War on obesity. War on illiteracy. War on drugs. Recent headlines suggest that Americans are ready to attach the word “war” to any social cause that merits debate. While many of our politicians and pundits wage abstract battles over the domestic causes they champion, our country’s servicemen and women are fighting a far more concrete war in combat theaters far from home.
Yet this is a war being fought by less than 1 percent of Americans. It is also one in which thousands have been disfigured, disabled, or killed. It is a war that has fractured families.
The same three-letter word we use to describe armed conflict and its life-altering consequences has become accepted as a way to describe contentious domestic issues. But this practice also has consequences. Appropriating the word “war” to capitalize on its inherently strong connotation waters down the word’s impact as it is applied to genuine human combat operations.