View Full Version : Americans Uneducated About War

08-30-2006, 09:34 PM
29 August San Antonio Express-News commentary - Insulated from Chaos, Americans are Uneducated About War (http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/stories/MYSA083006.2O.gurwitz.21b4bfa.html) by Jonathan Gurwitz.

... Israel fought a war in Lebanon for 34 days, and this man doesn't know anyone who didn't serve. The United States has fought one war for nearly five years and another for more than three years. And beyond some select communities, you'd be hard-pressed to find many people who know anyone who has served in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Israel's situation is, of course, unique. As an exceedingly small country in a very dangerous neighborhood, the threats it faces are frequently existential. Universal conscription is as much a matter of defense necessity as it is national ethos. Men serve for three years, women for two. And men like Hazan can be called up until they are 50, women until they are 24.

The decision to respond to Hezbollah's attack and go to war was one that Israelis knew would be felt in every Israeli home. Yet as the fighting ensued, polls showed public support for the war against Hezbollah consistently exceeded 90 percent...

Two decades before the cataclysm of the American Civil War, Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered a philosophical discourse on the role of war and peace in human development.

"War educates the senses, calls into action the will, perfects the physical constitution, brings men into such swift and close collision in critical moments that man measures man. On its own scale, on the virtues it loves, it endures no counterfeit, but shakes the whole society, until every atom falls into the place its specific gravity assigns it."

Unlike the Civil War, unlike Israeli wars, the war on terror does not shake the whole of American society. It shocks on occasion. It shoves its way into the national consciousness when some round number of casualties is reached. But in a nation of nearly 300 million people, the physical, financial and mortal burden of the current conflict is being borne by an exceedingly small number of American families.

There have been many foreign and domestic failures over the past five years. But a brief examination of Israeli society suggests the greatest failure has been the utter inability of our political leadership to convey the sense that we are engaged as a society in a real conflict of historical significance, one that demands sacrifice from more than only the volunteers of its armed forces.

08-30-2006, 10:52 PM
30 August Tech Central Station commentary - Bipolar Disorder: America's Schizophrenic View of Warfare (http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=083006B) by Josh Manchester (The Adventures of Chester (http://www.theadventuresofchester.com/) blog).

Our attempts to compare every conflict to World War II or Vietnam hinder our ability to fight different kinds of wars, including the current one.

In the pantheon of American warfare, no conflict garners as much popular admiration as the Second World War, which holds the title of ideal war...

Whereas World War II is the gold standard for US warfare in most Americans' reckoning, the specter of Vietnam forever haunts our every move in any conflict that does not appear to resemble World War II...

The result of these two national experiences is that warfare exists along a one-dimensional axis for most Americans. World War II exists as the positive terminal of this circuit, and Vietnam as the negative; the tendency then is to reinforce the one, while eschewing the other...

But deciding that only one kind of warfare is ever worth fighting is to leave the United States vulnerable to any other kind of warfare that its enemies might want to throw at it. And they always get a vote...

But we would be better served as a nation to take a cold, hard, sober look at our position in 2006 and note that while similarities can always be found throughout history, each incident is strikingly different and the future is never foretold. We would be better served as a nation to note that we are engaged in a counterinsurgency and nation-building campaign in Iraq that resembles Vietnam in some superficial ways, but does not make failure a foregone conclusion; and moreover, that while counterinsurgency tactics and strategies might currently apply in Iraq, that does not mean they will always apply everywhere, as a strategic monist might think. Indeed, our Navy and Air Force, which are simply supporting actors on the Iraqi stage, might well be the stars of any campaign to defang Iran's nuclear ambitions...

SSG Rock
08-31-2006, 08:27 PM
It is difficult for me to comprehend that fact that the anti war crowd laments the sacrifices we've made in Iraq, when in fact the only sacrificing going on is being done by the military alone.

In my blog I asked my one or two readers :D . What have you sacrificed? How has the war impacted your lifestyle with the exception of longer lines at the airport and possibly higher fuel prices? Wow! What a sacrifice.

Now I fully agree the administration has done an horrible job of clearly explaining what is expected of Americans back home regarding supporting the war. The president hasn't asked Americans to become involved, he hasn't rallied the folks back home. We need to be on a war footing like Israel does when they are at war, they get it. We don't. And as we know, this is having more impact on our war effort than the enemy is.

Steve Blair
09-01-2006, 01:18 PM
One of the reasons Americans have such a hard time putting this into context is that history has been so drastically gutted in the name of math and science education in our schools that we have produced a woefully ignorent cluster of generations. In this same vein, it also makes it very hard to compare the US on a wartime footing to Israel. Even during World War II, supposedly our most "total" war footing ever, the home front wasn't making sacrifices on the scale seen in the UK and elsewhere. There was much *talk* of sacrifice, but the action was really small by comparison. Even the Civil War touched the Northern populace in very small ways, all things considered (since if you had enough money you could pay someone to serve in your stead during the period of conscription). And it left most of the West (California, Utah, the territories) untouched for the most part (aside from the brief Texas campaigns in 1862 or so).

Most of America's wars have been short, and very few of them in the last 100 years or so have really threatened our existence. We don't really have an experience of war to draw on, and we're so used to our wars being distant, packaged, and almost sanitized for public consumption. This, I think, makes it easier for the protester community to take the stand it does. It also allows the far Right to take many of their positions.