Operation Enduring Freedom is the new name that Americahas chosen for its military deployment. The phrase might be bland, but wordsmiths in the Pentagon have been kept busy for a week devising it.
Naming military operations is a specialised skill. The trick is to find a a phrase that has a ringing edge, gives something of the flavour of the plan and – not least important – offends no one.
The first title for President Bush's global war on terrorism, "Infinite Justice", was suitably comprehensive, implying an unrelenting and worldwide search for those responsible for the 11 September outrages. But it upset moderate Arab states vital to Mr Bush's cause, because for Muslims only Allah can mete out infinite justice.
How much easier it was once. The Germans were first into the code-name business, devising names for campaigns of the First World War like Valkyrie, Achilles and other stirring references to religion and myth. The Second World War produced, most memorably, "Barbarossa" – Hitler's 1941 invasion of Russia that was named after the Emperor Frederick I: German king, Roman emperor and earlier scourge of the Slavs.
The British and Americans have been less flashy. The 1944 invasion of Normandy was "Operation Overlord". More recently,code names have become PR labels. "Urgent Fury" was how President Reagan's advisers dubbed the invasion of Grenada in 1983.
Subsequent operations include the unimaginative but adequate "Desert Shield" and "Desert Storm" against Saddam Hussein in 1990 and 1991. These were followed by "Provide Comfort", which aimed to give humanitarian aid to Kurdish refugees and deter Iraqi attacks; and "Uphold Democracy", the 1994 US military intervention in Haiti.
Considering how a name will resonate in history is crucial. The 1989 invasion of Panama was originally called "Blue Spoon" – until two American generals objected to their grandchildren learning they had fought in "Operation Blue Spoon". The campaign was retitled "Just Cause".Reuse content