Is This Really War?

The continuing air strikes against terrorist bases and support systems in Afghanistan have made President Bush’s use of the word “war” to describe America’s response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th look accurate. But is “war” really the right word for this? Those who object to its use say that war cannot be waged against a dispersed enemy that has no flag, no territory, and no status in international law. They prefer to describe any military action in these circumstances as “a police action” aimed at arresting suspects and bringing them to justice. If the anti-terrorist campaign is indeed war, they say, it can only be a symbolic campaign like the war on drugs.