This presidential 'war' is already a costly affair.
I’ve called it a war, but in fact, the problem of a name for it has to go further back to a time when Americans still knew the difference between war and what’s happening today.
When the first of these presidential wars was conducted after WWII, the government was careful to call it a ‘police action’. The distinction always existed. The Korean war was a ‘police action’, and in the beginning the Vietnam War was also carefully called a ‘police action’.
The reason for the distinction was that the presidents conducting the wars were uncomfortably aware that the phrase, ‘war’ is a term that carries Constitutional baggage. Wars are declared by the US Congress.
By the end of Vietnam, the distinction was so drowned in fire and blood the term ‘police action’ was too small to cover the subject. The‘police action’ phrase was abandoned because it was an absurdity, but the legalities remained, and the Vietnam War never earned the legal and Constitutional dignity to be called a war. This, even though the Vietnam police action was responsible for more US casualties than any actual war in history.
Those who are in favor of the current police action evidently view it as beginning with the attack on the World Trade Center. They see it as an unbroken thread of US retaliation for that attack, wandering about across the Muslim world, where ever a likely target of opportunity presents an excuse for further hostilities.
The Korean ‘police action’ never really ended. Full-scale hostilities toned down to a murmur following a ‘truce’, with each side agreeing to stay on one or the other side of the 38th Parallel, but the fighting continues today. US troops are still there ‘policing’ half a century later.
The Vietnam ‘police action’ ended a bit differently, as we are all aware.
But that’s the way of ‘police actions’. They’re dominated by tactics because there’s no equation for overall strategy to win, no formula to tell us when it’s over.
Wars are won, or lost. Police actions just hang around indefinitely, or until we get tired (Vietnam, Iraq I), or forget (Korea).