Why Is There No Code Name for the ISIS Bombing Campaign?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


I learned something new today: code names for military operations only became a public thing after World War II, and it was only around 1980 that the names of major operations got turned into serious PR exercises. Paul Waldman runs down all the recent hits:

  • Operation Urgent Fury (invasion of Grenada, 1983)
  • Operation Just Cause (invasion of Panama, 1989)
  • Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm (Kuwait/Iraq, 1989)
  • Operation Restore Hope (Somalia, 1993)
  • Operation Uphold Democracy (Haiti, 1994)
  • Operation Deliberate Force (NATO bombing of Bosnia, 1995)
  • Operation Desert Fox (bombing of Iraq, 1998)
  • Operation Noble Anvil (the American component of NATO bombing in Kosovo, which was itself called Operation Allied Force, 1999)
  • Operation Infinite Justice (first name for Afghanistan war, 2001)
  • Operation Enduring Freedom (second name for Afghanistan war, 2001)
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq, 2003)
  • Operation Odyssey Dawn (bombing of Libya, 2011)

Aside from the fact that we have twelve of these things in just the past 30 years, Waldman points out that Republican names (in bold) are considerably more martial than Democratic names:

Even though it’s the military that chooses these names, you might notice that the ones during Republican administrations have a particularly testosterone-fueled feel to them, while most of the Democratic ones are a little more tentative. Something like Operation Uphold Democracy just doesn’t have the same oomph as, say, Operation Urgent Fury. If the Obama administration had really wanted to get people excited about fighting ISIS, they should have called it Operation Turgid Thrusting or Operation Boundless Glory.

Oddly, though, it turns out that the ISIS campaign doesn’t even have any name at all. I guess that’s a good sign.

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate