Several comments to my post suggesting we should declared war back in '01 after the September 11th attacks questioned my assertion. I think this sums it up pretty well, "On whom were we going to declare war? How would we know when we've won/lost/tied? Who would sign the peace treaty for the other side?"
I would reply that we committed our troops, our nation's military resources, and our money without a declaration of war or an answer to any of those questions. Instead of putting the question to Congress, and following our written Constitution, Pr. Bush committed us to an undeclared war, with no defined goals, no defined enemy, and no idea of what victory would consist of.
We spent the lives and health of some very fine men and women. We spent money we didn't have. We wore out our military and our equipment. And we accomplished almost nothing. If we could not find answers to those questions, then we should not have gone at all.
If we, as a nation, could not decide to defend ourselves through our
Constitutional process, we should have buried our dead, marked it up as
acceptable losses, and moved on.
That declaration of war would have put the questions you are asking front and center, kept Congress in it's proper role, and allowed the citizens of the States to hold their Congress members to account for the decisions they made, the votes they cast, and the rationale they offered for those votes.
Instead, we got nation building. Mission creep. Thirteen years of undeclared war with no end in sight. We still have troops in battle, we are still taking losses, we are still spending money we don't have, and now we are getting ready to do some more.
And for all of that, I totally agree with your questions. Even today I want to know, "How will we know when we've
won/lost/tied? Who is going to sign the peace treaty for the other side?"