Sunday, September 1, 2013

How the 'War on Terror' Changed the Way We Go to War

Troops with the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment patrol in Iraq in 2011.
Stephanie GaskellAugust 31, 2013

It’s been a long time since the United States declared war against another nation and fought army against army on a conventional battlefield. Even the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which initially focused on taking out Saddam Hussein’s army, quickly morphed into irregular warfare with U.S. and NATO troops fighting rogue groups with different agendas united against the occupation.
Now America is more war-weary than ever and no longer interested in getting involved with the problems in far-away countries. Saturday’s decision by Obama to ask Congress to vote on whether to strike Syria illustrates the new mood in this country: No more war unless absolutely necessary.
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, ‘war’ has come to mean something different for the U.S. military, which has spent the last decade battling all kinds of unconventional enemies who use guerilla warfare and are more transient than ever. Both President Bush and Obama have used this new landscape to authorize military action in places most Americans never heard of before, like Afghanistan and Iraq, Yemen and Libya. The threats facing the United States are so great and ever-changing, they require different responses of force – and not necessarily the approval of Congress.
Obama ordered military action in Libya without consulting Congress. While the campaign was successful in taking down the brutal dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the country is still a mess two years later.
While Obama believes that the use of chemical weapons in Syria surpasses a red-line that leaves the U.S. no chance but to respond, he also knows that a unilateral strike in a country mired in a bloody, complicated civil war is not as appetizing as it was on 9/11. And the claim that a strike against Syria would not last long, would avoid U.S. casualties and would not pull the U.S. into a broader conflict in the Middle East is no longer as believable as it once was.