The US Military just announced that their involvement in Iraq and Syria, where planes from the US (and elsewhere) have been making airstrikes for two months, will be known as “Operation Inherent Resolve.”
Here’s the reconnaissance report: the name was first considered for the position and then rejected a few weeks ago. Several unnamed military personnel have expressed ambivalence about the name because it doesn’t evoke the Middle East location, doesn’t convey that the operation is made up of an alliance of international forces, and is, according to one officer, “Just kind of bleh.” However, though it was initially dismissed, “Inherent Resolve” was kept as an unofficial placeholder name until something else was chosen. But now, lo and behold, it has been revived and is the official operation name.
So, why did this happen? In Catchword’s experience, codenames and placeholders always have a way of growing on people. They become familiar, and they feel better and safer when compared to new suggestions, which often take a while to settle in. Occasionally, adopting a codename can be successful, like with Microsoft’s Cortana, but usually the name could be better. So, what about “Operation Inherent Resolve”?
To dissect the name, we need to first look at the legacy of operation names used by the military. Initially, they were used primarily for clerical reasons. A unique name was assigned to each campaign in order to easily and quickly differentiate between them in internal military documents, and in the press. The names were usually related to the mission and goal of the operation, but were not always the evocative, inspiring names we are used to today. For example, in 1971 there was Operation Ranch Hand, where US forces sprayed herbicides during the Vietnam War, and in 1987 there was Operation Eager Glacier, where US spy planes gathered intelligence about Iran. (In my experience, most glaciers are reluctant, so it’s great they found one raring to go.)
Recently, however, there has been a concerted effort to use names to inspire and bolster public perception of the military campaign du jour. In 1989, Operation Blue Spoon in Panama was renamed Operation Just Cause, and since then every major operation has had a rousing, PR-friendly name. For example, we’ve had Operation Desert Storm (1991), Operation Provide Comfort (1991-96) and of course, Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-Present).
Returning to the reservations voiced by the unnamed military officials, the least of my concerns is that Inherent Resolve doesn’t identify the region of the operation. The news will gladly take care of educating the public as to what operation is happening where—that kind of descriptive information isn’t necessary in a limited amount of space that ideally addresses intangible, evocative ideas.
More concerning, however, is that the name doesn’t indicate that the campaign against ISIS involves many nations working together. Seeing as that the military’s tendency towards unilateral involvement is one of the biggest criticisms of their MO, the cooperative nature of this operation would have been beneficial to highlight—something like Unified Resolve or Allied Resolve would have certainly done the trick.
Lastly, is the name “bleh”? True, inherency and resolution are two internal characteristics that don’t manifest themselves in active or exciting ways. Compared with some of the more action-oriented operation names, this one might seem lackluster—but I don’t think that in itself is bad. Is it as inspiring as “Operation Desert Eagle”? No, but it doesn’t need to be. In fact, I think that resolution is a good message for this particular campaign—it shows seriousness in the face of an enemy that has gained an incredible amount of traction in a short amount of time. Furthermore, it shows the military’s commitment to victory, no matter how long it takes. In a way, they are preempting criticism should this campaign “drag on” (to put a negative spin on it) like has been said about the US Military’s previous endeavors in the region.
The one way in which I think the name is a little “bleh” is that Inherent Resolve is fairly redundant. Because resolution is so internal and mental, inherency is essentially implied. Resolution isn’t a trait that wanes—that would be antithetical to what resolve is in the first place. Because of this, ”Inherent” simply buttresses “Resolve,” whereas a different word could add something more to the messaging.
Overall, the name isn’t bad. It is positive, inspiring, and on message—but like the unnamed military officials, I think it could do more.