May 19, 2004


Belmont Club wrote something that really hit home for me in his post News Coverage as a Weapon:

During the Civil War 15 percent of the total white population took the field, a staggering 75% of military age white males. During the Great War the major combatants put even higher proportions of their men on the line. Even after World War 2 it was still natural for children to ask, 'Daddy what did you do in the War?' and expect an answer. Reality affected everybody. But beginning with the Vietnam War and continuing into the current Iraqi campaign, the numbers of those actually engaged on the battlefield as a proportion of the population became increasingly small. Just how small is illustrated by comparing a major battle in the Civil War, Gettysburg, which inflicted over 50,000 casualties on a nation of 31.5 million to a "major" battle in Iraq, Fallujah, in which 10 Marines died in the fighting itself, on a population of 300 million. A war in which the watchers vastly outnumbered the fighters was bound to be different from when the reverse was true. A reality experienced by the few could be overridden by a fantasy sold to the many.

This war doesn't affect everybody and to say that the watchers outnumber the fighters implies that the watchers are actully watching. There are thousands out there who don't think the war on terror affects them at all, and they are quick to accept the "fantasy sold to the many" and then switch the channel to the last episode of Friends. In my parents' and grandparents' generations, everyone knew someone who went to war; these days the service flags are few and far between. We can't fathom the sacrifice previous generations endured because we rarely are affected by today's sacrifices.

Someday my children will ask "Daddy, what did you do in the war?" and he will have an answer that will make them proud. When they ask what Mommy did, I'll say I was proud to be a chickenhawk.


Strategy Page talks about how everyone is involved in a war.

Posted by: Sarah at 11:09 AM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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1 The point is not well made. Just because the percentage of the population fighting in the war has gone down doesn't mean the effect is less -- it affects the whole family, the coworkers, etc. The violence continues and spirals outward. A new military hero for the list with Ritter and Butler: Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey, who has come home from Iraq to talk about all the innocent people the US is killing, and how that has caused the "revolt against the military occupation".

Posted by: florian at May 19, 2004 12:10 PM (v5x9Y)

2 Florian, why is your definition of "military hero" anyone who actively breaks away from the military and its goals?

Posted by: Sarah at May 19, 2004 01:16 PM (JLYZ7)

3 Sarah, why do you assume Florian is using a different definition of the the term instead of a broader one?

Posted by: Bogey Mulligan at May 19, 2004 04:19 PM (X/ggz)

4 I would guess, based on the response, Sarah has had previous dealings with florian.

Posted by: Mike at May 19, 2004 04:42 PM (3b89y)

5 "There are thousands out there who don't think the war on terror affects them at all" Thousands? How about millions? The number of apathetic Americans is a source of frustration for both pro- and anti-war people. Both sides wonder why the masses can't "get it." Despite all the hype, names like Reynolds and Kos mean nothing to the vast majority of Americans. Ditto for Steyn, Hanson, Moore, and Chomsky. It's the images and headlines from the mass media that stick in their minds. Abu Ghraib. Abu Ghraib. Abu Ghraib. Abu Ghraib. The Right has lost the memetic war. The Left control the schools and the media. The White House is next. The Far Left will never get its way, but moderations leads to oompromise, and compromise leads to evil. Meanwhile, warbloggers huddle in their echo chamber, reassuring each other in a world that hates them - or ignores them at best. They fool themselves with overblown rhetoric about "changing the world" while the average American chooses Kerry at the last minute. Will any of us lie fifty years from now and pretend that we didn't support (in the real sense of the word) Bush, the "worst" president who ever lived? I'd rather be an unreconstructed terror-hater.

Posted by: Amritas at May 19, 2004 06:01 PM (bHNZM)

6 "moderations leads to oompromise" I meant "moderation leads to compromise." A little poison can't hurt, right? Don't be an extremist. That's soooo unilateral.

Posted by: Amritas at May 19, 2004 06:03 PM (bHNZM)

7 Sarah, wouldn't the goal of the military be to protect the United States? Gen. Smedley Butler, hero to the Marine Corps infantry, realized that he wasn't doing that. So he came out publicly about killing for a kind of corporate mafia, in wars based on lies, decades ago. We can see we are in the same situation now. The Ritters and Masseys have put their lives and careers on the line to tell hard truths. They haven't broken with anything, they are in fact being true to themselves, the American people, and the honor of the military. It is the warmakers who have broken away from these things. Amritas, if the left controls the media, why was the year before the war a constant drumbeat of uncritical acceptance of the WMD canard? Why were the torture-as-policy reports from the Int'l Red Cross and Amnesty ignored until the photos made it impossible? Why was Clinton's lie about an intern drumbeated into an impeachment, whereas Bush & Co. can tell whoppers to lead the country into war that has cast the US into the image of torturing occupiers, and there is no media or radio talk show howling for impeachment? Truth is, the media generally supports the status quo, and the influential talk shows are overwhelmingly conservative/right.

Posted by: florian at May 20, 2004 05:07 AM (smSgA)

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