Thursday's New York Times ("Democrats Rush to Frame Political Debate Over Troops," A10) highlights the extent to which language is routinely used within strategies for inducing desired ways that the public will see events. At issue is a debate between the White House, which uses the term "surge" to describe Bush's planned troop increase in Iraq, and Democratic leaders who are terming the increase an "escalation" of the war.
The distinction is significant. SURGE suggests a highly caffeinated soft drink, delivering a jolt of "quick energy." ESCALATION recalls the policy that defined America's failed attempt to militarily dominate Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, and the thousands upon thousands of casualties that were the outcome of such miscalculations.
Regarding this linguistic debate the president's press secretary Tony Snow was asked to comment on the distinction between surge and escalation. His response was that "it seems a little silly for me to start quibbling about adjectives" before the president made his official speech announcing the troop build-up. Does the president's press secretary not know the difference between a noun and an adjective? As the failed war goes on and on, the White House seems to be represented by yet another child left behind.