January 17, 2012

On Military Language

One of the delights of studying defense policy is watching the U.S. military's heroic but losing battle with the English language.* The new chairman of the joint chiefs of staff has a master's degree in English from Duke University**, but in the new Joint Operational Access Concept (.pdf), the "Central Idea" is something called "cross-domain synergy."

Oh, you don't know what "cross-domain synergy" is? Obviously, it is "the complementary vice
merely additive employment of capabilities in different domains such that each
enhances the effectiveness and compensates for the vulnerabilities of the

That, folks, is what happens when documents are written by committees of lieutenant colonels who went to universities that prefer to give out all their degrees in engineering. I had to read three more documents before I figured out the term is basically something we used to call combined arms. (With space and cyber capabilities added to those of the air, land, and sea.)

Left unexplored, of course, is how cross-domain synergy works out when the Chinese knock out our satellites around H+1.

*I might have accidentally tripped Godwin's Law here. As I wrote this sentence, I recall Arendt writing something very similar about Eichmann and the German language. 

**Having written that, I think Gen. Dempsey graduated from Duke when that university's English Department was hip deep in the Derrida fad. And when Of Grammatology is your standard for lucidity ...