The definition of war used by Bilmes and Intriligator may be so expansive that it’s no longer particularly useful. If the U.S. is at “war” in Somalia, why not Uganda or Mexico?

It is true, though, that the relatively small portion of the U.S. population needed to participate in military action has blurred the line between peacetime and wartime. Even the official war the U.S. is fighting — Afghanistan — is hardly topic A for the U.S. government or media these days. Afghansitan isn’t even the nation’s most discussed foreign policy issue, something unthinkable in the era where a draft or at least mass mobilization were needed to fight wars.

When U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan, it probably won’t feel like a major transition for most Americans. That certainly doesn’t mean we should feel nostalgic for the days when wars involved nationwide mobilizations and massive casualties, but the new state of affairs certainly doesn’t put much pressure on political leaders to end miltiary conflicts — whatever you call them — once they’ve begun.