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April 08, 2011

How many wars are we in, anyway?

It's past time to reduce the number of wars we're in, rhetorically speaking.

Ever since President Barack Obama inserted the United States into the Libyan War, it's become commonplace to say the United States is now engaged in three wars. See, e.g., Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, an Air Force Reserves veteran who declared Thursday:

"Does the Commander in Chief intend to command a military with no money? Doesn't he know we are engaged in three wars?"

Similarly, on Thursday, Rep. Tom Latham, R-Okla., declared that "our brave men and women in the field are engaged in three different wars."

We get the point with regard to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, but is it really true? Or, is it now time to declare the Iraq War over? Indeed, is it both intellectually lazy and overly sentimental to still speak of the Iraq War, as a way to pay homage to those who are still serving?

Yes, there are still about 47,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. But, so what? There are about 28,000 U.S. troops in South Korea, and no one refers to that as a war.

Sixteen U.S. troops have died in Iraq since Jan. 1, according to the invaluable Iraq Coalition Casualty Count site. Of these, seven died from non-hostile causes. This no longer seems to reach war-like levels. It seems more akin to policing a dangerous city. Washington, D.C., for instance, has reported 26 homicides since Jan. 1.

The Iraqi government is not hostile to the United States. The country is not in a civil war. The United States succeeded in replacing the head of state. Must Iraq nonetheless continue to be counted as a war until the last American soldier is removed from the country?




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Les just hope that all these comes to an end soon, and for our economy to recover fully again.

Coach Outlet

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Dave Palmer

The difference between 47,000 troops in Iraq and 28,000 troops in South Korea is that there are no suicide bombers in South Korea, to my knowledge. Then again, there was never any peace agreement in Korea, so technically we are still at war there, too. So maybe it's correct to say "four wars" instead of three.

I teach a U.S. citizenship class. One of the test questions is "Name one war fought by the U.S. in the 1800s." There are four correct answers. (Apparently, wars against Native Americans don't count). Another is "Name one war fought by the U.S. in the 1900s." There are five correct answers. (Apparently, the invasions of Haiti, Nicaragua, Haiti, Grenada, Panama, etc. don't count).

We are not even a dozen years into the 2000s, and we have already have three wars to this century's name. That's if you don't count U.S. armed intervention in the Phillipines against the NPA (conducted under the euphemism of "training exercises"), etc. At this rate, we can expect at least 25 by the end of the century.

And yes, every single U.S. soldier should come home.

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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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