In On Strategy (1982), Harry G. Summers, Jr. bemoaned LBJ’s “conscious decision not to mobilize the American people—to invoke the national will—for the Vietnam War,” specifically not declaring war.
Summers believed that by not declaring war, LBJ failed to invoke the national spirit of the country. Thus, he concluded that because the national will had “never been built, it could hardly be said that the national will ‘collapsed.’” Summers then spent several chapters in his book arguing for the necessity of declarations of war, warning that without them, the people will not get behind the war or the military fighting it.
Today there is a different situation where the “United States is at war with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces,” to quote President Obama. When asked to clarify who were the “associated forces,” the DoD shared the information with Sen. Carl Levin who in turn would not share the information publicly.
ProPublica pushed for more, but came up short.
A Pentagon spokesman told ProPublica that revealing such a list could cause “serious damage to national security.”
“Because elements that might be considered ‘associated forces’ can build credibility by being listed as such by the United States, we have classified the list,” said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Jim Gregory. “We cannot afford to inflate these organizations that rely on violent extremist ideology to strengthen their ranks.”
More than 30 years after Summers was concerned about declarations of war, Americans cannot even get a list of names of who the military is fighting.
Now the question is whether Americans will support fighting nameless enemies. ProPublica’s article has made the rounds on bigger media sites such as The Huffington Post, but the reality is Americans do not know what to oppose. Should protesters hold up signs that say “STOP BOMBING WHOEVER!” or “WHO ARE THESE ASSOCIATED FORCES?”
However, when the information becomes public, the situation could change drastically.