Is a war really only between two or more nations/states? After the USA toppled Saddam Hussein, is it still considered a war?
This is probably one for GD because I guess it depends on your definition of war. The Korean War and Vietnam War were officially police actions rather than declared wars, so they weren’t technically wars and neither is the war in Iraq.
I am not a political or military scholar but I lean towards your definition of military conflict between two or more states, and would add that each side would have some clear military objective. (I think there have been tensions between countries that involve a lot of border skirmishes without full-blown battles and no strategic objective, and I would not call those wars.)
In Iraq, the U.S. is no longer battling a state, it is supporting a government now recognized by the U.S. in establishing and maintaining control in the face of insurgents. It’s almost like the U.S. is taking sides in a civil war, although I have not heard analysts refer to the situation in Iraq as civil war. Further, the U.S. military is not fighting another military organization but an ad hoc civilian uprising.
However, most people call it war if U.S. military people are fighting with weapons and killing people and getting killed.
There are multiple definitions of war, each of which has slightly different connotations, and not one can be considered authoritative to the exclusivity of other definitions. Clausewitz, for example, tended to define war by its objectives, primarily of which is to use violence to compel an enemy to submit to our will. By that measure, the US involvement in Iraq can certainly be considered a war. Treaties, like the Geneva Conventions, use this kind of broad definition.
Some more contemporary theorists tend to see differences in the stages of an armed struggle, and would tend to see war as the kinetic phase of a defined series of events, and would tend to define the current situation in Iraq as post-combat operations.
Still others tend to describe the US presence in Iraq by other meaures, and would call it an occupation.
To summarize, the simple effort of defining war leads people to emphasize some characteristics of war over others, so there’s no authoritative answer possible. However, this discussion is pretty much an academic exercise. For purposes of international law, it is the existence of armed conflict (typically of an international nature) that is the important factor, not hairsplitting about who is fighting whom.
:dubious: I think at this point at the very least we can generally agree that no matter what they were labelled by government to obfuscate and no matter how the US constitution was circumvented to provide funding, what happened in Korea and Vietnam if nowhere else were most certainly wars, assuming as I do that words have anything near a fixed meaning. One wonders, in fact, about how the War Powers Act relates to Vietnam if it weren’t in fact a war…
I don’t think that it’s at all necessary to have a highly organized standing army on one side of an armed conflict in order for it to be considered a war. I think in the future with the perspective of history people will recognize that the US and UK especially were engaged in a 15+ year war with Iraq, seeing as airstrikes in Iraq (as frequently as once every 4 days on average through the 90s) and occupation of airspace as well as embargo and the arming of minority groups engaged in land actions continued throughout.
I believe that there’s a UN resolution to this effect. Basically, it says that if two or more nations start fighting each other, then there’s a war going on, regardless of whether or not you’re willing to call it that.