In the latest installment of politically correct, not to say Orwellian, language emanating from the Obama administration, the term "rogue states" has been sidelined in favor of "outliers." The switch was unveiled as part of the just released Nuclear Posture Review. States like North Korea and Iran, labeled "rogue" by the Bush administration, will no longer labor under that punitive adjective.
This is telling. While the administration insists that the full spectrum of new initiatives -- from the New Start treaty to the Nuclear Posture Review to the Nuclear Security Summit -- are aimed at containing the world's two most provocative nations, Iran and North Korea, the stream of euphemisms they've insisted upon sends the opposite message.
Rogue isn't even a particularly harsh word. When applied to individuals, it is frequently paired with "lovable." Regarding elephants, it suggests an animal that is out of control, but not necessarily vicious. Still, it was too severe for the Obama administration.
Outlier has no negative connotations at all. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as "One whose domicile is distant from his or her place of business." The Macintosh computer dictionary adds a secondary connotation of exclusion from a group. So to employ the label "outliers" for nations that are, by any civilized measure, criminal is pusillanimous. No doubt the leadership in Iran has also noticed that an administration that softens its words has also modified its proposed sanctions. Whereas once Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of "crippling" sanctions, she has now climbed down to "sanctions that bite." Can annoying sanctions be far behind?
The administration does not like to use hurtful words to our enemies. Our friends are another matter. Compare the treatment Great Britain, Honduras, and Israel have received with the walking on eggshells approach to our foes. Early on, the administration jettisoned the term "Global War on Terror" in favor of a catch phrase only a bureaucrat could have coined -- "overseas contingency operations." The word "terrorism" was similarly airbrushed from official language. Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano prefers the term "man-caused disasters" because "it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear ..." A more anodyne term has now surfaced from a number of officials -- "countering violent extremism."