In 2004, I asked Merriam-Webster the following question. Associate Editor and Composition Manager, Thomas Pitoniak, replied as follows.

Q: In his recent op-ed, “Kerry, Newest Neocon,” Bill Safire refers to “war-fighting in Iraq.” Likewise, Anthony Cordesman titled his most recent book, The Lessons of Afghanistan: War Fighting, Intelligence, and Force Transformation.

Unfortunately, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary doesn't list war-fighting. What does this compound word mean? A state of armed conflict between "war" and "fighting"?

A: I believe the reason “war-fighting” is not entered in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is not that it denotes some intermediate stage between war and fighting, but that is self-explanatory. I believe it simply means “fighting a war.” We do not enter such self-explanatory compounds, which are almost infinite in number.

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