shock and awe
Posted: 18 June 2007 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Was this expression in use before the current US presidential administration?

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Posted: 18 June 2007 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The problem in answering a question like this is determining when the three words constitute an “expression” and when they are just three words used in sequence.  A 1967 New York Times article about the coup in Greece says “The calm is attributed here more to fear, shock and awe at the efficiency of the take-over than to popular acceptance of the new leadership.” A 1986 article on teaching Kerouac to college students says “I felt the intensity of the response, saw the stares of concentration and the open mouths of shock and awe, terror and pity.” A 1990 story about a flood in Alabama says “Now, as Elba residents slog through the red mud that cakes the town after catastrophic flooding last week, there is a sense both of shock and awe.”

Those are the only three hits for the phrase in the NYT database previous to the Iraq invasion.  I wouldn’t say that they are evidence of the prior existence of the expression qua expression, but the words do go together somewhat naturally.

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Posted: 18 June 2007 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The Washington Times columnist Harlan Ullman claims to have originated the modern usage.

Origins of Shock and Awe

What truth there is in the claim I know not.

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Posted: 18 June 2007 12:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The use of shock and awe in reference to the Iraq War is based on a particular US Air Force-sponsored study that used that particular phrase. Shock and awe was adopted by the USAF as a particular term of art in their doctrine--a precision bombing campaign that is so sudden and brutal that it results in the complete paralyzation of the enemy, even though casualties are minimized. It may have made its appearance in USAF doctrine toward the end of the Clinton administration. I’ll look up the specific references when I get home tonight.

[Pipped by Aldi’s post. Yes, Harlan Ullman was the author of the study that coined the term.]

[ Edited: 18 June 2007 12:42 PM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 18 June 2007 01:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Interesting.  Ullman says “a dozen years ago,” which would put it circa 1995 (in Clinton’s first administration).

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Posted: 19 June 2007 06:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The book is by Ullman and James P. Wade, titled Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance, published by the National Defense University in 1996. The official name of the doctrine is Rapid Dominance.

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Posted: 26 June 2007 04:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Thanks to all of you.

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Posted: 27 June 2007 12:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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a precision bombing campaign that is so sudden and brutal that it results in the complete paralyzation of the enemy, even though casualties are minimized

sounds on a par with “elimination with extreme prejudice” --- a bureaucrat’s way of making a policy of murder sound less murderous than it is.

Dave doesn’t say whose casualties are much reduced—the words “so sudden and brutal” suggest that the intended reference is to the casualties of the murderer rather than to those of the murderees.

The USAF didn’t invent the ”Shock and Awe” doctrine --- only their “term of art” for it. In 1257 the city of Baghdad surrendered to the Mongols. “Those that surrendered quickly and those that fought on were alike slain” says the historian Runciman. “In forty days some eighty thousand citizens of Baghdad were slain”.

The shock and awe generated in the Arab world by this policy were truly impressive. After this and many other massacres the Mongols had a walk-over. Their casualties were minimal.

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Posted: 27 June 2007 01:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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No, to be fair Ullman and Wade mean to reduce casualties on both sides. Their thought that a sufficiently “shocking” bombing campaign would generate the “awe” in the enemy that would force them to capitulate quickly, avoiding greater casualties from a long, drawn-out conflict. The ultimate goal is to destroy the enemy’s will to fight with a minimum of fighting and casualties. Nor did they claim to have invented the concept. From the opening paragraphs of chapter two of their book:

Earlier and similar observations had been made by the great Chinese military writer Sun Tzu around 500 B.C. Sun Tzu observed that disarming an adversary before battle was joined was the most effective outcome a commander could achieve. Sun Tzu was well aware of the crucial importance of achieving Shock and Awe prior to, during, and in ending battle.

And:

In our excursion, we seek to determine whether and how Shock and Awe can become sufficiently intimidating and compelling factors to force or otherwise convince an adversary to accept our will in the Clausewitzian sense, such that the strategic aims and military objectives of the campaign will achieve a political end.

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