Inured To War?
[Click on image to enlarge and then come back.]
David Horsey's recent cartoon and post is quite depressing for many different reasons. I'm not sure I agree with all of Horsey's opinions on the possibility of war with Iran, but I do admit that is certainly a possibility.
War has become a matter of presidential choice. That’s why we should take seriously what the candidates for president have to say about attacking Iran. They can promise to cut the deficit or bring down gas prices or scuttle Obamacare, but, if they promise war, it’s the one promise we know they can keep. ...
Obama has pushed tough sanctions on Iran. His hard-edged diplomacy has gotten Europeans to line up with him to demand that Iran refrain from building nukes. The president, showing his grimmest face, insists he is not bluffing when he says that military action is a real and ready option if Iran does not comply with the demands of the international community (at least the international community that does not include Russia and China, which, for obvious self-interested reasons, do not approve of military intervention in countries where the governments are corrupt and authoritarian).
Obama’s rhetoric may be more nuanced than the campaign speeches of Santorum and Gingrich – that is why the Republicans attack him for "apologizing" to America’s adversaries -- but the president’s foreign policy is very much in line with the philosophy that has guided U.S. actions in the world since 1945: engagement everywhere on the globe where there is a perceived national interest, backed by military power that is second-to-none and quick to be employed.
It's pretty hard to quarrel with that, especially given the last decade or so. Congress effectively ceded the right to declare war to the White House after 9/11, but even before that presidents have pretty much gotten their way when it comes to initiating armed conflict. It became much easier after the draft was abolished because not everyone had to worry about doing the fighting or sending a loved one to do it. But Horsey carries the argument further:
The truth is, Americans are not a peace-loving people. We pretend otherwise because it seems wrong to admit that the United States is a nation that has mostly benefited from war. We were not like the contented Canadians, who patiently waited for the Mother Country to bestow self-government. We went to war and tossed the British out. Through one war with Mexico and relentless wars with Indian tribes, we became a country that spanned a continent. The Spanish-American War and the First World War marked our arrival on the world stage. And the Second World War left us as one of the two preeminent powers on the planet.
Wars in Korea and Vietnam were not popular, but, by the time of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans had become used to fighting wars with ambiguous results. War is now simply what we do. It is part of our national identity; facing any foe, bearing any burden in the twilight struggle to defend freedom.
Put in less idealistic terms, our country is a national security state built on the vast military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about. Our government and our economy are permanently geared up for war, and very few Americans can remember a time when this was not so. It’s hard to imagine any president resisting the temptation to use this awesome force and even harder to imagine that a majority of Americans would ever elect a man who would. [Emphasis added]
Yes, we do now live in a "national security state built on the vast military-industrial complex," but I am not so certain that the American public has become inured to the constant state of war we've been in for all these years to the point where we will just shrug our shoulders as the next one begins before the last one ends. It has become too costly, both in terms of our national treasury and in terms of our national psyche. Too much has happened, especially the last four years. Too much has been lost and too many people are tired of being the pack animals for these kinds of whims.
At least I hope so.