Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why We Aren't Any Good at Limited War

Paul Gleiser's commentary this week on our local news/talk radio station, KTBB was called "The Unbearable Cost of Discount War".  He made the point that "half wars" are far too expensive.  He has a point. It's hard for Christian people to wage all out war. There must be a clearly defined and "evil" enemy. In WWI and prior, the news media gave sanitized coverage of the war that over-exaggerated how evil the enemy we were fighting was.  People bought their papers and believed what they were reading.  Even the hostile anti-war members of the press in those days didn't have damning film to back up their criticisms of the war.  It was easier to wage total war without the film coverage. Nowadays, you can get lots of exciting film that makes us look bad, but no one shows the really horrible stuff the bad guys do. Nothing makes people turn off the TV faster than acres of rotting nerve gassed corpses. They'll run shots of piles of naked "live" Iraqis next to foolish grinning soldiers till we're sick of it and angry at our own soldiers.  They won't show you the live television beheading of an American engineer or a young soldier or piles of naked dead Iraqis in a ditch where they have been machine-gunned by their own government.  Is it any wonder so many have lost interest in fighting a war where we're being portrayed as the bad guys night after night because it's the only film that doesn't make people turn off the television and spoil CNN's ratings.

Film coverage began in WWII and it was still highly sanitized, but traumatizing. One wonders what Americans would have done had they been able to see the film of the real atrocities. When an American magazine published pictures of dead Americans on a beach in the South Pacific, it cost the government a great deal of public support for the war.  Even though they couldn't show the pictures at the time, General Eisenhower made his historians and embedded reporters photograph everything at the death camps as did MacArthur in the POW camps. It helped us later, when we were distanced somewhat from the carnage to come to terms with WWII and the havoc we wreaked on Japan and Germany to see the evil that we had been fighting up close.  Who can forget the heaps of naked, dead Jews and emaciated POW's and the acres of murdered Chinese. When we understood the enemy we had fought, we supported the total effort we had to make to defeat them. We didn't even blame the Germans and the Japanese, preferring to think it was only the leaders who participated and we rebuilt those two nations into powerful allies.

Like the Jews, however, we still shrink from waging war Jehovah style and it comes back to haunt us. Sadly, with war, it's all or nothing. Limited war is too expensive, too invisible to the people who pay the bills and too far away from their own concerns for people to care very much.

We also have the problem that the media views war through its own peculiar prism, forged by decades of leftist university journalism professors. If one were to tell the stories of what we put an end to in Iraq and Afghanistan alone, the American public would have little trouble supporting an effort to end that war.

But for every journalist who tells the story of villagers nerved gassed (a most hideous chemical form of Saddam's so-called nonexistent WMDs), villagers lined up and machine-gunned, then bull-dozed into a ditch or fathers and mothers and even children tortured brutally in the prisons of Abu Graib, there are ten who tell stories of Americans committing atrocities, soldiers dying pointlessly (according to the commentator) or corrupt leaders profiteering off the war.

Oddly, for some reason Americans would prefer to believe we are being bullies and thugs than they would to believe that such horror could be going on somewhere. It seems an easy solution to bring our boys home and stop fighting wars altogether.  Then we would be guiltless.  - that's easy so long as we disbelieve the "jingoist" reports of what sort of truly evil stuff is going on in those nations.

For if we believe those things are going on, our Christian upbringing tells us we must do something to stop it. But that would be hard and risky and no one is hurting our families here in the states.  We don't want to know what's going on beyond the walls. It's too painful to look at, so we tune in the media that tells us the local gossip and focuses on our own problems.

We can't help the soldier children in Africa or the tribes being starved and tortured in the Middle-East. We just don't want to know about it so we can sleep at night in our fluffy beds.

9/11 shook us up. That's why we went to Afghanistan and Iraq. They hit us at home. They killed American mothers, fathers, grandparents and children.  Osama bin Laden is a very poor strategic tactician. If he'd just kept hitting us outside of our own borders, he could have systematically discouraged us and induced us to abandon our friends and allies in the world.

If he'd not made that colossal mistake, he'd be far closer to the Caliphate the Muslim fanatics dream of and the American people would never have allowed us to go to war to stop him. If he can just restrain himself from attacking us again, he still has a chance at victory. The mainstream media certainly won't cover that war as closely and Americans will ignore it until one day we look up and discover an angry, armed and hostile Middle Eastern superpower that has been made proud of their "technological contributions" to civilization by our NASA goodwill outreach program and they will be pointing some very nasty "technological contributions" right at us.  Only, unlike the Cold War, there will be truly insane madmen with their fingers on those triggers.

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