Martin Dempsey knows how to define war

by Scott Manning on September 6, 2013

Martin Dempsey

Joint Chiefs Chair Martin Dempsey has read Clausewitz, even quoted him in speeches. He knows that when a state uses force to impose its will on an enemy, then that state is at war.

Throughout the Senate Hearing on Syria earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry continually emphasized that he was not asking for “war.” Instead, he wanted a limited air operation aimed at “degrading and deterring” the Syrian government’s ability to use chemical weapons. To him, this was “not going to war in the classic sense of coming to Congress and asking for a war declaration. And training troops and sending people abroad and putting Americans in harm’s way.” Kerry continually emphasized that there would be “no boots on the ground.”

At no point did Dempsey agree with Kerry on the definition of war. The best indicator was when Kerry sought a lifeline from Dempsey, who declined to comment.

Does anyone else find it interesting that the highest-ranking military officer in the U.S. did not want to debate the definition of war? Dempsey knows that any use of military force by a state is war. He also knows that he serves at the pleasure of the President. It is a difficult situation for any officer, and he frankly, handled it as best as anyone could.

Unfortunately, the issue becomes muddled in debate over Constitutional authority for war and modern-day U.S. politics, which become more pissing contests than real debates.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: