The bombing of military targets in another country that has not attack you first, though, is an act of war. Using military force against another military is what war is all about. A limited war or quickly withdrawing doesn’t make it not a war.
We have developed a habit of calling our smaller wars anything but “war” because the American public has tired of war and Congress loves to shirk its constitutional responsibility on the matter, but we should not delude ourselves about what might soon happen.
I consider the best proof what is currently being discussed is an act of war the fact that if roles were reversed, no one in the media would be using these euphemisms. If Brazil decided to preemptively bomb the Pentagon and several military bases because the United States violated some international norm, I assure you every headline would read something like; “Brazil launches war on the United States.” I don’t think anyone in the American government or media would call such actions a “limit intervention.”
If we are going to engage in an act of war when there is no true urgency or issue of immediate national defense it should be approved by the Congress as the Constitution clearly requires. This responsibility should not rest with one man.
Photo by Phil Roeder under Creative Commons license