Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Overlord, Operation United Assistance (for the effort to help fight Ebola in West Africa) — all stirring names that conjure up a noble fight to overcome great adversity.
So, what is the operation called to fight the fearsome ISIS (or ISIL) army? Uh, I got nothin’.
According to a US News and World Report article, the administration hasn’t named the anti-ISIS effort, and no one seems to know the reason why:
“I just don’t know the explanation,” says Eric Edelman, who served as the under secretary of Defense for Policy until 2009, following tours as the U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Finland.
Edelman’s predecessor during the Clinton administration, Walter Slocombe, also cannot remember a military operation that passed unnamed. He went on to serve as a senior adviser to the coalition in Iraq in 2003. They are among a string of former top Defense officials and military science scholars who spoke with U.S. News and could not think of another military operation on this scale in U.S. military history that never got christened somehow.
Labels don’t fight US wars, of course. The good men and women of the military do. That said, the reluctance of the administration to give this operation a name speaks volumes. The president was elected by a war-weary population and doesn’t seem all that comfortable with military action in general. I personally suspect he’s a pacifist, an honorable position to hold but not a good characteristic for one who aspired to be Commander-in-Chief. In the US News and World Report article, Edwin Moise, a professor in military history at Clemson University, speculates about the president’s discomfort:
““I think President Obama really wishes he were not doing this operation, and the notion of giving it a name that sounds like something a cheerleader would yell might offend him,” he says.
Being Commander-in-Chief means you might have to send men and women into harm’s way. The very least you can do is lead the cheerleading for them.