Mon 13 Jan, 2003 01:47 am
I think I have finally figured out why so many Americans are enthusiastic about a war with Iraq: We are living in an era where Reality Television is King, witness the weekly ratings for shows like Survivor, Big Brother, Fear Factor, et al.....Well what could possibly be a better Reality Show than an honest-to-goodness war with real death and real destruction, all in the comfort of your living room? Those who would accuse Mr. Bush of wanting war to avenge his father, or gather up some extra oil are way off base -- he just wants to give his ditto-heads a bit of good old fashioned entertainment! I would bet that "Iraq II" will garner some of the biggest ratings since "Who Shot JR".
On point as usual I was thinking similar thoughts the other day listening to NPR. Things are getting out of control with the addition of North Korea are real nuclear threat and we take no action. Instead we take the easy way out Iraq. Kind of reminds me of going to Grenada instead of Afganistan. What kind of heros are our leaders? They have never experienced the hell of war with the exception of Colin Powell who was in Viet Nam.
That whole war as entertainment thing that, I think, started really bigtime with the Falklands, is a real worry to me, too. CNN reporting from Baghdad as the anti-aircraft fire glowed eerie green was sort of like a fireworks show - and the constant film of smart bombs surgically deconstructing buildings, apparently with nary a casualty, while the media stars - beg yours, generals and what have you - discussed the footage as though it was a sales presentation was horribly unnerving.
No nasty bodies - no apparent struggle - a brilliantly staged media event.
Interestingly, at least from England where I was for a good part of it, the Balkans coverage was full of horor and not, I think, capable of entertaining even the stupidest person, in the least.
Why? Better press access? Less "spin"? Or could it be that it was close to home with Europeans smashing the bejesus out of each other, instead of "us" smashing the crap out of some naughty, somewhat comic opera "Argies", or some beastly Arabs? Dunno.
Mind you, the Falklands did not look so entertaining to the British after their destroyer was vapourised or the boys started filtering back from Goose Green with disgusting injuries...
Entertainment...a disgusting thought...although, I do remember being glued to the TV set during the Gulf Conflict.
yeppies - and bluddy fine pickies they ensured we saw, too, no?
it's just a compulsion we have (no specific nationality) of seeing, or hearing of tragedy. grisly car crashes, murder, bombings, or war. everybody wants a front row seat.
But my point, at least, pueo, is, that in the conflicts I mentioned, 'twas not presented as tragic or grisly - 'twas like a big video game.
exactly, too many people think of these things like they are video games. if you get killed you just press restart. in real life it don't work that way.
and of course there are those idiotic movies such as rambo, or any steven seagall film where one man can take on a whole army. it's sad but true that many people (even older people who should know better) believe this crap. too many peole think that war is a game or a movie.
real people bleed, and real people die.
Having the most capable militarily doesn't guarantee victory. Victory rests even more upon a nation's Will to prevail, and the moral of its soldiers. One doesn't fight wars to lose. Losing wars at the very least erodes a nation's credibility, and encourages enemies to further conflict. Lose too many wars, or the wrong war, and the nation and its values may disappear forever from the pages of history. Believe me, we don't want to lose a war.
Vietnam may be a pertinent example. To many Vietnam was a mistake and the U.S. should never have fought there. I believe that is incorrect, Vietnam was one campaign in a much larger Cold War (WWIII) struggle between Communism (led by the USSR and China) and the Free World (led by the United States). Direct confrontation had to be avoided for fear that the massive nuclear arsenals held by the USSR and the US might be unleashed. The struggle had to take place away from those areas most likely to escalate into atomic war, which meant the front lines in the struggle would be in Asia rather than Europe. There were three interfaces between the two contending sides in Asia: Korea, Taiwan and Indo-China/Vietnam. Communist aggression was halted, not defeated; in Korea after the UN/US forces lost something over 56,000 casualties. Mao was deterred from invading Taiwan by having the US Navy strongly committed by the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. Ho Chi-Minh, with Soviet and Chinese support and encouragement, intended a unified Stalinist Vietnam by force if necessary. When the French (with American backing) could no longer bear the struggle, the US had basically two choices. Cede Vietnam, and by reasonable extension all of Indo-China, to the Communist camp, OR fight. There were multiple reasons to resist the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia, not least among them the consequences of being seen by the rest of the world as incapable, and unwilling to confront Soviet Union and China.
If the US was seen around the world as incapable and unwilling to stand up to Communist expansion, the Soviet's would have won much more than just another small country. Allies fearing that we would not, could not, protect them from the Soviets would try to cozy-up to and appease them. That would weaken, and perhaps split the Free World. The so-called non-aligned countries would jump on the Soviet bandwagon, and that too would expand the reach and strength of our enemy. "Nationalist Wars of Independence" would have been encouraged further sapping the strength and resolve of the Free World while strengthening the Soviets. We could not cede Vietnam, or Indo-China without the grave danger of losing the Cold War to the Communists.
The United States was militarily much stronger and more capable than the Vietcong, or the NVA, so how did we lose? Actually, we didn't lose militarily. We won every significant battle. Even though we fought with one arm and one leg tied behind us we decimated the Communist forces in Vietnam. The material and manpower contributed by the Soviet Union and China only barely managed to maintain effective Communist forces in the field. If our military had been unleashed, the North Vietnamese would have been defeated militarily. However, we couldn't unleash the military in Vietnam anymore than we could risk nuclear war over the Korean situation. For a long time the campaign was almost a stalemate: we couldn't win without widening the war, and the enemy couldn't win on South Vietnamese battlegrounds. Now to my point here.
Vietnam was the first war covered with modern global, near real-time communications. Americans saw every night on their televisions the results of war. We saw young men torn and blown apart. We saw fear in the eyes of our children. The effects of modern bomb munitions were demonstrated, and burned children wandered naked down roads filled with soldiers. We saw executions in real time, with real bullets and blood. From our televisions we turned to tables laden with food, and the thought of the starvation endured by those caught in a nation-sized war zone. Little Johnny came home, not with a pretty ribbon, but in an aluminum casket. LBJ was touting the Great Society, and on television it seemed we were returning a small country to the Stone Age. No single explanation would, or even could be made that would satisfy the American people that our involvement in Vietnam was necessary. Hanoi Jane led a host of Personalities who thought that their stardom made them politically savvy, and they made Ho a great hero, a David against the evil Goliath. Young intellectuals, already enamored with Marxist ideas, cheered the Communists. Young activists who were dying in the American South to eliminate racism and Jim Crow, linked their cause with the suffering people of Vietnam. All across America the resistance to American policy and involvement in Vietnam grew into active protest. Demonstration against our government and military were common and in some cases violent. Costs soared, and domestic programs were perceived as suffering. In the end, the government had little option except withdrawal from Vietnam.
The result was a loss of American prestige around the world. Communist insurgencies increased in Africa, South America, and Southwest Asia. Other Indo-Chinese states fell to Communist movements. NATO was weakened as European nations hedged their bets by warming to the Soviets. Within the United States there was a feeling of powerlessness and betrayal that made it more difficult to counter the Soviet juggernaught. The Soviet Union was encouraged to expand and tighten its hold over the nations it dominated. They then fell into their own Vietnam, Afghanistan. There we supplied the rebel forces and the Soviets took a drubbing much worse than we did in Vietnam. The loss of Soviet prestige that resulted from Afghanistan reversed the policies of many countries. It began again to look as if the United States would prevail, so national policies around the world shifted from the Communists to the Free World. The balance of military capability and will shifted several times during the Cold War. When it appeared that the United States was military most powerful and willing to fight, it grew stronger as allies and unaligned countries added their support. That support shifted to the Soviets whenever the US appeared incapable of military force, or having the will to fight.
Hopefully we've learned the importance of maintaining the Will to use our military might in support of our national interests and those of our allies. Unfortunately, it seems from many of the postings here, and elsewhere, that American may not have the Will to resist those who are actively working to destroy us. The enemy's best weapon, best chance of victory, is to convince Americans that we should never use our military force anywhere, anytime. They want us to throw away the military capability we possess out of tender heartedness and/or fear that someone will get a bloody nose.
Our military is much stronger now than it was then, and is almost unchallenged by any other nation, or block of nations. No one doubts our military capability. Rather than face us on the battlefield, our enemies must resort to covert attack. Terrorists, who generally take care to hide their national allegiances, strike innocent victims far from any battlefield. They hide behind and endanger other innocents. National leaders hide their support for terrorism as well as they can, but they provide funding, munitions, training, and other support to terrorists around the world. Two of the most dangerous bastions of terrorism are Iraq and North Korea. They are not alone, they just happen to be the most dangerous to the rest of the world. Other Southwest Asian countries are watching what happens. If the United States, having come so far in eliminating the threat posed by Saddam, were to back off, what would be the effect in Iran? Pakistan? Syria? Libya? Jordan? Egypt? Saudi Arabia? Sensing American lack of Will, wouldn't those countries be encouraged to join more directly in supporting terrorism? If on the other hand Saddam is finally removed from power, will not that send a message to others that support for the Palestinian and Al Queda Causes is a dangerous business?
Just because the radical Islamic movement that pervades Southwest Asia, or North Korea, can not militarily defeat the West, does not mean that they will not use unconventional means to sap our Will and resolve to prevail. Terrorism is designed to undermine and weaken one's opponent's Will. Are we vulnerable, or not?
Golly, Ash -- that post almost reaches the Sea of Tranquility.
I agree that the war in Vietnam had a curious but quite purposeful an effect -- the weapons supplied to the North Vietnamese government by the Soviets I don't believe were every paid for. That's telling politically as I don't believe the Soviets believe they could be paid for. However, it also took money out of their shrinking treasuries (communists are just plain stupid with money). The battle with Soviet communism was one of who would run out of money first. I think we are playing the same game with Iraq and North Korea and with Iraq, that's where the element of oil comes into the picture. If there's anything a male leader doesn't want to admit is that their strapped for cash -- Saddam is the worst kind of sociopath who spends obscene amounts of money on palaces and other government conspicuous wastes while the general population is in a state of poverty. That's more of a reason to hate Saddam than any gassings of too many years ago for which we basically looked the other way at the time. I don't believe our government is courageous enough to spell it all out and are guilty of the sin of omission.
Asherman, I'm not sure Americans understand the concept of national will. I have referred to it in other threads...supreme military power does not ensure victory. As far as that goes, a military victory does not ensure a victory over the will of a people.
Sorry for the length, a little over 1,700 words. Even so, I'm not sure that I've been entirely clear. Less, I'm afraid, would have been even less clear.
My posts were about the way in which, in my view, two very recent wars - the Falklands and Iraq I - were marketed.
My point was that it is dishonest and, to my mind, disgusting, that war can be sold as an exciting video game type experience.
I could - but was not, in fact, commenting on my opinion of the rightness or wrongness of those wars. Nor was I commenting on the rightness or wrongness of the upcoming Iraq II.
I would posit that, if we are to have wars, it is important that we understand - as much as those who are not there CAN understand - exactly what we are assenting to. I do not think we are assenting to someone getting a "bloody nose".
Are you saying that we should not have some exposure to the realities of the terrible suffering war entails? I am unsure - you seem to be against the kind of reporting that occurred in Vietnam, for instance.
Exposure to the realities of war has both good and bad effects.
It is good that people far from the battlefield know and understand that there is a real, and terrible cost to combat. War is not a bloodless game, but serious business that will ultimately decide what kind of world we live in.
On the otherhand, victory depends upon maintaining public support for activities that will turn the stomaches of many. When the public is confronted with the suffering caused by war, their natural inclination is to shout STOP at the top of their lungs. STOP the killing! STOP the war by any means and without delay. Those sentiments may keep someone alive and unharmed today, or tomorrow, but the end result will be a failure of the nation to protect it's vital interests. It will give our enemies carte blanche to attack and kill and maim us wherever and whenever they wish. Can you watch young soldiers blown apart, mangled by explosives, and still support the war effort? Can you send young men and women out to die horrible deaths so that our way of life will survive? What price are you willing to pay for victory? For survival? These aren't easy things for a person to do, and too many Americans and citizens of the developed Western nations aren't up to it. That is what Saddam, and Kim, and Gadaffi, and Bin Laden count on. They expect us to knuckle under rather than risk paying the blood price that is demanded of us.