The United States is now involved in Operation Odyssey Dawn, a No-Fly-Zone in which things are being blown up in a nation that is not the United States. Back when I was a callow youth in the 1930s, this was referred to as “war.” Yet this is not a war. It’s a “No-Fly-Zone,” a term that reminds me of basketball defense. Yes, there are missiles. Yes, things are blowing up. But it’s not a war.
The United States is also in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are also not wars, they are operations: Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom respectively. Enduring Freedom actually not a war unto itself, but an operation in the larger Global War on Terror. According to Wikipedia (a flimsy source, I know) I was surprised to see how many branches of this operation existed throughout the globe:
The Operation comprises several subordinate operations:
- Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan (OEF-A)
- Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines (OEF-P) (formerly Operation Freedom Eagle)
- Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA)
- Operation Enduring Freedom – Pankisi Gorge (completed in 2004)
- Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara (OEF-TS) (see also Insurgency in the Maghreb (2002–present))
- Operation Enduring Freedom – Caribbean and Central America (OEF-CCA)
- Operation Enduring Freedom – Kyrgyzstan (completed in 2004)
It seems to me that if Iraq is not a war, and Afghanistan is not a war, and Libya is not a war, we don’t really have that many wars any more. Planes fly, drones drop ordinance, ships sail and launch projectiles, and people die – but it’s not war.
I am beginning to think of war as a 19th century construct, by which the only way Congress would actually declare one is if Prussian field marshalls lined up cavalry against our bombardiers. And that only happens in the game Stratego.
Have we seen the end of war? No. Have we seen the end of the word war? Maybe.