The Vocabulary Of Intervention

Bernstein tsk tsks the media for its handling of the Syria debate:

The press, along with the political establishment, utterly failed to find, or at least to consistently use, a vocabulary for what was on the table. Certainly air or missile strikes are an act of war, and should be reported as such; just as certainly, those sorts of limited attacks always bring with them the risk of additional involvement – either from retaliation or from mission creep. At the same time, calling that “going to war” summons up images of, well, troops marching, and casualties coming home to hospitals or in body bags. Even keeping the risks in mind, that’s not what was being talked about. A vocabulary is really needed to make clear that it is “real” war, but that it’s also not at all similar to Iraq, the Gulf War, or other full-out invasions.

Larison rolls his eyes:

I don’t see why a new vocabulary is required. If firing missiles at the armed forces of another government is an act of war, and it certainly is, the vocabulary to describe this already exists. If many people have a certain idea of what it means to “go to war” that refers to a bigger commitment than “limited” strikes, that doesn’t change what the government is proposing to do. … it would have involved at a minimum using considerable military force to compel another state to punish it and to try to alter its behavior. That’s war, and it’s appropriate and necessary to call it that so that the public is not misled.