In an article that reads like something from the Onion, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday on the search by poets in the Pentagon for a name worthy of the nation's latest war. -- American warriors have been assaulting the Islamic State for two months now, but the mission still lacks a name. -- Some think that the reluctance to name the war is an expression of the administration's sense of having a war foisted on them that they didn't want. -- They'll find one someday, but in the meantime military spokespersons are refusing to acknowledge "that the namelessness is unusual," Julian E. Barnes said. -- If humans fail to find a name, computers may be called in: "A Pentagon computer program, the Code Word, Nickname and Exercise Term System, or NICKA, keeps track of previous efforts and sets parameters for future ones." -- "In the absence of an official name, alternatives are bouncing around the halls of the Pentagon. -- One top suggestion takes note of how U.S. bombing raids are targeting U.S.-made equipment nabbed by Islamic State fighters. -- The suggestion: Operation Hey That’s My Humvee." ...
OPERATION NAME-THAT-MISSION: THE HUNT FOR MILITARY MONIKERS
By Julian E. Barnes
** From Desert Storm to Sea Angel, Pentagon Seeks Evocative Options; 'Kind of Bleh'
Wall Street Journal
October 3, 2014
For weeks, military planners have debated a thorny strategic problem. In recent days, they sent a suggestion to the Pentagon’s top brass.
It was rejected. America’s newest war won’t be called Operation Inherent Resolve.
Two months since war planes first started striking Islamic State targets, operations in Iraq and Syria don’t have a fancy name. One of the generic placeholders found on classified Pentagon PowerPoint slides reads: “Operations in Iraq and Syria.”
To some military officers, Inherent Resolve didn’t properly evoke the Middle East. Others faulted it for failing to highlight the international coalition the U.S. had assembled. Still others simply found it uninspiring.
One senior official said Inherent Resolve was a placeholder name and never seriously considered for the overall war effort. Other officials said had the name been better received it might well be the new war’s moniker.
“It is just kind of bleh,” said a military officer.
And so aides to the Joint Chiefs of Staff have asked Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of Central Command, for new options.
The modern tradition of operational code names began with the Germans in World War I. The U.S. started in earnest during World War II and took inspiration from Winston Churchill’s guidance to avoid boastful sentiments or anything that could disparage a mission.
The use of nicknames to influence public perception started with the 1989 invasion of Panama, or Operation Just Cause. Before the Pentagon decided the name had publicity potential, it was calling the mission Operation Blue Spoon.
These days, the military tends to move quickly to develop names, often heavy on evocative words like freedom, resolute, and just. Even before a fraction of the 3,000 troops assigned to fight Ebola arrived in Liberia, the mission was dubbed Operation United Assistance. (A name some military officers criticize as too close to the 2005 Asian tsunami response: Operation Unified Assistance.)
Officially, the military won’t comment on why the current operation in Iraq and Syria is proving the exception. Military spokesmen don’t acknowledge that the namelessness is unusual.
“There is no name for this operation,” stated Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for Central Command.
Privately, Pentagon officials say they don’t want a bad name. Army historians note the military is careful with acronyms, noting a couple of rejects including Operation Afghan Freedom (OAF) and Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL).
Operation Enduring Freedom, the name for the Afghanistan war, has unintentionally lived up to its name now that that war is the longest in American history. That name is to be retired in December and replaced with Operation Resolute Support.
Iraq is particularly sensitive. The military remains queasy about Operation New Dawn, the name bestowed on the Iraq war after President Barack Obama declared an end to combat operations -- because it wasn’t.
More than anything, military officials said, a bad name is a missed opportunity. In 1991, Gen. Colin Powell rejected the workmanlike name suggested for a humanitarian relief mission in Bangladesh, Operation Productive Effort. The operation was re-christened Operation Sea Angel.
Operation Desert Storm, the name frequently used to describe the 1991 war that liberated Kuwait from Iraq, remains the gold standard of the genre.
Responsibility for coming up with names tends to sit with Regional Combatant Commanders, the four-star officers who oversee military operations in different parts of the world, although aides to the Joint Chiefs and the civilian policy staff look over options for major operations.
Aides to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were firm that neither man has spent any time thinking about the name this time around.
A Pentagon computer program, the Code Word, Nickname and Exercise Term System, or NICKA, keeps track of previous efforts and sets parameters for future ones.
Officials say the classified system doesn’t generate names and is often ignored when it comes to high-profile conflicts.
The delay over naming the Iraq and Syria mission has led some to suggest politics is at play. The latest war, some officials said, is one the Obama administration didn’t seek or eagerly embrace. “If you name it, you own it,” said a defense official. “And they don’t want to own it.”
Peter Mansoor, a military historian at the Ohio State University said every action since Panama has had a moniker. “What’s in a name is important to show our allies and regional partners that the United States is committed,” he said. “They should give this campaign a name.”
Administration officials say the White House isn’t involved in the name choosing and that there should be no doubting the U.S. commitment to fighting Islamic State militants.
There are other, more prosaic explanations for the conflict’s anonymity. Military operations typically get a name so they can get funding. That is because congressional appropriations are assigned to specific military operations.
The current operations in Iraq and Syria are being funded by a reallocation of existing appropriations and that has removed some of the urgency for a name, Pentagon officials said.
This time, there might be a more important driver than money: medals.
The previous Iraq campaign medal, awarded for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, is no longer awarded. Pentagon officials said Thursday personnel serving in the fight against Islamic State militants will be eligible for the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.
But many of the pilots flying over Iraq and Syria already have those medals. And the military likes to create unique medals for different operations to highlight breadth of service. As a result, top generals overseeing the personnel system want a new ribbon, which means they need a new name.
In the absence of an official name, alternatives are bouncing around the halls of the Pentagon. One top suggestion takes note of how U.S. bombing raids are targeting U.S.-made equipment nabbed by Islamic State fighters. The suggestion: Operation Hey That’s My Humvee.