And I believe there is a large measure of truth to the notion that America does not lose wars - but that statement only has meaning if we have consensus regarding what exactly constitutes a war, as opposed to other forms of conflict, and if that terminology is then consistently applied.
As someone who came of age during the 1980s I cannot say that I experienced America during a time of war, and I believe that to still be the case, notwithstanding the fact that our country does have troops deployed around the globe, and quite often these soldiers are engaging enemy combatants on a daily basis - so how can I say that America is not currently at war?
The simple answer is that I don't see the impact on our daily lives on the homefront. Look at the following measures and compare them to previous generations of Americans' experiences during wartime:
- Conscription - whether or not a volunteer army is more effective in combat than those who have been drafted for military service is clearly a point to be made. But there is little doubt that the impact of subjecting the broad American public to the reality of selective service, and the implications of that service, brings the reality of war to the doorstep of nearly every American family. Today's military hardly represents a cross section of American society.
- Financial Sacrifice - what have American families been asked to sacrifice - in terms of their day to day needs, or even luxury items, to support the war effort? Do we see rationing or scarcity of any specific goods that can demonstrate on a practical level the toll that war is taking on our country?
- Personal investment - Have our citizens even been asked to contribute financially (other than continued federal spending) to the success of the war effort? In an era where most of our debt financing comes from abroad, do we not even consider asking our own citizens to loan the dollars necessary for insuring our security?
Can America realistically expect a successful outcome to a conflict against an enemy willing to commit its human and material resources for its cause if we are not positioned to do the same. In other words, if we are not willing to engage in "total war" then shouldn't we be asking if its worth fighting for? And if it is worth fighting for, then shouldn't we all share in the risk and sacrifice necessary to secure victory?
The lesson from history is clear that America does achieve victory in war when the country as a whole stands behind the cause - and commits its resources and general will to success.