Thursday, October 18, 2001
Words do make a difference. Take for instance the present clash with terrorists. Should it be called a war?
Less a war,
more a campaign
Many years ago during the hostilities in Vietnam, a Marine officer reported for his second tour. The division commanding general called him and other new officers in to give them their marching orders: "Gentlemen, I want to emphasize one point. We are not here fighting a war, we are here campaigning."
In military parlance, a war begins, has a middle, and ends in victory or defeat. A campaign begins and has a long, sometimes sporadic struggle but no clearly discernible end. It just sort of winds down and, almost imperceptibly, comes to a close. The Marine general sought to caution his officers that they would be fighting without victory or defeat in sight.
So it is with the battle against terror. A series of assaults on several fronts -- military, diplomatic, financial -- began on Sept. 11 and marked the early stages of a long struggle. We are not fighting a war against the terrorists, we are campaigning.