A little more than a week after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, George W. Bush gave a speech to Congress in which he used the phrase “war on terror.”
At first, the War on Terror resembled previous wars. Bush was granted authority by Congress to combat those who were responsible for September 11. Since Afghanistan allegedly allowed those who claimed responsibility for the attacks—Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda operatives—to reside in their country, Bush declared war on this country.
The amount of American troops sent to Afghanistan was relatively small. By the end of 2001, there were 2,500 troops. In World War Two, America sent 50,000 troops to Europe per month beginning in 1942. By 1944, they were sending 250,000 troops per month. Of course, Europe is a continent and not a single country like Afghanistan. However, Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense at the time, quickly faced criticism for favoring technology and air strikes over robust troop numbers.
The Iraq War, like previous wars, was approved by Congress. In October 2002, Congress gave Bush the power to declare war on Iraq. As with Afghanistan, America tried to keep the troop count as low as possible. In 2003, Bush declared victory even though there was still remarkable amounts of violence and killing going on. In previous wars, American presidents tended not to declare victory while destructive, lethal operations continued.
Presently, due to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, presidents don’t seem to have to consult Congress before attacking a country. Former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump attacked Syria without a declaration of war from Congress. The current president, Joseph Biden, has recently attacked Syria as well. More so, unlike in past wars, the War on Terror has revolved around remote-controlled drones. To protect American troops, America has opted to bomb countries from a safe distance.
One similarity between the War on Terror and previous conflicts involves civilian casualties. Whether one is thinking about World War Two, the Vietnam War, or the current War on Terror, civilian death rates continue to be alarmingly high.