General Question

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Are we or are we not at war with Pakistan and Yemen too?

Asked by SquirrelEStuff (9189points) March 22nd, 2011

With all of this talk on Libya lately, I keep hearing the same response from people…. “We are already in two wars, why another?”
Almost everyone I come in contact with, mentions the two wars we are in. For the past few years, we have been sending unmanned drones into Pakistan and Yemen and killing plenty of civilians, although the news never mentions the word war when these attacks take place.
If we are taking unmanned planes, flying them over another country, dropping bombs, and killing civilians, I would either call that war, or by our own definition, terrorism.

When I mention the four, now five wars, we are in, people look at me like I have five heads.
How do you feel about our actions towards Pakistan and Yemen?
Should these attacks be classified as war or terrorism?
If an Arab flew a remote control plane with a bomb attached to it and blew it up in the US, would that be terrorism?

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26 Answers

stump's avatar

What the US is doing in Pakistan and Yemen is illegal, and very disturbing. The US government is essentially assasinating private citizens in these countries. Terrorism should not be dealt with using military action. It is a law enforcement issue and should be handled by the national and international justice systems.

tedd's avatar

The US is in alliances with both countries, particularly in the war on terror. Very shaky alliances.

It raises a lot of ethical questions and concerning questions… especially with the uprising in Yemen, and the disdain for the US in Pakistan.

Qingu's avatar

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few years.

I think we need to stop thinking of “war” as this binary thing—either you’re at war, or you’re at peace.

This isn’t how conflict seems to work in the modern world (if ever). In reality there seems to be a continuum of conflict. On one side you have all-out wars of attrition, like World War 2, where neither side holds anything back. Then there are wars like Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan—not quite attrition, but still very destructive. But even in these wars Americans shifted strategies and became more like peacekeepers or police. “Police action” would be on the opposite side of the spectrum of “war of attrition.”

I’m not sure where the CIA drone strikes fall on this continuum. But I think we need more nuance in our discussion of war and armed conflict in general.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Every war we’ve been IN since Korea was technically an illegal war. Presidents have become more dictatorial than presidential, but then… what ELSE is new?

stump's avatar

@CaptainHarley I agree. What happened to the congress being responsible for declaring war?

CaptainHarley's avatar


Exactly! When you find an answer to THAT one, please let me know!

wundayatta's avatar

Just for the record, using a drone is a military action. Also, that made me wonder whether CIA action is military. I’ve decided to think of it as non-military military action.

As to whether we are at war with Yemen and Pakistan, I would say we are not. You can have military actions without declaring war. North Korea is always doing provocative things to South Korea. But they are considered peaceful, although I think, technically, N. Korea is at war with the U.S. India and Pakistan have had numerous border skirmishes and terroristic acts, but they aren’t at war.

I think war is a technical thing. It has to be declared by Congress. Wikipedia has an informative page about the theory and practice of declarations of war.

I think what you are talking about is whether the acts we have made are acts of war. I.e., it doesn’t matter if we have a formal declaration; what matters is the functional definition.

Personally, I don’t think we are at war, functionally speaking, with Pakistan or Yemen. I think these actions are covert, and are essentially the kind of thing the CIA does. I would call these non-military military actions. The main difference between military actions and non-military military actions is the attempt to perform these actions so that noone sees them until after they are over, and possible, as well, to maintain some form of deniability.

There is another form of military action that is non-military in nature. That is the same actions as depicted above, except that they are not covert. They are quite overt since they are meant as warning messages. Essentially, they are bullying actions. Warnings. Shape up, or there will be worse to come.

I guess the US can get away with this in small countries, that will never become powers. You’ll notice we don’t do these things (that I know of) for powerful nations like China or Russia. I don’t know if it’s effective though. It is usually aimed at “terrorists” who are warriors with no clear state affiliation. We have cruise missiles. They have terrorists. It’s inchoate war, perhaps.

flutherother's avatar

We are certainly not at war with Pakistan. We regularly fire missiles into the North West part of that country killing lots of people but this is done with Pakistan’s tacit approval. There is no public accountability for the drone attacks and the people that live in these areas have no representation on the world stage. Just last week over 40 people were killed in a drone attack at Dattakhel. They may well have been terrorists plotting an attack or they may have been local people attending a meeting. If the latter then it was not war but bloody murder, just the thing the ‘war on terror’ is supposed to be bringing to an end.

Nullo's avatar

There doesn’t seem to be as much outcry over Lybia as there was over Iraq. Presidential bias?

tedd's avatar

@Nullo Justification bias.

Qingu's avatar

@Nullo, we also didn’t go into Libya unilaterally with a poorly thought out shock and awe campaign and a ground invasion, against the wishes of pretty much everyone else in the world, and based on deceitful evidence presented to the American public.

But I agree that the basic justifications (once you remove the fake justifications for Iraq) are the same.

josie's avatar

Congress has generally become too cowardly to constantly come down on one side or the other regarding the use of the military. Hell, they are too chicken shit to vote on a budget.

stump's avatar

@josie War is supposed to be rare, a last resort. The reason the constitution gave that job to congress is exactly for your observation. If congress can’t agree that a war is necessary, then we should not go to war.

Qingu's avatar

@stump, how do you define war?

Any use of the national military?

stump's avatar

@Qingu Yes, if they are using their guns. If they are building dykes or bridges, or delivering food and medical supplies at a humaitarian disaster then it is not war.

YARNLADY's avatar

The U. S. has military operations all over the world at any given time.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@josie and @stump

You are both correct.


I think that’s one of the few contiingencies the founders never antcipated… the USA becoming an empire, or the world’s policeman. It probbly never occured to them that we would ever WANT to become such a thing!

YARNLADY's avatar

@CaptainHarley I don’t think we do want it, but our leaders think it is a necessary part of our national Defense.

CaptainHarley's avatar


And as a retired, professional military officer, I think they are full of bullshit!

WasCy's avatar

I think it might be fair to say that we are “in” war with Pakistan and Yemen, since we have at least nominal alliances with what passes for their nominal governments. We’re not “at war” with the leadership in those countries – overtly, anyway. The drone attacks are (again “nominally”) directed at nominal enemies of the leaders of those regimes. (At least they are in Pakistan; I’m damned if I know who is who in Yemen.)

That doesn’t equate to popular support, of course. We’re not greeted by the people of those countries as we were in Paris and the Low Countries in 1944. The leaders of those countries may be ousted at short notice – á la Iran 1979, leaving us in the same relative position we were there and then.

mattbrowne's avatar

The West is at war with Al-Qaeda. They operate in both Pakistan and Yemen.

zensky's avatar

So, yes?

YARNLADY's avatar

@zensky I believe you may be confusing being at war with a government, such as Pakistan or Yemen and being at war with certain elements inside a country, with or without government sanction.

zensky's avatar

I am confused based on So, yes? to Mr. Browne?

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