I made much the same point on Aug. 30:
We will be making war against Assad by any definition of the concept. In the president's mind it will be in only in a very limited, restrained way for a very brief time.Assad may just take the licks and then get back to the task of killing his enemies. But if his regime survives the insurgency (remember, our strikes are not about regime change) he will not forget. And they have very long memories in that part of the world.
What Obama does not understand is that there is no reason for Assad to think the same thing. What seems to our president to be a few missions flown and a few missiles launched, then home for dinner, will look very different to Assad when bombs start dropping on his country. It will be no little thing to him.
Try to imagine that on the evening of Dec. 7, 1941, the Swiss ambassador handed President Roosevelt a message from Japan's government saying, "We are finished bombing you now. Let the Pearl Harbor attack teach you not to hinder our invasion in the southwest Pacific or Asia."
Do you think that FDR would have said, "Well, glad to hear that, let's just carry with business as before"?
Mr. Obama may think he is waging limited, brief war against Assad, but there is no reason for Assad to think so.
Is there a definition of war?
Let's look at first at theory of war. Rather than try to survey all the points of view, I'll cite Clausewitz, whose work has stood the test of time.
Clausewitz said that war is the affair of nation-states; lethal fighting between criminal gangs, for example, is not war. War, then, is combat between two (or more) nations to carry out national policy, using personnel armed, organized and equipped for that purpose, or between one such group and another not so armed, organized and equipped. In this way Clausewitz said that combat by, say, a nation's navy and a pirate fleet met the definition of war.
But the essence of war is killing, he said. In fact, he was explicit that without killing there is no war, regardless of the movements of opposing armies. Warfare necessarily entails actual combat, and combat is inflicting intentional lethality.
That's the conceptual look. Is there a jurisprudential understanding? Yes, the 1949 Geneva Conventions being the most recent (and still binding) example:
[T]he present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.... Any difference arising between two States and leading to the intervention of members of the armed forces is an armed conflict within the meaning of Article 2, even if one of the Parties denies the existence of a state of war. It makes no difference how long the conflict lasts, or how much slaughter takes place.This cited at Reason.com, which is dumbfounded how the Obama administration could claim that the bombing and missile strikes on Syria it wants to carry out are not actually acts of warfare.
As that old Democrat lapdog James Carville used to say about anything from the Republicans, "That dog don't hunt." It's impressive how many on both sides of the aisle agree.
This seems relevant, too: "Yes, Congress Can Authorize War Without Formally 'Declaring' It"