Tuesday, September 06, 2011

We Have Always Been At War

There was an absolutely stunning article in yesterday's Washington Post. The main thrust of the article is that sine 9/11 we have entered into a period of perpetual war. War is now the norm, peace a mere anomaly. As a consequence, our country has changed and will continue to change to fit that new norm.

The two sets of buildings tell the story of America’s embrace of endless war in the 10 years since Sept. 11, 2001. In previous decades, the military and the American public viewed war as an aberration and peace as the norm.

Today, radical religious ideologies, new technologies and cheap, powerful weapons have catapulted the world into “a period of persistent conflict,” according to the Pentagon’s last major assessment of global security. “No one should harbor the illusion that the developed world can win this conflict in the near future,” the document concludes.

By this logic, America’s wars are unending and any talk of peace is quixotic or naive. The new view of war and peace has brought about far-reaching changes in agencies such as the CIA, which is increasingly shifting its focus from gathering intelligence to targeting and killing terrorists. Within the military the shift has reshaped Army bases, spurred the creation of new commands and changed what it means to be a warrior.

On the home front, the new thinking has altered long-held views about the effectiveness of military power and the likelihood that peace will ever prevail.

If the article is correct, and I think it may very well be on most levels, then certain key elements of our traditions may have been seriously undermined.

Up until this point, our military has been comprised mostly of "temporary" soldiers, those serving for only a brief two to four year stint. Now, however, with stop-gap measures considered allowable and normal, many more of our soldiers are permanent warriors, rotating in and out of combat zones for years on end. There is no break for a return to civilian status. This in effect isolates our military from the civilian and may be weakening the role of civilian leadership of the military.

Next, because of the nature of this new warfare, the enemy is not a recognizable nation, but a few rogues living or operating inside a country. This means that traditional means of averting war (diplomatic negotiations) are not possible. A specific country may be the site of the new battlefield, but that nation's leaders have no real status either at the beginning or at the end of hostilities.

Further, because of the increasingly sophisticated technology in weapons systems, war appears somehow less lethal. Our unmanned drones take out the enemy with no cost to those operating the drones. This has the effect of somehow suggesting that war is no longer dangerous, at least for our side. The fact that the technology is also improving for our enemies is somehow overlooked. IED's, now harder to spot and more devastating in impact, continue to kill and maim, yet we somehow fail to include that in our assessment. What we must include, however, is the cost of continuing the technological advances: defense budgets become more sacrosanct and less apt to be cut during times of economic stress. This further widens the gap between the civilian and the military.

We will constantly be on a war footing and that will affect every aspect of life. This is not a healthy scenario, but it is one that may be our future, at least in the short term.

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Blogger ms fahrenheit said...

Sharing the planet with people who understand, accept, and encourage this premise is not what I want for my children. :-(

5:34 AM  
Blogger Florence said...

The all volunteer military and borrowing the money for the wars allows most Americans to simply ignore what we are doing. If everyone's children were at risk of having their arms and legs blown off or if we had a tax as we bomb policy, I'd like to think more people would give a #$@%.

12:26 PM  

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