Best Defense

Shout-outs for military clichés

Starbuck, author of the fine “Wings Over Iraq” blog, recently reviewed contemporary military clichés. People, this isn’t a matter of taste: As St. George teaches us, weak or tired writing generally reflects weak or tired thinking. Starbuck, an observant helicopter pilot, offers up a lot of good examples of milspeak, but my favorite is a ...

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Starbuck, author of the fine “Wings Over Iraq” blog, recently reviewed contemporary military clichés. People, this isn’t a matter of taste: As St. George teaches us, weak or tired writing generally reflects weak or tired thinking.

Starbuck, an observant helicopter pilot, offers up a lot of good examples of milspeak, but my favorite is a Ft. Bragg notice about driving carefully on Halloween because on-base children would be “conducting trick-or-treating operations.” (Btw, did you know that the Starbucks coffee chain is named for the first mate of the Pequod in Moby Dick? I didn’t until about two minutes ago.)

I also hadn’t realized that some fool at the Army’s Safety Center (which was about improving the safety of Army procedures and equipment) changed the name to the incredibly vague “Army Combat Readiness Center.” For all that tells us, that could be the name of the base day-care center — if you want today’s heavily married force to be able to deploy quickly, give ’em good child care.

Starbuck also speaks much truth in targeting the phrase “full spectrum”:

There’s also a lot of buzz words we throw about for absolutely no reason. “Full-spectrum” is one of those terms. Try it-count the number of times you see the word “full-spectrum” thrown arbitrarily about in mission statements. Are we really operating across the “full spectrum” of combat? Hopefully not, because that means nuclear war, and baby, I don’t do nuclear war.

But my appreciation is as nothing compared to this citation Starbuck received from another Army pilot:

Your motivation to rid the Army of awkward, grammatically incorrect and superfluous writing positively impacted the mission accomplishment of this post. As an integral member of the blogging world, your dedication to your duty has contributed immeasurably to clarifying this pivotal issue. 

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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