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Dulce bellum inexpertis: America and war

by Sirocco Sat Jul 1st, 2006 at 10:36:59 AM EST

Ninety years ago today, one of the deadliest battles in human history began at the Somme. Four and a half months of vicious carnage would cost well over a million young lives in order to allow the Allied forces to expand 8 km and slightly relieve the French at Verdun, the scene of almost as savage slaughter.

It is worth remembering, in times like these, that the Battle of the Somme alone exacted twice as many European casualties as the US suffered, wounded included, during the Civil War the worst American war so far. That is one of the points made below the fold in a post originally written for the US Memorial Day, drawing its title from a treatise by Erasmus of Rotterdam.


Previously posted at my blog, Daily Kos, Booman Tribune, My Left Wing, and Bits of News.

If Western humanism has a preeminent advocate of the ages, it is Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (14561536). His Adagia (1515), a collection of proverbs with commentary, was the first bestseller in history. And its most popular essay is composed on an ancient aphorism: dulce bellum inexpertis "war is sweet to the inexperienced."

Written at a time when war had for perhaps the first time risen to rival disease and starvation the two traditional scourges of humanity Erasmus' essay has been called the founding tract of pacifism. But he was not a pacifist. Rather he insisted, against the grain of his times, that war be confined to a last resort of self-defense, for the excellent reason that "even the most successful and just war," waged by a good prince for a noble purpose, is prone to descend into unspeakable atrocities. Thus:

If there is any human activity which should be approached with caution, or rather which should be avoided by all possible means, resisted and shunned, that activity is war... [for] there is nothing more wicked, more disastrous, more widely destructive, more hateful, more unworthy in every respect of man, not to say a Christian.

Man, says Erasmus, is the one creation made entirely for friendly acts, yet in war his social disposition turns him into "a brute so monstrous that no beast will be called a brute in future if compared to man." After all, "When did anyone hear of a hundred thousand animals falling dead together after tearing each other to pieces, as men do everywhere?"

How is such perversion even possible? It is due to concerted campaigns for amnesia by which the bitter lessons of the past are unlearned. Though experience teaches that the expenses of bloodshed are ten times higher than those of peace with results much worse, the propaganda of clerics, lawyers, and princes has again made war "such a respectable thing that it is wicked I might almost say 'heretical' to disapprove of this which of all things is the most abominable and most wretched."

Five bloody centuries hence, another thoughtful commentator reflected on the difference between West Europeans and North Americans in this respect. William Pfaff, writing in The International Herald Tribune in January 2003, is worth quoting at length:

West Europeans, generally speaking... are interested in a slow development of civilized and tolerant international relations, compromising on problems while avoiding catastrophes along the way. They have themselves only recently recovered from the catastrophes of the first and second world wars, when tens of millions of people were destroyed. They don't want more.

American commentators like to think that the "Jacksonian" frontier spirit equips America to dominate, reform and democratize other civilizations. They do not appreciate that America's indefatigable confidence comes largely from never having had anything very bad happen to it.

The worst American war was the Civil War, in which the nation, North and South, suffered 498,000 wartime deaths from all causes, or slightly more than 1.5 percent of a total population of 31.5 million.

The single battle of the Somme in World War I produced twice as many European casualties as the United States suffered, wounded included, during that entire war.

There were 407,000 American war deaths in World War II, out of a population of 132 million - less than a third of 1 percent. Considering this, Washington does not really possess the authority to explain, in condescending terms, that Europe's reluctance to go to war is caused by a pusillanimous reluctance to confront the realities of a Hobbesian universe.

Pfaff adds the following observation:

The difference between European and American views is more sensibly explained in terms of an irresponsible and ideology-fed enthusiasm of Bush administration advisers and leaders for global adventure and power, fostered by people with virtually no experience, and little seeming imaginative grasp, of what war means for its victims.

It cannot be emphasized too often that not one of the principal figures associated with the Bush White House's foreign policy, with the exception of Colin Powell, has any actual experience of war, most of them having actively sought to avoid military service in Vietnam.

Evidently, not just individuals but the whole country has ignored central lessons of "what war means for its victims." As International Law scholar Richard Falk has put it in The Nation:

Typically, the Vietnamese are treated as an alien and cruel backdrop for an essentially American encounter with death and dying. A concern about misrepresentation of the war was vividly expressed by W.D. Ehrhart, a Vietnam veteran who was in the Marines...: "You know, the Vietnam War, we imagine it's this thing that happened to us when, in fact, the Vietnam War is this thing we did to them."

In mainstream US discourse, the unforgivable flaws of the Vietnam War are that it was (1) lost at (2) by US standards, a hefty cost in American lives (3) without clear US interests at stake. The scholars debate which was more instrumental in eroding support for the war. It is clear, however, that either dwarfs the fact that it (4) involved grave war crimes such as free fire zones; the deployment of the most poisonous chemical weapons known to science in civilian areas; and the bombing back to the stone age of Laos and Cambodia at an officially estimated cost of respectively 350,000 and 600,000 civilian lives.

Certainly the US military and political establishment had no significant qualms about (4). Anyone in doubt about this should contemplate SIOP-62, the top secret contingency plan for US nuclear first strike. Effective from 1962, this plan mandated a nuclear annihilation of not just the USSR but also its enemy China in the event of suspicious Soviet troop movements. Thus it prescribed the murder of up to a hundred million innocent citizens of a non-belligerent nation posing no threat to any NATO country. Anything less, explained the head of the Strategic Air Command, General Thomas Powers, "would really screw up the plan."

The 2004 release of these utterly sinister documents failed to cause any noticeable stir in the US public, even though they prove that America was ready, at a moment's notice, to carry out a nuclear holocaust making every previous genocide pale in comparison. One shudders to imagine what Erasmus would have said of this ultimate deviation from his or any conception of justifiable warfare.

Or, to return to the current malaise, whatever would he have made of the following sermon, given at a time when only 25 percent of Americans thought the Iraq War a mistake?

We're all neocons now... We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple.

Chris Matthews, MSNBC Hardball, April 2003

Now the warmongering pundits who shilled for that bungled war are using virtually indistinguishable rhetoric to enable another "preventive" onslaught; one that might need to avail itself of nuclear weapons as a tactical necessity. The leading political commentator on America's most trusted television network thunders: "You know in a sane world, every country would unite against Iran and blow it off the face of the Earth. That would be the sane thing to do."

Are such odious operators met with a firestorm of popular derision from the US public? Not outside of liberal blogs.

Apart from 9/11 and the events of 150 years ago, the American people still has no experience of being at the receiving end of "this which of all things is the most abominable and most wretched," but which remains so sweet to the inexperienced.

Display:
Excellent.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 1st, 2006 at 12:21:42 PM EST
I'll quote agains your extract :

They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war.

This is normalcy in US, 2003. I can't think of another democracy sexualizing war this way.

I have given hope about that : i think the militaristic/nationalistic drift will go on.

by yabonn (yabonn_fr@hotmail.com) on Sat Jul 1st, 2006 at 03:34:34 PM EST
Are such odious operators met with a firestorm of popular derision from the US public? Not outside of liberal blogs.

You imply that only liberal bloggers are vocally opposed to it.  When in fact, the only dissent you hear is on liberal blogs because the rest of the media is in the pockets of those who want another war.

I don't deny that there are idiots who want us to bomb Iran.  But you are wrong is supposing the media is the messenger of popular debate rather than the controller of it.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Sat Jul 1st, 2006 at 04:29:45 PM EST
Are "the rest of the media" suffering in terms of ratings? Are people tuning out of right-wing talk radio? How about Faux news?

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 1st, 2006 at 05:06:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am so not talking about the Rush Limbaughs and Fox Newses...

The mainstream media.  Are people turning away from them?  Well, they've deen turning way in droves for decades.  The corporatists who back this Admin also back the media.  Doesn't mean they are "right wing" so much as afraid to say the wrong things for fear of consequences and the belief (possibly true) that the more dumbed down everything is, the higher the ratings.  The NYT and WaPo are more obvioulsy ideologically linked to the Admin.  Anyway, most Americans don't think Chris Matthews speaks for them.  

Anyway, I suppose you all might sleep better at night thinking we are all war mongering ignorant beasts, because that's a handy little fucking explanation.  And you all can compare 9-11 to WWII and chide and blame and talk about had baaaad and wrooong we are, but unless you were an American on 9-11, you do not have one fucking clue what it did to this country and how it directly led to the visceral fear and group think, and, if such a thing exists, group not-think because the truth was simply too frightenning and painfull and against everything they were ever taught to bear, that made the war in Iraq and all the policies since that day possible.

The truth is always more complex that you imagine it is.  You can choose to accept that fact or not, but if you don't you can rely on never learning anything from it.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 08:39:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I lived through 9/11 in the US and I think I have a pretty good idea of what it did to the country and of the groupthink and visceral fear. The difference between my first year in the US and the 3+ years after 9/11 is scary to me.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 08:49:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The NYT and WaPo are more obvioulsy ideologically linked to the Admin.  Anyway, most Americans don't think Chris Matthews speaks for them.  
I certainly agree with your Chris Mathews comment!  (And many other points you make including those on 9/11).  The one that does surprise me is the above NYT comment (I don't read or know much about WaPo).  But I'm under the impression that the NYT absolutely hates George Bush.  I'm thinking of this latest "leak brouhaha", the National Guard story with the forged documents, misquotes of a Kissinger letter several years ago; they didn't recommend Bush for President in either campaign.  I feel like I could go on and on, but it almost seems like a full scale war on the administration.  What leads you to see them as linked to the Admin?
by wchurchill on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 12:20:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, yes, well that was quite a little backlash!  Fun to watch too.  

Ok, I should have qualified that statement with "until recently".  I was thinking of their critical aid in convincing the country Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and needed to be invaded straight away...

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 08:29:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]

but unless you were an American on 9-11, you do not have one fucking clue what it did to this country and how it directly led to the visceral fear and group think, and, if such a thing exists, group not-think because the truth was simply too frightenning and painfull and against everything they were ever taught to bear, that made the war in Iraq and all the policies since that day possible.

That's the difference between Europe and the USA, in a nutshell.

You really think that it's a unique event and that the slide into fear, fearmongering and group think was inevitable (even if you personally deeply regret it).

We don't think it's such a unique event, and we did not think that the slide into fear, fearmongering and group think was inevitable. We did see it as possible, and warned about it, but I guess we trusted Americans not to go crazy more than you did yourselves.

Obviously we were wrong - and that doesn't mean that all Americans went crazy, but that enough let those in power get away with what they did out of loyatly, fear or a sense of righteous revenge.

Is it anti-Americanism to write the above? I don't think so, but maybe it's not up to me to decide that. But it is certainly a strong strand of opinion over here in Europe, again, fed by our own not so old experience with war, destruction and, yes, large scale terrorism.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 06:43:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not Anti-Americanism but rather a bit of a vast generalization.  There are many differences between Americans and Europeans, and if you look hard enough, you will find them. ;)

But this:You really think that it's a unique event and that the slide into fear, fearmongering and group think was inevitable (even if you personally deeply regret it).

No I don't and did not say that.  It was unique FOR US, not "to us.".  Not that no one else has gone through it (and if you've read my writing here, and I know you have, you will know I often compare our mistakes with those of former empires, ahem...)  What I meant was that we'd never experienced it ourselves.  And so we were not psychologically prepared to deal with the resulting trauma in a way that probably most of the rest of the world has would be.  

If you have to go there, then the "big difference" between us and Europe is probably that we are less experienced.  Which is not a fault but a simple fact.  We have lots of faults too.  This is not one of them.  

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 08:36:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I should have been clearer. I think we agree.


You really think that it's a unique event and that the slide into fear, fearmongering and group think was inevitable (even if you personally deeply regret it).

The "you" in the first part of the sentence is a collective "You Americans, whereas the secnd part of the sentence was addressed to you personally, (or at least as a representative of the thoughful liberal).

I agree that the difference in experiences is a fact - and it's actually one of the facts that have contributed to American exceptionalism in a good way (the "new start", etc...). what's been so disquieting has been the refusal to learn  from - even the arrogant dismissal of - the experience of others.

Kids really have to get burned to learn to listen not to touch the fire. It's a fact, but it's still disappointing, and somewhat painful to onlookers.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 09:05:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Kids really have to get burned to learn to listen not to touch the fire.

This sums it up pretty well.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 09:10:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Americans are not less "experienced" in war than Europeans, it's just that, to paraphrase the Marine Sirocco quotes, for Americans war is something that America does whereas Europeans perceive it as something that happens. This is because, after doing war to ourselves with abandon, we decided 60 years ago that "never again". Americans cannot be said to not have beeen touched by war with the huge amount of veterans around. But it's different to have a veteran in the family or a refugee, as it is different to have a combat casualty vs. "collateral damage".

If I am not mistaken, the only EU country to have waged a victorious war since WWII is Britain, against Argentina, and it happened to them as Argentina was the aggressor. But winning a war may have removed the war-weariness the UK acquired after WWI and especially after WWII.

Has there been a generation of Americans that hasn't been involved in a war abroad? At home, it's been the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

That should explain a lot of the difference in outlook. It should also explain why the grandchildren of the European Fascists of the 1930's are giving us so many headaches as we speak.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 09:26:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
UK won, but they lost the command ship right away and their determination seemed shaken in the news at the time. Not exactly the kind of experience that makes you want to try again. But of course, when following the biggest brute in the school, you feel more confident that you'll be on the right side of the bullying.

Also note that most EU countries had some level of implication in the first gulf war, which they technically "won", at the cost of the lives of hundreds of hastily conscripted iraqis at a time when the country was something like 14 million folks, may be up to 5% of all living males in just 6 months. And the infrastructure was blasted, and never properly rebuild during the embargo. This compares well with WWI-scale devastation. Zero-coverage in the western media. The 2003 invasion was milder in this respect, but the total dislocation of civil order under US rule will eventually kill more, and not just conscripts this time.

Pierre
by Pierre on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 09:37:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The level of implication of, say, Spain, which amounted to small logistical support, doesn't register in the nation's consciousness as waging war. In fact, Spanish governments are forced to go through contortions in Parliament to show that our troops are not involved in combat operations. And that was a UN sanctioned action. I don't know about other EU countries.

The difference in attitude to war in the popular conscience is made starkly clear by comparing the following two films about servicemembers lost in hostile territory during the Balkan wars:

By the way, Calparsoro's Guerreros is the only serious war movie made in Spain that I am aware of.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 09:48:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, not less experienced at war, less experienced at living with the possibility that someone might bomb their city on their way to work.

Americans war is something that America does whereas Europeans perceive it as something that happens.

Exactly.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 12:25:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I am not mistaken, the only EU country to have waged a victorious war since WWII is Britain, against Argentina, and it happened to them as Argentina was the aggressor.

Well, in the NATO led campaign against Serbia in 1999 a lot of EU countries were involved and it ended of course in favour of NATO.  I do not agree with you when you say that war only "happens" to European countries.  All wars are wanted, more or less, because there are always choices, but the question is whether the alternative is better or worse than going to war.
     

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 12:45:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I say war is perceived by Europeans as happening and I did not say "to them". But you're right. Part of the problem is that the memory of WWII and even of decolonization is wearing off.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 12:55:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, the Kosovo war did not happen in a vacuum. The Balkan wars did "happen to us" and it took us 8 years to actually get involved as belligerent. I don't think people are happy to have been involved in Kosovo in the way we did. I know I am not. But this is a debate we have had on other threads (involving UpstateNY as well).

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 01:07:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I don't think war is not even perceived as happening by many Europeans.  I think it is very much a deliberate thought and a conscience behind not going to war at the earliest possible opportunity.  Still, an important memory of WWII was that you should try to avoid going to war whenever it is possible, not whenever you can, and that sometimes war is unavoidable.  

That said many countries today, including the US, seem to have included war into the political toolbox instead of trying to avoid it when possible.
   

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 01:21:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gary J has made the point quite forcefully that Britain went into WWII already war-weary. It is true that two don't fight if one doesn't want to, but that one does get a beating either way.

Until a war is lost on the home turf it doesn't seem to have a noticeable effect on militarism.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 01:25:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 "If you have to go there, then the "big difference" between us and Europe is probably that we are less experienced.  Which is not a fault but a simple fact.  We have lots of faults too.  This is not one of them."

  Think about what it means to claim that "we [Americans] are less experienced."

  For me, a person of 60 years of age has had some 60 years of "experience" and so on.

  The demographics of nations certainly differ--sometime greatly.  But Western Europe's demographic profile is not tremendously different from that of the United States.

  This means something: namely, it means that far, far more Europeans of 18 to 35 years of age--none of whom can personally remember World War II or the Vietnam war-- understood the actual import of what the Bush administration was embarked upon before the "point of  no return" had been reached than did Americans of 18 to 35 years of age.

  It isn't "experience" per se which so marks the difference between so many Americans of the U.S. and their peers in Europe.  It is something better described as "maturity", "gravitas", "worldliness".  If that hurts to hear, I am not sorry.  I believe it's a fact and a fair one.

 Last night, on the return Métro to my neighborhood, I was among fewer than fifteen people aboard a car.  There were two young Americans--of between 18 and 24 years old.  They were, like, you know, so typical of like, oh my God, so many Americans their age.  And they were infants !  In their speech, in their immature behavior, gestures, you name it-- they advertised themselves as having very little acquaintance with anything that could be mistaken for a serious thought.

  They giggled, they mugged for each other in poses before their digital camera, they were loud, they spoke in breathless excitement about the trivia which is of consuming consumer interest to young Americans their age--movies, music, fashions, this, that or the other guy of the moment.  On there person they had nothing to read, nothing to write with.  They had, on the other hand, an I-Pod-like device in addition to the digital camera.

  These are the sort of people who have never read a newspaper for the news content; have never voted; have no idea who their representatives are in Congress; no nothing of the procedures of law and legislation; and who regard life as being for amusement and the most superficial pleasures-- and no one shall expect anything more than that from them.

  Yes, there are, it's true, people like them of their age in every European nation.

  But those young people are not nearly so typical of their nationwide peerage as are these two young Americans.  To the extent that European youth is coming more and more to resemble American youth, that is largely due to the enormous consumer-driven influence which American-made products of mass-entertainment have had in Europe.  It is rightly a cause for concern here.  Because many more Europeans saw to their evident horror that, given the most direct and plain-spoken explanations from Europeans in their scores of millions of the disaster Bush was leading Americans into, these Americans--typified by these two youths, simply failed utterly to grasp the message: you're being flim-flammed into a war for completely bogus rationales.

  To understand that did not require great intellectual sophistication.  But it obviously required more than most Americans were capable of showing.

  That is the problem and the major difference, in my opinion.

  No one else on the Métro car behaved anything like these two.  And that is usually the case.

  My countrymen are children--emotionally immature children.  And, if you point this out to them, they'll usually throw a tantrum.

  Go figure.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 09:32:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]

 er, that should have been,

 "know nothing of the procedures of law and legislation..."

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 09:35:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 corrected:

 "Because what many more Europeans than Americans could see, to their evident horror, was that, even given their most direct and plain-spoken explanations, offered by Europeans in their scores of millions, of precisely what the disaster Bush was leading Americans into and of just what it would mean for the people of the U.S., the great majority of  Americans--typified by these two youths--simply failed utterly to grasp the message: you're being flim-flammed into a war for completely bogus rationales."


"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 09:46:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, I would love to come over here and start judging the French on their tourists here...  Sheesh...

Judgemental much?

So easy to judge when you are sitting comfortably over there I guess.  Running away from problems instead of facing them...  Whatever.  See it didn't take long for you to adopt that elitist attitude Europeans are so famous for.

Sorry if that hurts to hear...

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 12:29:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 ... interest in one's society is 'elitist'?

 If that makes me "elitist" then, fine, I'm elitist.

  It's the favorite rebuttal to those who won't accept the continuing drop of the lowest common denominator.

  Judgement--of others, of one's self--in measuring up or not to our responsibilities to ourselves and each other is a responsibility in itself.  And it's a responsibility in which most Americans are today failing, in my opinion.

 " Wow, I would love to come over here and start judging the French on their tourists here...  Sheesh..."

  Too funny.  You know what?  You do do this, too.  

That's right, you, I, and everyone who does not take the immense conscious effort to stop himself from engaging in what is a basic reflexive activity does judge them-- the French, the Whites, the whatever-the-case-may-be.  Except in very extraordinary circumstances, we can't help but make such judgements.

  So when you reply, "Wow, I would love to come over here and start judging the French on their tourists here...  Sheesh..." I answer, "Why not?  Be my guest!"  I don't have to judge the French as tourists.  I can and I do judge them at their ease at home in France.  

  You're right on one thing, though.  Judgements can be made unfairly and too easily.  It ought to be borne in mind and guarded against--though it cannot always be successfully avoided.  So, then, what to do?  Not make judgements?  Not an option.


Judgemental much?

 Yes, very much.  Like you.  The major difference being that you can delude yourself with the idea that you don't do the same.  It's the pqrt about not being aware that we do judge that leaves us free to judge others in a rather irresponsible manner.

  Do you want to live in a society the reigning ethic of which is : "Whatever.  Just don't you dare judge me!" ?  If so, then you're in "luck" because that's the sort of society in which you do live.

  I notice that, your indignation apart, your reply had nothing to dispute my observations on their merits.  What you object to is not that I've been unfair but rather that I dared to voice the judgements at all.  

  I suspect that you judge Bush and Cheney.  I suspect that you find them wanting.  

  You're right to do so.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 11:18:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How does the right wing manage to control all the news sources?

Here in Colorado Springs, which is more or less the center of the pit, the local newspaper pretty much spouts the administration line (although not in regards to out-of-control spending nor privacy issues), and has a daily circulation of around 200,000 copies, according to http://www.gazette.com/advertise/market.html

The metro area has a population of 550,000, and also supports a free weekly paper with a circulation of about 36,000. The Independent represents a leftist viewpoint (caveat: this is America; no Commies need apply) that reads much like DailyKos or similar blogs. Given the overwhelmingly right-wing politics of the area, one might expect the papers to be burnt in the street, or the paper's offices to be firebombed. But they aren't.

How does an operation like this continue, if the media is controlled by the right wing?

I suspect that the answer is complicated by America's generally conservative politics even amongst what we think of as "liberals." The New York Times or Washington Post aren't controlled by the right, they just reflect the current thinking of what passes here for a left.

by asdf on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 03:25:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the corollaries of Freedom of Speech is Freedom to Ignore. It no longer matters if divergent opinions or facts are published so long has they do not unduly irritate the strategic information market.

What counts in information is to control the high ground and win the major campaigns. The rest, which often includes damning evidence, is relegated to petty off-screen skirmishes.

When minority information sources consolidate their presence, there's indirect repression. In the 70's the underground press in the US was harassed to extinction by anti-pornography laws and the consequential court and lawyer fees.

In the case of a serious web menace to the information monopoly, anti-terrorist laws or voodoo proprietary laws will be enacted to put us back in our places if not in jail.

Whatever, mainstream Freedom of Speech will continue to be as enticing as Bush's plastic Thanksgiving turkeys.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 05:44:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who said anything about the right wing?

Last time I checked, Dems voted for the war in Iraq.  Last time I checked, they were still bending over for this Admin.  Last time I checked, they were still bought and paid for just like the newsmedia.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 08:41:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From this side of the pond, the Dems are right-wing. At least many of them.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 08:44:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are.


Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 09:23:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Different national, generational and personal experiences affect how a country reacts to war and the possibility of war.

It is noticeable that the generations of British politicians who had fought in the First and Second World Wars were much less keen to fight unnecessary wars than people like Tony Blair with no military experience. That is not to say that politicians with combat experience would never start a war, but that most would need more convincing that it was in the national interest.

It is interesting to compare the spirit in which Britain went to war in 1914 and 1939.

In 1914 a country, which had not been involved in a really major war since the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo 99 years earlier, approached the prospect of a great power conflict in a completely unrealistic manner. It was all going to be over by Christmas. The expectation of an easy victory proved an illusion.

In 1939 the popular mood seems to have been totally different. I have seen it described as a spirit of grim determination. I suspect the people expected the mew war would be worse than the last one, but accepted that it was unavoidable.

The struggle against Al Qaeda and similar groups is extremely trivial compared to the historic experience of both Europe and North America. To quote Senator Fulbright about Cuba it is "a thorn in the flesh not a dagger in the heart". It is a catastrophic failure of historic imagination to regard 9/11 in New York or 7/7 in London as being more significant than say the Battles of Gettysburg or the Somme, when far more people died and the real risk to the nation(s) involved was far greater.

by Gary J on Sat Jul 1st, 2006 at 05:05:42 PM EST
Excellent diary. Keep up the good work.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Jul 1st, 2006 at 08:14:35 PM EST
Your diary correctly acknowledges that America's actions in the "war on terror", Iraq and Afghanistan are, in fact, America's view of the world, and its foreign policy.  You are correct that these views are challenged on "liberal blogs", but when the votes are cast by both houses of Congress, these postions on American foreign policy are upheld.  The upcoming November elections will be an important test of American views five years after 9/11, and determining if these views have changed.

Apart from 9/11 and the events of 150 years ago, the American people still has no experience of being at the receiving end of "this which of all things is the most abominable and most wretched," but which remains so sweet to the inexperienced.
You take a historical perspective and challenge America's judgement on wars, referencing the American Civil War of 1860,,,,suggesting that a toll of deaths is the prerequiste for accurate insight.  

I'm curious, given your historical perspective going back to 1860, what your views are on the American contribution to your European wars are.  These wars are of course much closer in time, in your historical perspective,, than the American civil war.  How does the American decision to participate in these European wars, giving American blood and dollars, play into your analysis?

by wchurchill on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 02:41:45 AM EST
If you want to know which wars are significant in changing public attitudes to war, you have to look at the effects on infrastructure.

WWII left the US infrastructure intact, if not enhanced by the war effort.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 04:24:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How does the American decision to participate in these European wars, giving American blood and dollars, play into your analysis?

Blood and treasure...

I don't know about treasure (though the US did not have its infrastructure blown to smithereens) but wen it comes to blood:

US: 2% of Allied military deaths.

US military deaths are 1% of allied civilian deaths, to which the US contributed a negligible amount.

Your diary correctly acknowledges that America's actions in the "war on terror", Iraq and Afghanistan are, in fact, America's view of the world, and its foreign policy.  You are correct that these views are challenged on "liberal blogs", but when the votes are cast by both houses of Congress, these postions on American foreign policy are upheld.  The upcoming November elections will be an important test of American views five years after 9/11, and determining if these views have changed.
So because the American people vote for politicians who support war and militarism, it is not possible to criticize the morality or convenience of US policy, or to question the militarism of American culture?

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 05:08:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
for the War in the Pacific. ie US + Anzac + GB versus v  Japan would present a different picture however.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 07:14:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a god point. Will try to dig up statistics and maybe make my own graph (those are from Wikipedia).

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 05:52:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wrote a diary about the Somme I posted on Kos and Bootrib. You may know that the first day saw the highest day's casualties for the British Army in any battle. To give an idea of the extent, I factored it up by using the 1916 British population figures and the current USA ones. In those terms, there were more British killed on 1 july 1916 than there are American service personnel in Iraq today. The same percentage of the population of the USA as British killed in WWI equates to over 5 million.

Other countries suffered greater losses but I wanted to give an idea of the iconic impact of that one battle.

by Londonbear on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 12:29:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So because the American people vote for politicians who support war and militarism, it is not possible to criticize the morality or convenience of US policy, or to question the militarism of American culture?
I find your comments here, along with Sven and Jerome, very helpful.  I think it's because they have drawn out some reasons for the differences between American and European perspective on these issues.  My opinion is that the differences between American and European perspective on certain issues, is that their world views are different.  And what is moral under one set of assumptions on world view, may look very immoral if one has a different set of assumptions.  but I guess the answer to your question is yes.
by wchurchill on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 09:33:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I happen to think America's militarism is a problem because of how pervasive it is. As you live or have lived in California where most of the US Marines are stationed, you know it is next to impossible not to have a former or serving marine as a neighbour. To me the common display of military paraphernalia in a civilian setting is deeply disturbing (see my comment below about civil wars for a peek into why). Also, even though I was born after Franco's death and know rationally that the Spanish police is democratic and civilized (though there is some dirty laundry in Amnesty International's reports that should be more widely acknowledged), I cannot help but feel the urge to sross to the other side of the road if I see police approaching. The sight of armed police or military at airports or public buildings does not make me feel safe but distresses me. I think it is a disgrace that the UK has started to arm its police. And American police are —sorry— too much of cowboys to me with their near flaunting of their handguns.

But, as someone from whom I had reason to expect better told me in late 2002... "Do you intend to become a US citizen? No? Well, shut up, then."

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 09:53:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your comments remind me of how our perceptions are so incredibly influenced by our experiences.  I think I can understand, based on your brief descriptions of your past, that you would have very negative intuitive experiences toward police and military.  You've clearly been in situations where you should have felt threatened by those groups.

My experiences have been different.  I've been confronted by police in my younger years,,,,but in my situation (different from yours), in retrospect I should have been confronted by police.

I have not had negative experiences with the military.  I considered joining the Marines, but family and educational circumstances prevented it.  I would never cross the street to avoid someone from the police or military--actually I think they deserve the same feeling of gratitude that I feel toward nurses and doctors.

But I fully appreciate that I might feel as you do, if I had a similar experiences as yours.

by wchurchill on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 04:15:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, you don't get it. I have had no negative experiences of police and military, but culturally I just get a gut reaction in the presence of armed enforcers. This stuff is now part of the collective psyche of Spain if wuch a thing exists.

My interactions with American police have also been positive, but they freak me out all the same.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 05:18:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We actually agree:

Me: Also, even though I was born after Franco's death and know rationally that the Spanish police is democratic and civilized (though there is some dirty laundry in Amnesty International's reports that should be more widely acknowledged), I cannot help but feel the urge to sross to the other side of the road if I see police approaching. The sight of armed police or military at airports or public buildings does not make me feel safe but distresses me.

You: I would never cross the street to avoid someone from the police or military--actually I think they deserve the same feeling of gratitude that I feel toward nurses and doctors.

But it's a cultural thing. American socialization is militaristic (you may resist my characterization, but it doesn't make it less obvious to the outsider), the Spanish one is anti-militaristic.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 05:21:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for these comments.  I think I'm understanding it better.  and I guess in the sense that you are using the word "militaristic" in your comments, you are correct.  There is quite an acceptance of the military in most of American society.  In fact, last night there were events where I am, and I think parallel events all over the country, honoring our troops and trying to visibly show that the country is thankful for their efforts, and respect what they do.  (and I'm in northern California where a very significant % are against the war, but many of those do still respect and honor the troops).

As I think about the event, it probably was very American, and "militaristic" in the sense you are using the word.  It was all around a baseball game.  Many from the armed forces were there,,,,a wounded soldier "threw out the first pitch"--I imagine you know what that means Migeru, but perhaps many on the site do not---the President of the US usually throws out the first pitch for the baseball team in Washington DC for the first game of the year (now that DC once again has a baseball team).

There were very few commercial breaks between innings, and instead baseball players were talking directly to individual troops in Iraq on a direct satellite feed.  Everyone tried to keep their emotions in control, but more than once you could hear an announcers voice crack.

When I lived in London there were events that honored the sacrifices made by troops in WWI and WWII, and I went to a few of them and sensed there was also a deep sense of respect and thankfulness for people that had fought, and died, in those wars.  So I think I just have had the impression that this kind of respect was common around the world, and celebrated in a similar fashion to what happens in Amerrica.

America started with a war for independence, and every child in school learns that lesson pretty well.  So I guess there is a culture that starts early around having "won" our freedoms, and fought for them over the years, that is very supportive of the military.  And admittedly it really ticks me off when Colman insists on calling a portion of our military unemployed, or underemployed--that likely comes from this American culture as it relates to the military.

by wchurchill on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 01:42:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
America started with a war for independence, and every child in school learns that lesson pretty well.
America starts at different historical junctions depending on what people want to emphasize, that is the problem with historiography.

America sometimes starts with the Puritan "Pilgrims" on the Mayflower. It sometimes starts with the War of Independence. The choice of when to start depends on, and imposes, a certain way of looking at things. In the case of Spain, it used to be traditional to start the history of Spain with the Visigoth successor kingdom to the Roman Empire, but in my opinion that's just because it was convenient ideologically to then present the reconquista from Muslim rule as a crusading war of national and religious liberation, a lesson that every child in school was expected to learn well.

In truth, Spain cannot be said to exist before 1469, and in my opinion it would be appropriate to put the starting point in 1713. We have a war of Independence (from Napoleon) in 1808-1812, resulting in a Liberal Constitution, but when the King returned from exile in 1813 people received him with the cry "hail our chains" and the constitution was abolished in 1814.

What children learn in School is a politically motivated fairy tale that needs to be unlearned.

Also, Spain was a superpower in the 16th century and we still haven't recovered from the damage that did to us. Good luck with America, you'll need it.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 06:05:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
good point really,,,,and I think my words were poorly chosen.  The American Revolutionary War is emphasized in American history.  But you're certainly correct that as it is taught, the Pilgrims are certainly heavily emphasized, and likely would be chosen by most as a starting point.  and of course America really in many ways started before that, in Europe, with an English focus--at least in the way it's taught.  And it's interesting because the Pilgrim story emphasizes the search for individual freedoms, and for religious freedoms,,,,also very strong themes that are taught to our children.
by wchurchill on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 07:11:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sure if you think about it you can justify starting at the end of the Civil War as well.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 4th, 2006 at 07:16:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Presumably American history classes do not emphasise that most of the puritans wanted the freedom to oppress religious minorities in their own colonies.

Religious tolerance in early America was more common in colonies like Maryland and Pennsylvania, where the proprietors of the colony belonged to religious minorities amongst the colonists (Catholic and Quaker respectively).

It is also interesting that the settlement of New England is emphasised more than the earlier settlements in Virginia (the first successful English colony in what became the United States). Was that because the history textbooks were written by northerners after the Civil War? Perhaps the narrative of New England history was more easily distorted to fit the American myth of freedom than for the southern colonies with their economies based on slavery.

by Gary J on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 06:00:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The history of any nation as taught to schoolchildren is like the Bible for children: the friendlier episodes are cherry-picked to make a fairy tale [for instance, there is no mention of Onan, or Sodom and Gomorrah, to avoid uncomfortable questions from the children]. It's only the fully indoctrinated adult that is not discouraged from delving into the darker passages, because he is more susceptible to arguments rationalizing them away.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 5th, 2006 at 06:06:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The effect on treasure is simple: Bretton Woods. Total US  $$$ supremacy, still lasting today even with the deficit and the gold-standard ditched. Actually, WWII was the only true "keynesian" remedy that pulled America out of the Great Depression. The New Deal was homeopathy.

Pierre
by Pierre on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 09:14:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(I wrote something similar earlier today, but it was eaten up by the machine)

wc, I think you miss the distinction between losing soldiers in a war, especially a faraway one, and having a country ravaged by war.

Do you know that, to this date, whole neighboroods of cities in Northeastern France regularly need to be evacuated in full as old unexploded WW1 or WW2 ordnance, bombs or explosives are found on construction sites and need to be defused?

Do you know that towns and villages were so thoroughly destroyed during WW1 that they were never rebuilt, are unhabited to this day, and that nothing has grown in some fields since then?

Do you have any idea what it means to have whole generations grow up as orphans when one third to one half of whole age classes were wiped out?

Do you have any idea what it means to have multimillion inhabitant cities be under siege for years, and go through overwhelming death and destruction?

So, yes, we can be grateful to American soldiers for fighting against Nazi Germany, and still think today - indeed believe down to our bones  - that war is best avoided.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 03:59:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru's, Sven's and your comments are accurate and meaningful.  America has not had to suffer as Europe and much of the rest of the world in the horrors of war--either in a loss of life, or loss of infracstructure, nor the long lasting impacts of these wars that you have identified.  I think our Civil War tore the nation asunder, and with very long lasting effects, and left some of these scars.  The brother against brother aspect of that civil war made it meaningful in my family well into the 1960's.  Though as Migeru points out, it would appear the deaths on a percentage basis, even in that conflict, do not compare to the European experience.  And this difference may indeed partially explain the different outlooks on the military, and on security.

I do think war is a very last choice, and I think most Americans agree--a choice of last resort.  But rightfully or wrongfully, one of the lessons many Americans drew from WWII, was that dictatorships can be evil, and without the natural constraint on war of a democracy.  Many feel that the reluctance of Europeans to address Hitler earlier, allowed him to gain confidence, and military strength, and led to a far more difficult war than would have happened had the situation been addressed earlier.  IMO, the horror of 9/11 and the realization that it was not the first al Qaeda attack, but in fact one in a series of attacks, each growing in their destruction, led to a view that this must be addressed now,,,,and not postponed to face an ever more powerful enemy later.  (Obviously not all Americans agree,,,,but votes in Congress as well as votes in national elections continue to support this view.  This could change in November '06).

I asked if America's support of its allies with blood and treasure in WWI, WWII, the Cold War, and other smaller efforts didn't "win" it some historical perspective on these matters as well.  I think it does, but your comments do demonstate that Europe's experience has been more brutal,,,,more meaningful in many ways,,,,and does postulate that there is some naivite in the American perspective.

by wchurchill on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 09:01:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another thing: a large number of European countries have had civil wars more recently than the US. If your family was scarred for 100 years...

Russia had the February Revolution, then the October revolution, then the White-Red civil war, then WWII where it bore the brunt of both civilian and military deaths.

Spain had a devastating civil war in the 1930's that many consider to be a prelude to WWII.

In many countries of occupied Europe there were mosrtly leftist resistance/partisan movements against collaborationist regimes. That may count as low-level civil war. around the ned of WWII, countries like Greece experienced civil wars in which the communist partisans were pitted against reconstructed fascists with Western support.

And let's not even talk of the recent history of the Balkans...

We still have living memory of these civil wars. I don't know about Greece, but Spain still hasn't fully confronted its civil war and the 35 years of dictatorship that followed. Spain and Greece are hotbeds of what the American press ignoranly calls "knee-jerk anti-americanism". There's no knee-jerk involved in resenting who propped up, supported, or tolerated our dictators as useful anti-communists.

Markos, Sukarno, Suharto, Pinochet, Videla, Trujillo, Somoza, ring a bell?

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 09:42:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But Russia suffered horribly in the second world war, so according to this model she should be a pacifist country like Sweden. I'm not very convinced by the model...
by asdf on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 12:06:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Russia also believes - rightly to a large extent - that they won that war, and that it was a righteous victory. Few other countries were in that position, having either been invaded/defeated by the axis, or being part of the axis, and having to deal either with that final defeat, or the earlier defeat and collaboration/occupation, not to mention the little matter of the Final Solution to which many countries participated in directly or indirectly.

Even the UK, although it had none of theses issues, was left with significant damage, and more importantly utterly exhausted, after the war.

Apart from the US and the USSR, few had any reason to feel righteous. Europe lost a good chunk of its righteousness then, and the decolonization process then sealed that for good (for now, anyway), I think.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 06:37:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow.  I think you just hit the nail on the head.  

The US and Russia do feel they ... not just won the war, but that it was a righteous victory.  I see a pretty clear connection between this fact and the current military postures of these countries...  

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 08:42:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This post covers a number of aspects of war, peace and national strategies. I hope it makes sense to include them in a single post.

The British also feel that they won the second world war and that it was a righteous victory.

However, whereas the USA and USSR emerged from the war as the superpowers of the post-war era, the British victory was a pyrrhic one. The general view was that the war had to be fought, but the cost was very high.

There was an alternative policy that could have been followed and might, at terrible moral cost, have preserved the Empire for a little longer. This was the hope of some appeasers in the 1930's and the pro-negotiation faction in the British government in 1940. It is the thesis of modern right-wing revisionist historians (ie Andrew Roberts).

In effect it would have involved conceding primacy on the European mainland to Germany. This would represent the total collapse of the balance of power policy pursued by every English and British government for the previous four hundred years, on the basis that only a power controlling most of western Europe could seriously threaten the British Isles.

My own suspicion is that if Britain had not opposed Germany in 1939 or negotiated peace in 1940, it would only guarantee that when the next war started the relative balance of power would be less favourable to the UK. The only alternatives would seem to involve becoming an ally of Nazi Germany or hoping that the Germans and Soviets damaged each other so severely that no European hegemonic power existed for more than a few years.

The hypothetical Peace of 1940 might in retrospect havve become like the Peace of Amiens with Napoleon, a short interruption in a generation of war.

I think the above can be summarised as saying that war is terrible, but sometimes the alternative is worse.

The issue for our time is whether it is sensible to regard the "War on Terror" as an unavoidable conflict or a problem that is best addressed by other than mostly military means.

My own opinion is that the conflict probably is unavoidable. My concern is that defining it as a war has been a category error, which has led to severe mistakes in strategy and tactics.

The actions of non-state actors like Al Qaeda should be regarded as large crimes rather than small acts of war. A war against a state supporting Al Qaeda, like Afghanistan, was not necessarily wrong but pretty much everything else the US has done was not the optimum strategy.

by Gary J on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 03:11:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my previous post I addressed issues of national strategy independently of any cover which events might have provided for national leaders to pursue unrelated policies of aggressive war abroad and dismantling constitutional liberties at home.

If policy makers are using the "War on Terror" to promote other policies this may explain why the "War on Terror" has been fought in such an apparently counterproductive manner.

by Gary J on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 03:33:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IMO, this is really an excellent comment.  This is the choice that America had to make, as to how to deal with the growing threat of terrorism,,,,which was initially handled in the "large crime" model, and is now being handled in the "small acts of war model".  

The "small acts of war" model seems to dispose of some tactical problems.  The hiding of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and the ability to safely plot their terror in states supporting them, seems difficult when the nation state refuses to "turn over the criminals",,,,which is what the US asked the Taliban controlled Afghanistan to do.  And of course the US chose the same model in justification for the Iraqi War, though with far, far less support from the world community.

But the "small acts of war" model has led to some huge challenges, and these challenges might be viewed as strategic challenges.  Colin Powell evidently said it well prior to these invasions--paraphrasing, "if you break it, you'll have to fix it".  Strategically the US is now trying to "fix it", which basically means taking on the role of "nation building".  So in some ways one could view this as taking a path that led to tactical advantages, but a path that led to enormous, and much broader, strategic challenges.  

I wonder though, if even today, after all the difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan, if the "large crime" model is still not completely discredited in the US.  Was it Kerry who, in the last 12 months, postulated this as the correct approach, but really found no support in his own party for this view?  One challenge is that the criminal model used by Clinton seemed to have left us under prepared for a growing threat--as terrorist attacks increased in scale and destruction.  Perhaps that model didn't really allow for a vision that explained the extremity of the threat?  Note the lack of communication between parts of the government that turned out to be such a vulnerability in the 9/11 attack.  If there had been a clearer articulation of the threat, perhaps some of these issues could have been addressed?

It will be interesting to see if the Democrats in this election adopt that as an alternate strategy.  They don't seem to right now, but rather seem to accept the "small war" model, but just saying that Bush has screwed it up--not enough troops, not enough international support, need a timetable for withdrawal, etc.  

This last paragraph in particular is more ruminations on my part, rather than views I have.  Thanks for your great post.

by wchurchill on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 05:15:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 04:18:36 AM EST
Thanks for this great diary. It recalls the pain and desolation one feels when visiting the enumerable war fields of Europe (as well as our concentration camps).

And on a far much minor note, the outrage for the contemptuous remarks of a Rumsfeld or a Victor Hanson.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 08:42:36 AM EST
ad infinitum. Yeah we attacked the Vietnamese and bombed Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia into the stoneage, but it was us who ended up the victims. The true story of Vietnam went against our own idea of ourselves as right, just, good, freedom bringing, sviors etc, so we had to reinvent the whole story into some fable of American rediscovery and an extreme contract between the civilian and soldier was founded. Hey we should have just admitted we lost the war because we were wrong and the people didnt want us there. Actually we dont even admit we lost the war! And there lies the first truth of it. Losing wars makes you less likely to get involved in wars. The other part of it is we have never really lost many people in wars as pointed out in the article. This second tier of why you wouldnt get involved in wars will probably not change with modern warfare either. Therefore it is probably important for us Americans to admit our defeat in Vietnam, and in a few years our defeat in Iraq if we want to become a less belligerent, threatening and dangerous member of the world community.
by observer393 on Sun Jul 2nd, 2006 at 11:50:37 PM EST
Therefore it is probably important for us Americans to admit our defeat in Vietnam, and in a few years our defeat in Iraq if we want to become a less belligerent, threatening and dangerous member of the world community.

This is a horrible thing to say, but I'll say it anyway because it is a horrible truth. A nation has to suffer a defeat at home in order to grow war-weary. So expect things to get much, much worse before they can get better.

Do you think losing the overseas Empire to the US in 1898 made Spain war-weary? No! We stayed neutral in WWI but waged brutal colonial war on Morocco to shake off the feeling of being losers (see Sirocco's FP story When Spain waged chemical war in Africa). Having the crap beaten out of us by the Moroccans did not lead to soul-searching, but military dictatorship and a poisonous climate in the military which was Franco's formative medium. Then we had a brutal civil war and then a "victorious" regime (thankfully toothless so it did not engage in any more aggression). It's only now that we're war-weary but now the grandshildren of the Fascists are at it again.

I think as regards the American and Spanish national psyche, Iraq is to Spain's Moroccan campaign as Vietnam is to the Spanish-American war.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 09:35:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the forms of warfare are changed forever. I read a quote from Napoleon which I haven't put in my sig because it may be apocryphical and I prefer to check, but it anyway it says: "La Politique d'un pays est dans sa géographie" - "The policies of a country are set by its geography". In the case of the US, which is effectively one giant island with unlimited ressources for this century (oil, huh ? they'll just liquify coal and melt the arctic into oblivion ...), they only need a super-strong navy to prevent any form of invasion, and they already have that navy. The only threats to homeland securities that could rival the devastation of WWI&2 for Europe, Russia, China, are:
  • civil war, already happened, so it could happen again, but it doesn't seem the most likely,
  • a nuclear strike with ballistic missiles, Russia threatened to do it, but the "success" of MAD concepts showed that no organized country would do that,
  • a nuclear weapon smuggled in the country that kills 3 million people every two years...
This is the new stuff: in this century guerillas will have the power to inflict damage of the magnitude of WWII to a superpower. And it's not that you "lose" a battle or war, but you can't win either in the "war on terror". It is only a question of time before it happens. Looking the way it is, America does its best to attract the lightning, so we're pretty safe in Europe (see, Americans may be inexperienced, but they're so keen to learn). But after it has happened, I sadly don't see where democracy will fit on this planet.

Pierre
by Pierre on Mon Jul 3rd, 2006 at 09:59:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
of democracy? serious question and it is something I have been asking myself for some time now.
by observer393 on Thu Jul 6th, 2006 at 12:12:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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