re: "Declaring War: The Deadliest Weapon"
"In many people's minds, the act of sending United States troops to act with force against any threat is by nature not only "making war", but "declaring war" and should be accompanied by a formal declaration of war by congress. Ostensibly to insure that a) the president is only acting at the direction of "we the people" through their representatives in congress; b) that congress is fully involved and committed to completing or "winning" that war; c) that such agreement would put the entire energy of the country towards supporting and winning such a war; d) that US citizens, as members of the armed forces, are assured that support and that they are acting with the full blessing of the nation.
To quote, "Either you go to war or you do not."
With that is the implication that the United States can only "win wars" that it has fully dedicated itself to do."
"Do we "declare war" with an official "declaration of war" on "pirates" before sending or using military force? If not, why not? The first issue is that "pirates" by their nature and legal status of being "outlaws" are "illegitimate" parties. To declare war against them, by implication of bringing the entire power of the United States (ie, economic, political and military), it recognizes these forces as "legitimate" and worthy of that onerous attention. Further, under both the written and unwritten rules of warfare, certain niceties would have to be accepted. Such as recognizing flags of truce, negotiating with an appointed representative or otherwise recognizing some legitimate (ie, lawful) complaints that need to be resolved.
Of course, pirates, by their nature preying on the weak and unprotected, acting outside of the laws of their own nation and recognized international laws, robbing people of life and property, without any legitimate cause accept to enrich themselves, have no "legitimate" complaints.
Still, to interdict them and to safeguard "interests of the United States", it will require "military force". Does that require a declaration of war? Does it even require Congress to issue an Authorization to use Military Force? Under the current separation of powers, the President being the Commander in Chief of the military forces whose function is to defend the United States against "all enemies", but "pirates" being illegitimate parties outside the law without any legitimate claims to Congressional (thus, legislative) time, the answer seems to be "no"."
"Terrorists, by every convention, written or or unwritten, are "outlaws". They have no legitimate standing with any government. Even governments that support them do so in as much a way as possible to distance themselves from any real or "legal" connection, beyond possibly verbalizing support for their complaints. Sometimes, these connections are "known", but for political reasons, may go unchallenged in order avert other political implications. Like escalating war.
Like the pirates, bin Laden's location in another country, surrounded by somewhat significant paramilitary forces, in fortified positions with some support among the population that could act to intervene or add to his forces, would seem to necessitate military force. Particularly, as he and his organization were considered an imminent threat. Still, we would never legitimate his organization or his complaints with a formal "declaration of war". The need for an authorization to use military force arises from the geo-political realities as much as meeting any legal (ie, Constitutional) requirements.
There are many such implications and variations that effect the actions of the President and Congress in defending the United States. Not all of them require the full power of the nation at war.
Of all of the implications, the most important to remember is that, yes, when the United States Congress Declares War, it does obligate and bring to bear the entire political, economic and military power of the United States. That may include obligating or putting at risk any allied or friendly nations. In doing so, through the Congress, our legislative body, it legally recognizes the opposing force as a legitimate (legal) entity to both conduct war against as well as to negotiate an end to the conflict. Under such conditions, the United States, by internal law and signatory to such as the Geneva Conventions, would be legally bound to treat such an entity with all expected legal obligations including recognizing ambassadors or representatives, treating all military or militant forces as legal combatants, recognizing flags of truce, trading prisoners, negotiating peace and every other activity designated by such conventions, treaties and laws.
In the same respect, by bringing this force to bear, against an entire nation, it also calls into war the entire political, economic and military powers AND alliances of that nation as well as any nation that may believe that its interests are endangered by such a war.
It is the reason why the United States has, in fact, been circumspect in using this power to "declare war". To date, a total of five times. The last two times the United States "declared war" in the 20th century, it did win these wars. However, those wars were World Wars. The United States not only committed all of its power to those wars, but also placed them at risk. The last world war involved over 58 countries and cost 72 million lives directly or related to war.
A declaration of war may, in fact, be the deadliest and most destructive weapon in the United States arsenal."