Bill Clinton was ambiguous about the definition of “sex” and “is”. Barack Obama is uncertain about what the definition of “war” might be.
And wars are central to the duties of the man in the White House.
Whether or not we’re in a war depends on who you ask and on which day of the week you ask him. Secretary of State John Kerry said that bombing ISIS in two countries wasn’t a war. After the White House spokesman said it is a war, Kerry agreed that maybe it might be a war after all.
Forget about finding a strategy, this administration can’t even agree on whether the thing that it needs to find a strategy for is a war.
Democrats don’t like the “W” word. They bomb more countries than Republicans do, but they find a prettier name for it.
One of the first things that Obama did in Iraq was to change the name of the war. It was no longer Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was now Operation New Dawn. Even though there were 50,000 troops in Iraq, the combat mission was officially over. The 50,000 were renamed “Advise and Assist” brigades.
As John and Yoko said, the “W” word really could be over if you wanted it to be. Or pretended it was.
Obama bombed Libya to implement regime change, but no one called it a war. It was just one of those things where we dropped a lot of bombs on another country in coordination with rebels on the ground to help them take over that country. Definitely not a war. Possibly one of those “man-caused disasters”.
At least that was how Obama Inc. tried to rename terrorism in the early heady days of hope and change.
A compulsive need to avoid calling things what they are is an obvious form of denial. But when a politician at the head of a government begins behaving in that shifty way, it’s also deeply dishonest.
Democrats could defend Bill Clinton’s need to lie about what they termed his private life, but even they can’t defend an administration that plays Clintonesque word games with something as big as a war.
We are currently not in a war with the Islamic State, which according to this administration is neither Islamic nor a State, with a strategy of possibly destroying them (unless that doesn’t work out and then we’ll settle for degrading them) and we are backed in this non-war by a coalition of Muslim nations that can’t as of yet be named, but which have possibly pledged to help us with certain undetermined things.
These undetermined things include aiding the Syrian Islamist rebels, some of whom are fighting alongside ISIS, some of whom are fighting ISIS and some of whom switch back and forth based on their mood, the latest shipment of TOW missiles from the CIA and how much the Saudis are paying them.
We don’t know a lot more about the war, which may or may not be a war, than we know about it.
And that’s the problem.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was mocked for talking about “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns” by people who are too stupid to realize that their ignorance has turned the world around them into “unknown unknowns”.
Obama’s culture of denial, his charm bracelets of Orwellian synonyms for conflict that seem to have been invented by a bureaucrat with no sense of humor, turn everything into unknown unknowns. If we can’t even properly define what we’re doing, how can we do it at all? If we can’t even admit that we’re fighting a war and that ISIS is inspired by Islam, how can we beat an enemy that we can’t fight or name?
What you call something is important. Ideologues, like the kind that fill the ranks of Obama Inc, think that changing a name changes reality. It doesn’t. A rose will still be the same plant by any other name and ISIS will still be the same band of Islamic headchoppers even if you insist on referring to them as a junior varsity team of man-caused disasters belonging to no particular faith or religion.
It’s your awareness of reality that changes.
Casinos and credit card companies use substitution to diminish your awareness that you are spending money. Drug companies play soothing music and show pastoral scenes while telling you the lethal side effects. Car salesmen and cable companies avoid giving you the full amount that you’ll be paying.
Obama has a bad habit of using these same tactics. His administration tried to make the illegal war in Libya look good by refusing to call it a war and comparing the cost to the Iraq War using bogus figures. It tried to erase the existence of terrorism by refusing to use the word to describe terrorist attacks that were taking place, whether at Fort Hood or in Benghazi.
His tactics showed that he didn’t believe that the problem was terrorism, but the overreaction of Americans to terrorism. All he had to do whitewash every attack as an isolated incident that had nothing to do with Islamic terrorism and then Americans would cease to be aware of terrorism. If Iraq were to vanish from the evening news, no one would know that Al Qaeda there was getting bigger and bolder.
In the latest leaked private conversations printed in the New York Times, Obama whines and mopes, he blasts critics and denies that his policies have failed. Despite his muscular rhetoric in public, in private he complains that he is being stampeded into bombing ISIS. It’s a revealing conversation because it shows a man who believes that his failures are not the problem. It’s other people becoming aware of those failures that concerns him and forces him into addressing them. ISIS isn’t the problem: America is.
ISIS is to Obama as Monica was to Bill Clinton. They’re both the dirty little secrets of powerful men that they did everything possible to hide. And once that was no longer an option, they quibbled over words.
Denial only works until reality forcibly intrudes. Even with a friendly media, the philandering of the President of the United States couldn’t continue indefinitely. And even with a friendly media, the rise of a new generation of Al Qaeda after the Arab Spring wouldn’t stay buried in the back pages forever.
It was only a matter of time until everyone knew.
Futile exercises like debating the meaning of “War” are delaying tactics. People are not interested in abstractions like the meaning of “Is”, “War”, “Sex” or “You can keep your doctor”. They take words at their common meaning. If bombs are falling, it’s a war. And if it’s a war, then it has to be won.
Democrats don’t believe in wars now because they don’t believe in winning. Instead of wars, they spend a lot of time on “interventions” as if dropping tons of explosives on a country is like telling your drunk cousin to stop drinking. They never win any of these interventions and that’s fine because Americans don’t really care what happens in Yugoslavia, Haiti or Somalia.
But on September 11, thousands were murdered in one day. The Democrats don’t like calling what happened on that day an act of war. Americans however know it’s a war and are determined to win it.
Obama was guiding Americans away from the awareness that we were in a war. In wars, someone wins and someone loses. If he refused to call it a war, maybe we wouldn’t realize that we were losing.