the news of the bin Laden killing.
I haven’t heard from Presidents Clinton and HW Bush whether Obama has consulted with them.
Before Obama, it apparently was common practice in that small circle for presidents – Democrat and Republican – to touch base on foreign affairs with their predecessors, which makes sense since their scope is usually longer than any one administration.
Obama’s apparent disconnection from the presidential fraternity is perhaps trivial, but perhaps telling of why his conduct of foreign affairs have been so poor.
The best straightforward, nuts-and-bolts explanation of the background and possible courses of action for the ISIS crisis I’ve come across is last month’s Columbia University Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies panel, ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and the United States. Video:
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