America has not declared war on an enemy since 1942. That is not to say we have not gone to war since then, we clearly have. Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War One, Gulf War Two, not to mention all the “little” skirmishes. America has been in a perpetual state of war since World War II, and in actuality for the better part of our short existence. Yet once again, America finds itself facing another war, kind of.
The world is now faced with a ruthless, heartless fighting force in the form of ISIS (also known as IS or ISIL). This is no mere terrorist group, it is evil incarnate. ISIS is functioning as a well-organized, trained and equipped army. It is using well-defined tactics and strategies, and it has slaughtered thousands of innocent people. If there was ever an enemy deserving of a full declaration of war, these murdering butchers clearly have earned the world’s military attention. Nevertheless, none of us can go into this blindly. This is not an enemy we should underestimate. Our eyes must be open to a cause to which we are committing our sons and daughters. There will be boots on the ground, as there already are, and more American blood will be spilled in the Middle East.
As of this writing, Congress has only “authorized” the limited use of force by means of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), stopping short of a full declaration of war. However, as a mature nation, the call to conflict must be tempered with debate, and many feel the AUMF does not meet that burden. The intent that a full declaration of war, as prescribed within Article I, Section 8, and Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution (www. bit.ly/JhZIQH), was to not only hold our representatives accountable, but to hold our entire nation, you and me, answerable to our actions. If the cause is just, if the conflict is worthy of our true national treasure, our sons and daughters, we owe them our full support.
According to news reports, there is bipartisan support for the AUMF, ignoring the reality that there was also strong bipartisan opposition to engaging ISIS. Fifty-four percent of Americans support action against ISIS, but what exactly are the American people supporting, and what did our representatives vote for? Our mission and objectives are not clearly defined, there are conflicting messages coming from the White House and the Pentagon, and our coalition is nameless and faceless, merely a paper tiger. Or, as Maine Sen. Angus King, who also sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked: “Is it going to be a real coalition, or is it just going to be a fake coalition, where the Saudis write a check now and then?”
America’s commitment to the fight has never really been in question, but one has to wonder why we are reluctant to call our military actions what they are, war. Is our reluctance to declare war an indication of our hidden fear that we might be doing the wrong thing? Is our unwillingness to use the word “war” with its full meaning nothing more than a facade, some false form of plausible deniability? Do we somehow think that if things do not go as planned, we can shrug our shoulders and mutter: “It’s not like we were at war, right?” If ISIS is evil incarnate, do we really believe we can wash our hands of responsibility, merely because we did not call our action a “war?”
There is no disowning this conflict when Americans start coming home in coffins draped with American flags, when the bodies of innocent civilians killed by our bombs flash across our TV screens, and when the very same representatives who voted for this war start backtracking when/if it all goes to hell.
Our men and women are in harm’s way, and I support them. So long as there are “boots on the ground,” they will always have my full support. We have the greatest fighting force ever known to man. They are the best and brightest our nation has to offer. Their resolve is unmatched; when others run from danger, they run toward it. Above all else, they are men and women of strong moral character. They are worthy of our full resolve as a nation. They deserve to know that in six months we will not grow weary of their mission, our mission, and that we will not desert them.
However, we cannot relive the cowardice this nation has shown in past conflicts. Agree or disagree, once we commit our troops to combat, we owe them our full support. There should be no question in the mind of our military or our nation. Let us debate our purpose now, and if the cause is truly just, let us show our resolve and support our troops with a full declaration of war. If the conflict is not worthy of that declaration, it is not worthy of one ounce of American blood.