Saturday, April 02, 2011
What to call what's going on in Libya
I've been arguing since March 2 that no one would ever believe the U.S. wasn't in charge of any coalition military activities in Libya, since "in the Marines' Hymn, there's already this line about the 'shores of Tripoli,' which goes back to this whole 1805 thing when Jefferson was President and he established the first Navy SEALS or something."
Today, a liberal friend of mine argued in the comments to another post that "[h]istorical reference isn't helpful" in the present context. I disagree, of course; history is almost always relevant and usually essential to understand what's happening now.
Calling the 1991-1992 conflict with Saddam for the liberation of Kuwait the "First Gulf War," and the liberation of Iraq itself in 2003 the "Second Gulf War," would be very orderly, but that nomenclature still doesn't seem to have caught on. Quite a bit of both wars were fought in Iraq, and both were fought against Iraq, but I think Bush-41 discouraged calling the earlier one "the Iraq War" because he wanted to keep the focus on liberating Kuwait. But we couldn't call that one "the Kuwait War" because that would have suggested we were making war on Kuwait, which we weren't. It doesn't make much sense to call the liberation of Iraq "the Second Gulf War" because Iraq (in contrast to Kuwait) only has a small (albeit very important) coastline along the Persian Gulf. And then there's the confusion caused by some people already calling the war between Iraq and Iran from 1980-1988 "the Gulf War"; I think that usage has dimished lately.
Nevertheless, I'm much amused by Jonah Goldberg's suggestion that "we should call this [Libyan affair] the Third Barbary War." (Jonah, I would link you, but I don't know how to link your emailed "Goldberg File" work.) Yes, it's (once again) on the Barbary Coast; and yes, it's (once again) to restrain the actions of one or more barbarians!
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Editing note: I just substantially re-wrote, and added to, the third paragraph to resolve an ambiguity and add content; I added the last sentence of the fourth paragraph to explain my amusement; and I added the last paragraph because Wikipedia reminded me that there's a Barbary Coast in San Francisco, too.
I disclaim any intent to offend Berbers.
(2) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Apr 3, 2011 1:47:17 AM | Permalink
Dear Mr. Dyer: No, the Fourth Barbary War was lost last fall when Barbary Boxer was elected as one of California's senators. Again.
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