Friday, March 17, 2017

He's Been a Soldier for a Thousand Years

A good (if unfortunately routine) post by Daniel Larison today:
One of the more striking things about the paltry foreign policy debate in the 2016 campaign is that the war in Afghanistan was never mentioned in any of the presidential debates, and scarcely came up at any other time. As I recall, neither candidate said anything substantive about the longest foreign war in our history, and neither of them was ever asked to say anything. That was consistent with the overall neglect of our ongoing involvement in multiple foreign wars. The problem here isn’t just that both major party candidates would have taken conventionally hawkish positions in favor of continuing the war indefinitely, but that they didn’t think they had to take a public position because unending war is now simply our default mode of operation. Our political leaders and our media don’t just consider perpetual war to be tolerable, but for the most part seem to find it so unimportant as to not be worth their time. This is irresponsible neglect on their part, but almost no one notices their negligence because the immediate costs of the war are borne by a small number of Americans.
That last sentence I quoted may surprise a lot of people, and offend some. But it seems to me that those people who do bear the immediate costs of the war by serving in the military, are not interested in questioning it, even when the war is being waged by a president and a Congress they profess to hate. It's an article of faith that all our wars are defensive, that our military is fighting to defend our freedoms, and so on.  To deny that any given war should not be fought will be denounced angrily as lack of Support for Our Troops.  Those who have given their bodies and are ready to give their children's bodies as weapons to the war are just as dedicated to waging war forever as DC elites.

That's an oversimplification, of course, because many veterans do oppose American wars.  When I point this out to my militarist friends, they ignore it.  I haven't yet been able to get them to say something about the range of views among veterans, no doubt because it complicates their certainty that they, and only they, are Americans and speak for America.  Like many on the left, I've been accused of living in a bubble and not talking to those with different views.  That's not true for me, and not for many others.  The trouble is that those we talk to refuse to listen to different views; when they demand that their views be listened to, they mean that they will talk and others must listen.  No other views exist for them.  If you want to talk about people who live in bubbles or echo chambers, you're talking about the grassroots Right, Donald Trump's base.