I am currently cruising in the South Pacific, taking advantage of an opportunity to visit many of the places where my father and uncles spent 1941 through 1945 – New Zealand, the Solomons, the Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Kiribati, and Hawaii. As part of the experience, I have been participating in various veterans’ receptions on board ship. Most often thirty to forty vets show up, mostly Vietnam era like myself, but also a few from Korea and even one from World War II. Talk of America’s recent wars frequently comes up and it is interesting to note that even the vets who are still very active in veterans support are opposed to any continued presence in Afghanistan and are highly skeptical of the US role as world policeman. Some of the vets expressed their discomfort in very strong terms, noting that they are not opposed to war per se, but only want to see US involvement if there is a clear national interest at stake. Not necessarily related, most of the vets identify as Republicans who very much want to see the demise of Obama (figuratively speaking) but view Romney as a complete phony.
This all suggests to me that there most definitely has been a shift in thinking over the past two years which has not been seized upon. Americans are tired of the unending war and the constant drumbeat of foreign threats, a sentiment that was captured by Ron Paul, but his poorly run campaign failed to capitalize sufficiently on the issue while becoming snared in obfuscatory and eminently confusing debates about entitlements programs, the Fed, and Austrian economics. Paul could have won in Virginia, where he was head-to-head with Romney, and become a genuine contender but his advisers instead ignored the primary and chose to put their resources into caucus states. The opportunity to turn this ship around has been lost and it may not return as both Obama and Romney are wedded to the status quo in every sense and we will surely wind up with one or the other, the usual American dilemma.