Since both President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have promised that the United States won’t put boots on the ground in Libya, it is important to look at what now apparently doesn’t count as American troops on the ground. This must mean that:

  • American military personnel who end up on the ground in Libya because they are forced to parachuted out of their planes don’t count. There most be an unspoken “except accidentally” clause.
  • The Marines who were sent into Libya to rescue the downed American pilots don’t count as boots on the ground, either. There must also be an “except to fix previous accidents” clause.
  • Nor apparently do CIA operatives on the ground in Libya who are helping to train and coordinate Libyan rebel military actions count as boots on the ground. They must be exempt because instead of boots, CIA agents wear tennis shoes.

It is an undeniable fact that there has already technically been at least some American troops on the ground in Libya, at least as part of the rescue mission. So, these promises about no “boots on the ground” on Gates’s watch are clearly subject to the same slippery slope of truthiness that also allows bombing ground forces to count as part of a “no fly zone” and allows us to pretend sustained direct attacks meant to destroy a sovereign nation’s army don’t qualify as a “war.”