Tuesday, August 25, 2009

War and American society

Wonder of wonders, a substantial piece on a meta-question of public policy in the New York Times (not of course written by a staff writer). Army captain Timothy Hsia writes on the place of war in American society, and civil-military relations, and his readers respond with not a single stupid, canned rant. I bet the majority of those commenters are at presently in the military or veterans (an easy bet if you read what they have to say).

To tempt you to read the whole article and comments, let me quote one of the better sections:

At West Point one of the most spirited debates I witnessed as a cadet revolved around a discussion concerning civil-military relations. The class was divided into three camps, one group which argued that the military was a microcosm of American society, a small circle within a larger circle. Another group claimed that the military shared some beliefs with society, but also had values which were incompatible, and hence the relationship was better represented by two circles which overlapped in some areas. A third group of cadets disputed both groups, and contended that the American military and society were really two distinct circles sharing only one point in common, a commitment to the Constitution.

The discussion and questions raised in that class have increasing relevance as the duration of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have lasted longer than the combined time which the United States was engaged in fighting during World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.

The questions raised should not be confused with shouldering burdens, as the recession’s impact has been felt far and widespread amongst many Americans who are struggling to put food on the table and find jobs.

Moreover, the new G.I. Bill, the first lady’s outspoken commitment to military families, and the overall support by Americans for the troops has been incredible. But can Americans honestly say this country is at war, when less than one percent of the country wages war? Perhaps the blanket support for troops is merely a coping mechanism for Americans in order to wash away any psychological discomfort for not feeling more involved in the nation’s supposed wars.

If this is the case, then the country could be entering an era of persistent conflict, not because of the threats the U.S. faces, but rather because society has become inoculated to the concept of the ever-present war. Has the idea of war become less of an aversion as long as it means not me or my family?

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Blogger Will McLean said...


1:21 PM  

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