The U.S. hasn’t had a war since 1945

Andy Warhol once defined art as “anything an artist does.”Roman squad

We seem to define war as “anything an army does.”

The Confucians advised that “Good governance begins with calling things by their right names.”

I suggest that the name “war” does not rightly apply to the things the US military has been doing post-WWII. When we speak of “war” these days, we often run into conundrums and dissonance — “Did we actually win or lose in Vietnam?” or “How do we know what ‘victory’ is in Iraq?” or “Doesn’t this thing ever end?” We have expectations about what war is supposed to be that never quite seem to be met.

Rather, we could take a clue from Harry Truman, who too-rightly described the conflict in Korea as “police action.” This comes much closer to what an empire actually does when it is carrying out the business of empire — policing the periphery. Policing doesn’t have an end; it’s an ongoing function.

And to be clear about the term “empire,” we can use it here to mean “a nation that projects power beyond its borders in such a way that wealth flows from the periphery toward the center.” Every empire in history has had its own unique style, but this is what they all have in common.

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