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


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.