"tactical" vs "strategic"

James A. Landau <JJJRLandau@netscape.com> JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Fri Mar 2 01:30:19 UTC 2012


 After a punishing, monthlong military siege, Syrian rebels made what they called a "tactical retreat" Thursday from a key district in Homs, saying they were running low on weapons and the humanitarian conditions were unbearable.

I also heard a newscaster (I did not catch her name) on NPR News refer to the same "tactical retreat".

I beg NPR's pardon, and the rebels' pardon (but not Assad's, since he has not yet mis-spoken on this subject), but the proper term is "strategic retreat".  Whether the rebels made a good decision or not, and whether they intend to start a new fight somewhere else, to remove one's army from a battle with the probable intention of fighting in a different battle somewhere else is a "strategic" move.  A "tactical retreat" occurs during a battle when one side makes the decision that some unit is in an overly-dangerous situation and would be better off elsewhere, while the side continues the present battle.

Does anyone know if Syrian Arabic distinguishes between the terms "strategic" and "tactical"?  And if so, which term did the rebels PR people use?

My wife tells me I'm being overly critical, but I still think anyone who can't distinguish between "tactical" and "strategic" has no business being a war correspondent.

    - James A. Landau

Netscape.  Just the Net You Need.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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