A coworker of mine, who is a veteran, recently challenged the contention that war involves murder. In the strictest sense, murder is the voluntary killing of one person by another, but I now realize that there should be a distinction between those who initiate war, and those who defend themselves from aggression: the “offensive” forces are murderers, and the “defensive” forces are not. Using this logic, the murder rate associated with a war will be less than its death rate.
I suspect that my coworker was actually probing my opinion about whether military personnel should be qualified as murderers. If a military action is offensive rather than defensive, then the answer is “yes.” I also believe that, to a lesser degree, civilians who politically or economically support such action are also responsible.
Roughly speaking, in the first half of last century, military action by the United States was defensive, and the second half it was offensive (and even more blatantly so in this century with the Iraq war). Regarding political support, it is interesting that the last time Congress issued an official declaration of war was for our clearly defensive part in World War II, but it has not issued such a declaration since then.