Last Wednesday Obama told the nation that there will be an expansion of the US campaign that already exists against terrorism. The expansion will now include a fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, knows as either ISIL or ISIS, but whether this can be labeled as a “war” in the usual sense has not been made clear.
“The United States is at war with ISIL in the same way we are at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
This formulation prompted certain members of the press to question why the White House does not want to call the upcoming confrontation “war.”
Earnest spoke to journalists on Friday in an effort to clarify the position of the administration. He emphasized that the upcoming fight is not between the US and ISIL, but between the terrorist organizations and several countries.
“ISIS has indicated they’re ready to go to war against the world,” the press secretary said.
“This president, as is expected of American presidents, is stepping up.”
On Thursday Secretary of State John Kerry also seemed to hesitate to use the “W” word:
“I think that’s the wrong terminology,” Kerry told CNN Thursday. “If somebody wants to think about it as being at war with ISIL, they can do so, but the fact is it’s a major counter-terrorism operation that will have many different moving parts.”
The White House may be refraining from calling this a new war so as to avoid the need to go to Congress for a vote declaring war on ISIL. The administration has said that they would be happy to get support from legislators, but according to this formulation, it is not necessary.
“It is the view of this administration and the president’s national security team specifically that additional authorization from Congress is not required, that he has the authority that he needs to order the military actions that he has to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” Earnest said.