There was a VietnamWar
and a FalklandsConflict
. What's the difference (apart from the location and the players, obviously)?
Duration. Vietnam lasted over a decade, Falklands/Malvinas lasted a few weeks/months at best (Unless the Official Secrets Act has been keeping a lot quiet for years....)
Number of participants? (e.g. size of armies on both sides?)
It wasn't a war because there was no declaration of war. I think "at war" is a special legal state for a country to be in.
In the UnitedStates
there is a semantic distinction. According to the constitution, only Congress can declare War. However, the Executive Branch has the power to command the armed forces. I do not believe that the UnitedStates
has officially declared war since World War II, even though it has participated in a number of armed conflicts.
So is there an actual difference or is it just sophistry?
Not sure, but here are some thoughts:
- It's just sophistry. Lots of people shooting each other, trying to occupy the other's land--a war would smell as sweet by any other name.
- There's a subtle difference, but it's still sophistry. The president has gradually acquired the power to get into a war without congress's approval. "Well, it's not a war-war, since you guys haven't declared it. But I have the power to issue executive orders to perform whatever military action I like, so you guys's approval is moot."
Isn't one of the RulesOfWar
that a country must publicly declare war before making armed attacks on another country?
Now, we need to be careful here. Don't make sweeping generalizations. In the "not-wars" that at least the UnitedStates
has been involved in in the 20th century, in three cases (Korea, Vietnam and Kuwait) the UnitedStates
was invited in by what it recognized as the legitimate government of the country in question to repel or resist an armed attack from another country (North Korea, North Vietnam and Iraq). Now, there are two other cases of more dubious legality. In the case of Grenada, the government of the UnitedStates
treated its invasion as a "hostage situation" and used rescuing "beleagured medical students" as its pretext for taking over the country. Honestly, this one was a real stretch. In the case of Panama, the government treated it as an action to "capture an international criminal" namely President Manuel Noriega. Again, this one was a stretch, and probably not justified at all.
How would you characterize the recent action in the former Yugoslavia? It is also disingenuous to talk of the "legitimate government" of a foreign state where "legitimate" is defined by the the UnitedStates.
In the case of both the Kurds in Northern Iraq and the NATO bombings of Serbia the reason was the explicit prevention of genocide. Or would you rather let that continue?
You must be joking. The UnitedStates
took every opportunity to destroy the Kurds by entranching Hussein's power over them. The Kurds and Shi'ites gave the USA every opportunity to cooperate in the overthrow of Saddam and were rejected. As for the former Yugoslavia, the purpose of the bombing was to further US corporate interests in the area as evidenced by the new oil pipeline they are going to build in the region, under US control of course. Selling off to the USA was an explicit provision of the Rambouillet Accord. In fact, the USA engaged in a deliberate campaign to destabilize the region. It's not like the facts are hard to figure out: just search for "yugoslavia" & "pipeline" and you get results like http://www.emperors-clothes.com/analysis/corridor.htm
The bombing did not and could not
have served any humanitarian purpose. The only possible humanitarian strategy would have involved a massive ground assault (with no bombing) followed by systematic search and seizure of the entire former Yugoslavia for every weapon. Not only has the US Army never participated in a pacification program but it doesn't even know what the word means. It would have been better if the British and the French were left to do all the work, as they wanted to, but nooooooo the US had too many commercial interests in the region.