Obama's All-Euphemism Foreign Policy

February 9, 2015

President Obama’s foreign policy, he and his allies are constantly assuring us, is totally working. In almost every case, however, it is hard to decipher what the administration’s policy actually is for dealing with a world order that is spiraling out of control. The prevailing strategy seems to be: "We don’t really know what we’re doing and would prefer to just do nothing and hope things get better." But that probably doesn’t fare too well in focus-group testing. Therefore, the Obama administration has concocted an array of euphemisms to describe its foreign policy positions and the threats we face.

"Strategic patience"

Origin: The term comes from President Obama’s official national security strategy document unveiled last week. "The challenges we face require strategic patience and persistence," he wrote. "Therefore, I will continue to pursue a comprehensive agenda that draws on all elements of our national strength, that is attuned to the strategic risks and opportunities we face, and that is guided by the principles and priorities set out in this strategy." Whatever that means.

Translation: Behave strategically as though we have a strategy, while exercising strategic hope that America’s adversaries will recognize the rightness of Obama’s position.

"Dynamic global security posture"

Origin: In a speech at the Brookings Institute last week, National Security Adviser Susan Rice outlined the administration’s plan to establish a "dynamic global security posture in which we employ our unique capabilities, forge diverse coalitions, and support local partners."

Translation: Meaningless gibberish.

"Kinetic military action"

Origin: This is how the administration described U.S. military involvement in Libya—a more concise alternative to "time-limited, scope-limited military action."

Translation: We’re basically going to war (at Hillary Clinton’s insistence), but not like George W. Bush. Remember him? Obama was very annoyed that Bush used force without congressional approval, but would rather not ask Congress to approve the use of kinetic military force in Libya.

"Leading from behind"

Origin: This is how the administration described its approach to waging kinetic military action in Libya.

Translation: We (meaning Hillary Clinton) are obviously calling the shots, but we don’t want to be blamed if the country descends into chaos, which it has.

"Man-caused disasters"

Origin: Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she prefers this term as an alternative to "terrorism." She told a German newspaper in 2009: "I referred to ‘man-caused’ disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur."

Translation: Bad things happen—completely randomly at times—and it doesn’t make sense to apply Bush-era labels. Have you ever heard of the Crusades?

"Workplace violence"

Origin: This is how the administration described Maj. Nidal Hasan’s fatal shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, despite the fact that Hasan was an avowed jihadist with links to al Qaeda. It took years for the military to reverse course and decide that soldiers wounded in the 2009 attack would be eligible for the Purple Heart.

Translation: We value diversity in the military. Also, the Crusades. Look them up.

"Al-Qaeda core"

Origin: President Obama and top administration officials have been using this term for years to suggest that the man-caused disaster advocacy group has been "decimated." They’re still using it, and have been using obscure nomenclatures no one has ever heard of to describe active al Qaeda cells.

Translation: We’re winning the war on random violent extremism. So shut up.