Updated: Look! Up in the sky! It's an 'escalation'! It's a 'surge'! It's a...

News & Politics

(DOD) A deliberate or unpremeditated increase in scope or violence of a conflict.

As the president's $6.5 billion and 21,500 troop Hail Mary is announced, the battle of language between "surge" v. "escalation" rages on, with the White House pushing the former to the nation's reporters who follow suit with dutiful pen and bland rictus.

Update: According to the WaPo, of the two, only "escalation" appears in the Dept. of Defense dictionary (expect that to change, stat): see above.

Think Progress notes that it's not only a manipulative, White House-friendly phrase (18% support "escalation" while 45% support a "surge") but it's also just plain wrong. Surge implies short-term, whereas, they note,
"the Bush administration and the most prominent advocates of escalation all reject a short-term increase in U.S. forces. Rather, they advocate a long-term increase of forces lasting at least 18 months."
Even war-monger Fred Kagan, who authored the escalation proposal in the hallowed halls of the AEI, thinks "surge" is incorrect:
Kagan: The media has been using the term "surge" very loosely. And I think that's actually a bit of a problem, because there have been various ideas floated for very short-term troops surges of relatively small numbers of troops. And I think that that would be a big mistake, and it's not what we're calling for.
We're actually calling for an increase of troop strength in Iraq of about 35,000 combat troops; 20,000 of those would go into Baghdad. So I think a part of the problem that we have is that people are not being sufficiently precise about which proposal they're discussing when they talk in terms of a troop surge.
Paul Krugman calls it a "Vietnam-style escalation," and the LA Times tackles the issue here, calling it a "fiery political brouhaha."

I like to think that if the administration put out a press release claiming that "a gentle uptick in carbon-based resources" was necessary for victory, much of the press would leave out the quotes.

In any case, it's not rocket science. It's spin and the media bought it for a combination of reasons from laziness, to a predisposition to accepting the language and frame of authority, to the lack of an overwhelming and effective counter-narrative, on down to more nefarious explanations.

Todd Estes speculates on the reason for increased skepticism over the past few days in the corporate media:
Perhaps it's that Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi released their letter last week strongly condemning the escalation and calling it for what it was. Perhaps it was this CBS News poll that pegged Bush's approval rating at 30%. (That's no typo. Only 30% of Americans approve of his presidency). Or maybe it was this morning's USA TODAY poll that showed very strong disapproval of the war in general, the proposed escalation, and Bush. Perhaps it was the outspoken skepticism of key Republican Senators like Gordon Smith and Chuck Hagel. Or, more likely, a combination of all these factors and more has led to a reality-based decision to call the escalation an escalation, and not to pretty it up by naming it a "surge."

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