Just Curious

Please state the answer in the form of a question... Just Curious is the occassional blog of Andrew Nelson. In an attempt to balance the polemical tone of most of the blogosphere, all entries hope to pose at least one useful question. Many entries simply advance useful memes. Personal entries may abandon the interrogative conceit.

Friday, July 07, 2006

but it's better than a video game, better than the movies*

Slacktivist asks "when is a war not a war?" More specifically, does it matter that Congress has not actually declared war since 1942, and if so, how? I think it certainly does matter. Not all American military actions were declared wars in the past -- I think in particular of Andrew Jackson's forced resettlement of the Cherokee, which occurred in direct defiance of the Supreme Court. But at the same time, I don't think it can be argued that every undeclared war since WWII should be rejected on that ground alone. While I would argue for strong congressional oversight in any case, it's not clear how having been "at war" with Afghanistan or Iraq would help clarify our mission there now. I know that what I would prefer would be some sort of international police authority based in international law. It seems that thinking of these military interventions as police actions might have helped the American people develop more realistic expectations (you don't "win" a police action, just as we will never "win" the war on terrorism or the war in Iraq -- though it is still remotely possible that these conflicts will have positive outcomes).

But still, I can't help thinking back to Chris Hedges's book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. I can understand how the sort of war he describes might make sense in the Homeric world or the Middle Ages, when war was just an extension of the existing civil order. But in our world, it seems like the war metaphor just confuses things, even if the violence is deserving of the name.

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*see these lyrics

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