Kinetic military action

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People on a tank in Benghazi, Libya, February 23, 2011

Kinetic military action is a euphemism for military action involving active warfare, including lethal force. The phrase is used to contrast between conventional military force and "soft" force, including diplomacy, sanctions and cyber warfare.[1][2] United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used the words "kinetic" and "non-kinetic" often.[3]

"Kinetic military action" was used by White House aide Ben Rhodes on March 23, 2011 to describe U.S. military action in Libya:

I think what we are doing is enforcing a resolution that has a very clear set of goals, which is protecting the Libyan people, averting a humanitarian crisis, and setting up a no-fly zone... Obviously that involves kinetic military action, particularly on the front end.[4]

This use was noted by news media: "'Kinetic military action' is still hell"[5] and "Kinetic Military Action No More".[6]

U.S. Department of Defense used "kinetic operations" on a webpage about "Operation Inherent Resolve". It contained an interactive graphic titled "AIRSTRIKES IN IRAQ AND SYRIA" and captioned "... operations related to ISIL since kinetic operations started on Aug. 8, 2014 ...".[7]

On February 11, 2015, President Obama used "kinetic strike" in a letter to Congress. He wanted, among other things, Congress to "authorize the use of U.S. forces [against ISIL] in ... [ground] missions to enable kinetic strikes".[8] The phrase was not used in the draft resolution proposed to Congress.[9]

On December 2, 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke after attending a series of NATO meetings in Brussels, “There are various ways in which countries can contribute; they don’t necessarily have to be troops, engaged in kinetic action. There are medical facilities, there are other assets that can be deployed, there is intelligence gathering.”[10]

Much earlier, "kinetic" had appeared as a retronymic euphemism for a military attack in Bush at War, a 2002 book by Bob Woodward.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cyberwar: Breaching the Kinetic Barrier | SecurityWeek.Com". Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  2. ^ "A Brief Summary of Cyber Warfare". Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  3. ^ Noah, Timothy (November 20, 2002). "Birth of a Washington Word". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved October 30, 2017.
  4. ^ York, Byron, "White House: Libya Fight is Not War, It's 'Kinetic Military Action', Fox Nation, March 23, 2011. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
  5. ^ "'Kinetic military action' is still hell", New York Post, March 26, 2011. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
  6. ^ Goldberg, Jonah, "Kinetic Military Action No More", National Review, March 24, 2011. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
  7. ^ "OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE". Original publication date August 14, 2014, updated January 30, 2015. Retrieved February 11, 2015.
  8. ^ "Letter from the President -- Authorization for the Use of United States Armed Forces in connection with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant". February 11, 2015. Retrieved February 11, 2015.
  9. ^ "Joint Resolution". February 11, 2015. Retrieved February 11, 2015.
  10. ^ Kearney, Seamus (December 2, 2015). "Kerry appeals to NATO nations to join fight against ISIL". euronews. Retrieved April 16, 2019.