Why “It Is What It Is” is a Stupid Phrase

 

Why “It Is What It Is” is a Stupid Phrase

It’s Baghdad, 2007. I’m a company commander deploying to a contentious area during the height of The Surge. As my unit starts to shadow the unit we’re replacing, and I spend time with my counterpart and his battalion’s staff, I begin to hear a new phrase pop up:  “It is what it is.

I wouldn’t have thought much of it, but I heard that response from numerous members of the unit, and applied to all types of discussion topics. My buddies and boss picked up on it, too. I heard “It is what it is” so much that I began to think it was an approved mentality of the unit, a sanctioned mindset.

Well, my observation was incontrovertibly validated the moment I heard the unit’s battalion commander speak. He led a handover brief to us that covered the major events and efforts of his unit’s tour, and I heard “It is what it is” more times than I can count. “The Iraqi Army unit you’re partnering with can’t show up to an operation on time, but it is what it is.” “We’ve got a really small post here, so parking will be tight. It is what it is.” “We took a lot of casualties in this area, so you should be prepared for that. It is what it is.”

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He used the phrase to explain (or rather, excuse) action and inaction, misfortune and blessing, success and failure. And as I alluded, the phrase had evolved from words to mindset and permeated the command climate in the unit. Ever since that interaction in 2007, I’ve been passively tuned-in for the phrase and have heard it several times each year in follow-on assignments.

Why It’s Stupid – Here