In further comparison to the wars of the past, our casualties in the Iraq war seem even smaller still. In a single day during a single batter (the battle of the Bulge) in World War II, it is estimated that over 5,000 U. S. soldiers died. Throughout the course of World War II, the greatest generation watched as hundreds of thousands of the best and brightest were forcibly drafted into a war to stop a madman who was terrorizing a far away continent, and further as over a hundred thousand of them died over a four year period. Even the widely disparaged Vietnam generation tolerated several years of forced enlistment, and much higher casualty rates without the benefit of an alternative media before becoming utterly war weary.
Our generation, on the other hand, in becoming weary of a war not yet three years old, fought by an army composed entirely of volunteers, in which we are suffering an average of two deaths per day, has demonstrated itself to be the most spineless and weak-kneed generation in recent American history. It is expected, given the way that post-invasion events have unfolded, to find a number of Americans disagreeing with our entrance in the war in the first place. It is unexcusable, on the other hand, to find the growing number of Americans who are now advocating immediate withdrawal, regardless of the future consequences upon the strength of our bargaining posture. This is nothing more than war weariness, and we have not yet earned the right as a generation to be weary of this war.
Part of the issue here, regrettably comes down to our President. It is true we should not have to be handheld through this conflict. However, it is equally true that we have demonstrated that we must have our hands held, if we are willing to stay the course. I have a sense that our generation is ready for more greatness and resolve that it has currently shown. However, we must be dragged, kicking and screaming, if we are to achieve it. The President should realize this. It is not difficult to perceive how many have forgotten the importance of this war, the other reasons besides WMDs that we fought it, and the disastrous consequences of demonstrating to your enemy that you can be defeated by constant irritation. These fears can be allayed by a constant and determined communicator. It is not that this President cannot be that communicator. It is rather that he will not. ~Macho Nachos (no, really, that is the name)
Hat tip to Michael Dougherty.
War supporters have an impressive knack for whining about what they regard as other people’s whining. Chief among the favourite things to whine about is the “lack of resolve” motif: why are Americans getting so pitifully spineless and weak over Iraq? After all, most of the completely unnecessary and unjustifiable violent deaths have been non-American, and there have been relatively few American deaths in a completely futile war! So lighten up, America. Many of your sons have died for nothing, but not all that many.
War supporters should feel very lucky that their boondoggle has not seen many more Americans get killed, or they might find themselves being chased through the streets by enraged mobs. But, happily, I doubt Americans would respond in that way, because unlike M. Nachos I don’t have contempt for the character of the people the moment they begin to disagree with me. I have little or no confidence in the competence of “the people” to govern themselves now, or probably at any other time, but this has been and will be true regardless of their judgements about particular issues. I do question the ability of most of “the people” to make informed, rational decisions with concern for consequences beyond next week, but I do not believe that Americans, even of this exceedingly spoiled, self-involved and fatuous generation, are the sort to fall apart only because a couple thousand soldiers are killed in a war overseas to which they have to contribute nothing.
Americans became disillusioned with our other recent deceitful war of aggression, namely Kosovo, even faster, and no Americans died in combat there. They were disillusioned with it because it seemed, even to the official purveyors of the pro-KLA propaganda in the news media, that intervention had made things worse and had wasted military resources for no good reason. (The public might have been more disgusted had it understood the depth of the deceit, double-dealing and enabling of Islamists involved in that particular intervention.) Many Americans rapidly became disgusted with the fruits of the Spanish War, especially the particularly dirty counterinsurgency in the Philippines, to which our present war in Iraq has some clear resemblance.
The counterinsurgency in the Philippines took many more American and Filipino lives all together than have been lost between March 2003 and now in Iraq, but by comparison with the recent American experience in the War of Secession these losses were miniscule. It was not the casualties that drove people to become Anti-Imperialists and war critics, just as it is not casualties as such that are driving down Bush’s poll numbers and the support for the war. It is the growing awareness that Bush has no clue what he is doing and that our soldiers are dying for nothing. For most normal Americans, that realisation will ruin all enthusiasm for any war. Disgust with crushing the Filipinos was a product of Americans rejecting the transformation of what had been a war of retaliation for the supposed Spanish destruction of the Maine into first a war of liberation and then a war of annexation and colonialism. Today Americans probably feel that our “liberation” work is done, and we couldn’t leave soon enough. That is not the weakness of this generation, corrupt as our generation may be in many other ways, but a common sense recognition that, whatever the merits or flaws of the war in the first place, there is no point to it any longer.
Late 19th century Americans were assuredly made of tougher stuff than we are, so we can hardly attribute their repulsion at the death and atrocities of the 1899-1902 war to being lily-livered weaklings weary of war. In the Filipino war we had an all-volunteer military, so most Americans never had any direct connection to the fight and had to make no sacrifices to see it through. As it happened, enough Filipinos died thanks to disease and brutality that we “won,” and that perseverance earned our nation one of the ugliest, most unnecessary, fruitless victories in its history (one that, in time, helped draw us into conflict with Japan and led to rather a lot more American deaths). At the time of the Filipino war the people objected to the perversion of what the initially (albeit wrongly) believed was a just war toward ends and policies that they regarded as both immoral and disadvantageous for the United States. As we know, the Anti-Imperialists and their allies were unsuccessful in getting us out of the Philippines, but that is a cause for lament that patriotic and republican forces could not turn the tide against the fools preaching empire and “resolve.”
Growing disquiet over Iraq very likely stems from a similar recognition of the administration’s penchant for constantly redefining the mission and positively encouraging “mission creep.” Moreover, Americans are continually being told that our soldiers’ sacrifices will go on until the Iraqis get their act together. Pardon me, but this is a ludicrous strategy even for a neocon. Obviously it is untenable and unacceptable to put American lives on the line indefinitely in pursuit of objectives that we are incapable of reaching without the Iraqis’ making a go of their political process, especially when the prospects of the latter are poor to terrible. Mr. Bush has decided to let his policy be governed entirely by events and Iraqi initiative, which must inevitably lead to our defeat our disadvantage. That must mark him as one of the worst strategic leaders in our history. It is therefore little wonder that the public is losing confidence.
Warmongers were thrilled with the American people not so long ago when they had solid majority support or absurd 70% levels of support in May 2003. Something happened between then and now. Do we suppose that the American people simply rolled over and want to give up a vital struggle for national security (if they still believe that it is that), or that they lack a certain fortitude to endure a war that imposes no costs on them beyond the fiscal? Or do we suppose that the public has wised up to the deception and incompetence of the administration, has lost confidence in its direction of the war and now increasingly questions its naive faith in Mr. Bush’s promises of earlier days? I am guessing the latter is the case. Have they awakened to the basic irrelevance of the Iraq war to American security? I think so.
But perhaps there is more to it. Consider some other remarks from “Nachos”:
“So, in a world where people are fighting the political battles of today, rather than the political battles of three years ago (or heck, even last year), the important question is not whether we should have gone to Iraq in the first place, but rather – now that we are there, should we leave immediately?
The point of my post, which has been reinforced by numerous commenters here, is that numerous folks of this particular generation apparently see no value of seeing a conflict through to its end, they don’t see the value of keeping promises in the foreign affairs arena, and they think it a worthless proposition to avoid showing weakness to a deadly and dangerous enemy. This is dismaying to me, and it is the reason I am ashamed of this generation.”
It would have been preferable to see our real battle with al-Qaeda through to the end, but miserable warmongers felt the need to attack a country that had never done anything serious to provoke us. Seeing an unnecessary and futile fight to the end is not bold or wise or courageous–it is simply stupid. Showing resolve in the face of a determined local insurgency is all very macho, as we might expect from someone who goes by the absurd moniker of Macho Nachos, but it is both militarily ineffective and a waste of valuable military personnel and assets on a cause that will not advance American security one iota if it is won and can only continue to harm our overall global position if we persist in a futile fight. When will war supporters grow out of this reflexive, juvenile admiration for hard-line inflexibility? It is as if it were a virtue to remain impervious to changing circumstances and evidence of strategic failure. That such people represent the supposedly more “responsible” or “serious” foreign policy perspective of our time is horrifying.