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Post Partisan
Posted at 06:15 PM ET, 03/22/2011

‘Operation Odyssey Dawn’ means nothing, and that’s good


I like Operation Odyssey Dawn. I don't mean the coalition bombing of Libya, to which the phrase refers, though that's good, too. After years of over-earnest, made-for-cable military operation names, I mean the title itself.

Ed O'Keefe reports that "Odyssey Dawn" means nothing , a designation developed from a strict Defense Department rulebook that prescribes which two letters must begin the first word of operation names — except when the top brass or the civilian leadership wants to butt in.

I'm glad President Obama's team didn't this time. There is a sort of professional charm, even prestige, associated with nonsense military operation names of the sort we grew up hearing about. Operation Market Garden or Operation Mongoose, for example. Since the 1980s and Operation Just Cause, though, high-profile operation names have sometimes been too grandiose. Desert Shield and Desert Storm weren't as bad as Just Cause, but then came Operation Restore Hope (Somalia), Operation Iraqi Freedom and other such titles. Names that linked civilian leaders’ political decisions to order the use of force with the purposes and repute of servicemen carrying out military operations, who should be judged on their own terms. Titles that saddled missions with broad aims that the military may not have been able to achieve on its own.

When Operation Market Garden failed, the name didn't become punishingly ironic, as it would have been if it had been called, say, Operation Successfully Cross The Rhine. Operation Iraqi Freedom, on the other hand, became a cruel reminder to too many of the Bush administration's combination of overconfidence and incompetence in the early years of the war. Operation American Ineptitude Until The Surge? In 2010, the government chose a new name, an implicit admission of the previous one's inadequacies, though one that still has its own problems: Operation New Dawn.

But now we have Operation Odyssey Dawn. Much better than Operation Get Rid of Gaddafi Without Admitting That's Your Goal.

By  |  06:15 PM ET, 03/22/2011

 
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