Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Even Longer War

Afghanistan War Became Longest  U.S. War Ever. But Isn't
the Gulf War  Longer than All 20th Century Wars Combined?
The "Long War" is a term used by Philip Bobbitt in his (long - 1,000 pages) 2002 book to label the battle between fascist and communist  forces in the 20th century. The fight was over which system would replace the colonial system of the previous century. The Long War takes place between 1914 and 1990.

Unlike the 20th century wars, however, the current "War on Terror" has continued uninterrupted since 1990.

Last month, on May 23, President Obama said that the United States can't continue in a state of perpetual war. "This war, like all wars, must end." The New York Times editorial board agreed.

How long have we been at war in the Gulf and how does that compare with how long we were actually at war during the 1914-1990 period?

One answer is a list of wartime periods on a Veterans Administration web site, where it is posted for administrative purposes, to comply with the law on computing pensions and pension eligibility. The VA needs to know whether the United States is at war or not when someone is on active military duty. Under current law, the VA recognizes the following wartime periods:

World War I  - April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918 - 1.5 years
World War II - December 7, 1941 – December 31, 1946 - 4 years
Korean War ("conflict") - June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955 - 4.5 years
Vietnam War ("era")  I February 28, 1961-August 4, 1964 - 3.5 years (only in Vietnam)
__________________ II August 5,1964-May 7, 1975 - 10.5 years (region-wide)
Gulf War I August 2, 1990-September 10, 2001, 11 years
________II September 11, 2001, followed by the "Authorization for Use of Military Force" that continues through a future date to be set by law or by Presidential Proclamation.

If I understand the VA website correctly, we can conclude from it the following:
  • In August 2013, the Gulf War will have continued for 23 years.
  • If we count the Vietnam War as having started only in Phase II (i.e., in August 1964), we have now been at war in the Gulf longer than all four of the prior wars combined. 
  • If we count the Vietnam War as having started in Phase I, in February 1961, then the four prior wars add up to 24 years and their duration will be exceeded by the present Gulf War in August 2014.
So our current Gulf War is now, or will be within about a year, longer than the actual U.S. wartime periods in the  "Long War".