Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

Don’t Call it a Surge

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Why don’t they do what they say, say what they mean
One thing leads to another
You tell me something wrong
I know I listen too long but then
One thing leads to another

~The Fixx, “One Thing Leads to Another

I’m not a linguist but it’s hard not to tell that the purveyors of the war are playing word games with the American public. 

On Friday night during the first presidential debate McCain kept calling on Obama’s disagreement with the surge.

Senator Obama said the surge could not work, said it would increase sectarian violence, said it was doomed to failure. Recently on a television program, he said it exceed our wildest expectations. But yet, after conceding that, he still says that he would oppose the surge if he had to decide that again today. Incredibly, incredibly Senator Obama didn’t go to Iraq for 900 days and never”

” …and by the way, Senator Obama’s original plan, they would have been out last spring before the surge ever had a chance to succeed. “

“And I’m — I’m — understand why Senator Obama was surprised and said that the surge succeeded beyond his wildest expectations.” 

Not to belabor semantics but at what time does this military movement stops being defined as a surge and becomes known for what it truly is: an escalation?

The American people were sold on the idea of a surge.  When you think of something surging its a quick movement.  Going by a few definitions on a surge is

  • a strong, wavelike, forward movement, rush, or sweep: the onward surge of an angry mob.
  • an uneven flow and strong momentum given to a fluid, as water in a tank, resulting in a rapid, temporary rise in pressure.
  • a swelling wave; billow.
  • a sudden rush or burst of current or voltage.
  • to rise, roll, move, or swell forward in or like waves: The sea surged against the shore. The crowd surged back and forth.

In none of the definitions do you get the idea that what is happening is going to be sustained for an extended period of time.  It’s after a few months I thought we would be toning it down, but instead the “surge” surges on. 

Scientist and linguist George Lakoff wrote an article in February 2007 about what the Bush administration really meant when they used the word surge.

Words have meanings; they express ideas, and ideas are important. The word “surge” came with the idea of a relatively small, short-term increase in force that would be effective. Such previous troop increases had been ineffective, and the joint chiefs saw no reason that this one would be effective either. The actual proposal called a “surge” was the opposite of what the word meant. In short, the very use of the word “surge” was a lie.

People all over the country noticed the “surge” framing immediately, and quickly – and accurately – reframed the president’s proposal as an “escalation.” Escalation is a strategy employed by an apparently superior power that is losing when it was expected to win. It is the strategy of raising the level of force and, hence, of violence, bringing in more troops and deepening one’s commitment to a strategy already in place: raising the bar for what is to count as “success” and for the removal of troops.

Which I think makes it more of an escalation, which is not how they want to refer to it.  Escalation makes people think of Vietnam.  But Nico Pitney at makes this good point:

The choice of words is not an academic point. A CBS poll released Monday found that only 18 percent of Americans support an escalation of forces in Iraq. However, when asked whether they support a “short-term troop increase,” the number jumps to 45 percent approval (48 percent disapproval).

Every time the media repeats the word “surge,” they are helping to mislead the American people about the long-term escalation being proposed. Reporters and news organizations have a responsibility to stop using the term to describe President Bush’s policy.

McCain would really like to take credit for the “surge” working in Iraq although what he really wants he can’t truthfully define because the American people would be against it.  A surge shouldn’t last for twenty years.  I don’t think it really should last for one year but most likely the same number of troops will still be there for several months (if not another year) after whoever takes office in January.

But let’s call it what it truthfully is and drop the misnomer.


Written by rentec

29 September, 2008 at 5:32 pm

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