Limited Kinetic Action: Gates Denies US ‘At War’ With Libya

Says It 'Probably Seems Like a War' to Gadhafi

Speaking today on 60 Minutes, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates denied that the US was actually “at war” with Libya, saying he prefers to think of it as a “limited kinetic action” against Libya.

At the same time, Gates conceded that if he was “in Gadhafi’s shoes” he would think of it as a war. The comments come two months after a UN resolution which authorized a “no-fly zone” that directly led to US and French attacks on Libya.

Interestingly enough, Gates had been critical of the “no-fly zone” calls in early March primarily because it would, by his own admission, mean a war against Libya. Now that the war is not only ongoing but mired in stalemate, its redefinition seems to be convincing no one.

This is not the first time the Obama Administration has tried to redefine the Libyan War as the Libyan “not-quite-a-war.” Shortly after the attacks began, officials were calling the conflict a “kinetic military action” as well.

In practice it is a distinction without a difference, but the Obama Administration isn’t doing so entirely without reason. With growing questions about the fact that the war is, as of next Friday, running afoul of the War Powers Act for not consulting Congress about a use of troops lasting 60 days or longer, an attempt to downplay the conflict as something minuscule could be part of a political effort to avoid debate.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.