“GWOT” By Any Other Name Makes Sense

After years of fighting the “global war on terrorism,” it seems the name “GWOT” has been kicked to the curb. Worry not. The age of the “overseas contingency operation” has dawned.

As reported by The Washington Post and a handful of major outlets, an e-mail from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to DoD helped set the apparent transition in motion. Echoing what it saw as an OMB directive the Pentagon sent word internally that “this administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘long war’ or ‘global war on terrorism’ [GWOT]. Please use ‘overseas contingency operation.'” (Defense officials were probably thrilled to be rid of this albatross.)

OMB has denied abolishing the terms per se, though it has said the term recommendations were the opinion of one official. White House watchers have noted administration representatives have been using “overseas contingency operations” while “global war on terrorism” and “long war” have been conspicuously absent.

Some at DoD have long cringed at the references to the “long war” or “global war on terrorism.” Even worse has been the ill-advised practice to turn the mission into a four-letter nonsensical acronym GWOT. Some have avoided using the terms. Others have questioned the accuracy of the monikers altogether. (What exactly is a global war on terrorism? Can one wage such a thing?)

But “overseas contingency operations?” This newest label seems benign, at worst. Will a phrase void of overt urgency mean an altered focus? Diminished budgets? A further shift in mission to non-DoD entities?

Or will another hot name take hold like “a campaign against extremists who wish to do us harm,” as reportedly preferred by some in the Pentagon? (Extremists who wish us well are in the clear.)

The follow-up installments to this saga soon are due out in the media outlet nearest you.

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