The Cold War. The War on Poverty. The War on Crime. The War on Drugs. The War on Terrorism. Apparently, it isn’t enough to call a high-priority initiative a High-Priority Initiative. If it’s really important, only a wimp refuses to call it war, almost without regard to its relationship to the real thing.
There is something about the presidency that loves war-talk. Even at its most metaphorical, martial rhetoric allows the President to invoke his special mystique as Commander in Chief, calling the public to sacrifice greatly for the good of the nation. Perhaps the clarion call to pseudo-war is just the thing the President needs to ram an initiative through a reluctant Congress. Perhaps it provides rhetorical cover for unilateral actions of questionable legality. We are not dealing with a constitutional novelty: Almost two centuries ago, Andrew Jackson was famously making war on the Bank of the United States, indulging in legally problematic uses of executive power to withdraw federal deposits from The Enemy, headed by the evil one, Nicholas Biddle.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Ackerman, Bruce, "This is Not a War" (2004). Faculty Scholarship Series. 119.