When Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey were called to testify before Congress to get authorization for possible military airstrikes against Syria, there was an exchange between Kerry and Libertarian Republican Rand Paul about what war was and even if military airstrikes against Syria should be considered as such.
Suddenly it became clear about a clash of generations when Kerry referred to Hagel, Senator McCain and himself as knowing about what war was like, arguing that an airstrike against Syria was not war. More importantly, the difference in opinion was not just a clash of generations, but about an evolution of war itself.
Conflicts have evolved from declaration of war and clashes between massive armies, ships, and airplanes into two distinct categories: 1) urban and non-urban low intensity insurgency conflicts, and 2) relatively short but destructive bombing campaigns against states and non-state actors.
The evolution of some conflicts, more specifically after World War II, into low intensity conflicts and short airstrikes campaigns against states and non-state actors have changed the traditionally understanding of what war is. Small insurgency conflicts and even short airstrikes campaigns must be considered as war, because its destructive and violent nature remains unchanged.