Friday, March 17, 2006
Did I get your attention? The heading may be a bit controversial, and is admittedly designed to be so. The anti war reader who denies the existence of the War On Terror will take note, because they think this piece will agree that there is no real war. The more conservative reader will also take a look, ready to refute the premise that we are not at war.
If you have read this far, let me make a further clarification. When I say we are not at war, it is a half truth, or ‘spin’ in today’s vernacular. But I will stand by the statement that we are not a nation at war. We have a military at war, and an administration that understands we are in a war; but for most Americans, war is an exercise in semantics, and does not touch their daily lives. While it may read like I am playing word games, I think the psychology behind my statement is critical to our well being as a nation.
In both the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War, the citizen soldier comprised the bulk of the fighting forces, as there was no professional American army in the Revolutionary War, and only a small corps of professionals in the Civil War. Most of the fighting and dying was done by volunteers, and later, draftees. Both wars were fought on American soil, and there were significant casualties among civilian non-combatants. Tremendous damage was done to homes, businesses, farms and other non-military properties. In other words, both wars were very personal to virtually every person who lived in America.
World Wars I and II were fought by a combination of professional military, volunteers, and draftees. While American soil was essentially untouched, a war economy coupled with shortages and rationing kept the overall population aware of the war and its consequences. Nearly every family in America had one or more members serving in harms way, and a personal involvement and commitment to victory was felt by the vast majority of citizens.
Korea and Vietnam saw a societal change in the perception of those wars. Combat operations were again conducted by a combination of a professional military, volunteers, and draftees. However, the American economy never had to accommodate a war footing, and there was no rationing of critical goods, or shortages of consumer products. American soil was never threatened, and there was no danger of civilian casualties or domestic property loss. The American population began to distance itself from direct involvement in these conflicts, except for the families of those actively serving in the military.
The current conflict has several aspects. We were involved in a conventional conflict in Iraq, and a somewhat conventional military operation in Afghanistan. Both of those are now asymmetrical conflicts, involving guerilla warfare against our military and the indigenous population by non conventional forces. In addition, we are faced with the terrorist campaign against American targets both domestic and abroad, by non military forces both foreign and home grown. But many in America do not seem to be aware of the threat, or particularly committed in the support of their own country. Why is that?
I think there are several factors to be considered. First and foremost, the American military is, for the first time, comprised entirely of a professional corps of volunteers, for whom military service is either a career or a supplemental employment. With no draft, and a reduced military force, only a small percentage of Americans have a member of their immediate family serving in any military branch. For most of us, there is no personal or blood involvement with the present conflicts. Note – In the interest of full disclosure, my youngest son is in the Air Force, presently stationed in the U.S. He has been informed that he will be deployed in the Spring, but has not disclosed the location or duration. My youngest nephew is in the Army reserve, preparing for deployment to Afghanistan, where he will serve a twelve month duty assignment.
The present hostilities also have little or no impact on the economy. Low interest rates, tax cuts, new job creation, and growing internationalism have led to a booming economy, with no shortage of consumer goods and services. Economically, the conflicts have had no negative influence on the quality of life for most Americans. We are insulated from feeling we have a stake in the outcome of this new type of threat. As a people, we have become uninvolved in the relationship between us, and those who protect us.
The media has played a large part in our lack of understanding of this new type of war, by using political correctness and sanitized coverage of events and their causes to push an agenda that is not in our best interests. For example, we have all seen the very graphic and embarrassing pictures of detainees in Abu Ghraib. Although the acts committed were humiliating to the detainees, no physical injury was visited upon those prisoners. Yet we have seen these photos again and again in the media. We also have seen many images, again replayed with unwarranted frequency, of civilian casualties, along with editorialized commentary. However, the media has sheltered us from pictures of the two jetliners flying into the World Trade Center, and never shown the photos and videos of scores of people either jumping or falling to their deaths from the twin towers. Nor have they ever shown the images of scores of helpless captives having their heads severed, or shot at point blank range, with the ensuing blood, screams and gore. The torture rooms operated by the Jihadists found in Fallujah during a sweep of that city some months ago received only the briefest of comment in the media, with no mention that these are common in areas of intense terrorist activity.
These factors, and others too numerous to mention in this piece, have created an environment where many Americans do not understand the nature of this conflict, have no sense of the threats directed at us, and have no personal stake in how the conflict is waged. As a result, we are witnessing events that would be unheard of in the recent past. A war that can impact every American is trivialized in the media, politicized by our representatives, mischaracterized by its opponents, and propagandized by our enemy. And what is the result of all this?
Members of Congress have falsely accused our military of committing war crimes and atrocities, comparing them to Nazis and the murderous regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia, with no mention of the thousands of real victims of the terrorists.
Media executives and reporters have accused the American military, with little or no refutation, of targeting journalists and deliberately killing them.
Political leaders have stated that the American military is broke, and is incapable of winning the present conflict.
Entertainers have stated that American soldiers are trained to murder civilians, and that committing atrocities is part of American strategy.
Advocacy groups claim that terrorists captured by our military on foreign ground, in direct combat with our troops, are entitled to the same rights and protections as an American accused of a civil crime, including attorneys, civil courts, and the restrictive rules of evidence used in American courts.
Protective and preemptive actions by governmental agencies to protect America from terrorist activities are decried in the media, as well as by political and social critics, as illegal, immoral and unnecessary.
Major news outlets routinely compromise the actions of both the military and security agencies by releasing sensitive information on strategies, tactics, allied assistance and intelligence gathering. While the leaking of this information is itself a crime, the media and many political and social leaders are targeting the very agencies which protect us, while ignoring the negative impact these stories have on national security.
A walk in certain cities will find signs posted in store windows and other public displays of support for the terrorists, and approval of the killing and maiming of American troops.
Many political leaders, educators and social critics publicly praise the activities of terrorists, even referring to them as freedom fighters, with no rebuttal and no consequence for the most inaccurate and outrageous comments.
Certainly, each of us could cite more examples of behavior that is at the least unpatriotic, and at worst seditious. Instances of college professors calling for troops to attack their officers, or students cheering the deaths of American soldiers, could be the subject of an entire book. But my main point is that those who fall into one or more of these categories do not seem to have any concern that their actions or views will be rebutted, nor that there are any consequences to their actions or comments. It is time that this course be reversed.
As a first step, BE HEARD! Free speech is a fundamental right of all Americans. However, with free speech comes the responsibility of accountability for what you say. If your congressional representatives say things with which you disagree, call or write them, expressing your disapproval. Remember, the primary goal of all politicians is to get reelected. If the position they adopt threatens their election prospects, they may very well change their stance.
Newspaper and television revenue is derived primarily from commercial sponsors via advertising. When news is reported in a biased, inaccurate or patently incorrect manner, let the editors know of your displeasure. Falling circulation in newspapers, and lower viewer ship of television news, has direct impact on advertising revenues, and consequently, profits. The possibility of continued loss of revenue could serve to encourage more accurate reporting.
As a final point, pay attention to the statements and actions of social activists, entertainers and teachers. While they too have the right of free speech, we have the right not to subsidize those who support anti American views, or who disrespect our military men and women. Again, let your voice be heard, so that they understand that there can be economic consequences to encouraging terrorists and showing support to those who would harm us by offering them aid, comfort or support.
Bad behavior by politicians, news media, entertainers and social leaders should no longer be tolerated without reproach, let alone be rewarded.
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