Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Generation "xbox" at War

The present military action in Libya has several troubling components. I can assert, with a clear conscience, that I would have the same concerns even if I had voted for the current President. It seems that the "bar" has been considerably lowered for what constitutes a "clear and present danger" to the sovereignty of the United States. For some reason, we simply are not as war averse as we use to be. For all the accusations leveled by the current culture against previous generations for being less humanitarian, the present day society seems much more comfortable with prolonged military operations with less definable objectives. The present generation of American leaders fight more wars in more places than previous generations did.

This critique uses WWII as "the gold standard" for setting the "bar" in justifying Americans being sent out to war.

To ensure consistency, I will apply to this to the "War on Terror." Unfortunately, what began as a response to a specific attack has seemingly lived beyond its "shelf life."

A "shelf life"?!?! For wars?! Yes. Definitely. When the "War on Terror" began in Afghanistan, many complained that it was taking too long (after 1 year!). I remember, in 2003, chiding the culture, saying, "Come on, people! Can't you have at least the attention span of the WWII generation?" Now, eight years later, I'm inclined to remember those words I spoke and admit: the WWII generation weren't asked to maintain their support for a war THIS long, against an enemy THIS nebulous.

WWII set the bar by offering a clearly definable enemy, with clearly definable objectives. The war effort had a goal (the unconditional surrender of the Axis nations: Japan, Germany and Italy). That generation, it seems, was less willing to enter war that could not be tied directly to American sovereignty or national interests. Accused of being isolationists, those in leadership demonstrated an understandable reluctance to commit U.S. soldiers and sailors, ships, tanks and planes to a cause not convincing to a peaceful populace. The nagging question seemed to be: when the troops return for their victory parade, who will the thankful civilians know they were protected from?

The point is that the WWII generation appeared to accept the "hell" that is war because the enemy was THAT evil, THAT organized, THAT powerful and THAT much of a threat. Therefore, because of those conditions, we were willing to enter into that war (though we were the latecomers). However, as a culture, we seemed to hate war then. We understood that war is "hell," and a horrific perversion foisted upon the human experience when evil forces are on the march, that must be resisted and defeated. Therefore, when we got into a war, we fought as nasty and efficiently as possible in order to destroy the enemy and go home. We seemed to understand then how bad war is, or at least how bad it SHOULD be so that no one wants to do it very often.

Since then a watershed change has taken place. War is seemingly a lot less abhorrent to the present generation. Thus, we're willing to do it often, and for far less threatening reasons.
We don't require that our incarnations of evil be Hitler anymore...
they can merely be Saddam Hussein.
We don't require that our enemies be threats to our national sovereignty...
they can merely be treats to our "interests."
We don't require that our enemies be powerful compare to us...
they can merely be cruel to their neighbors.
We don't require that our enemies even have a military...
then can merely have enough weapons to terrorize their neighbors.

Thus, we now seem more into "fighting" than we are into "winning."
We're seemingly willing to keep the event going rather than to decisively conclude it.
It's like we don't think it's THAT bad anymore.
It's like a video game.

Generation "xbox" has decided that war is like a "game" that can just keep going, so long as you can show that you seemingly have the upper hand. In a video game, you fight surgically, house-to-house, with hand-held rockets, small arms and occasional bombs. War is clean and neat. You don't gain any points for collateral damage. Our enemies know this, so they have the advantage of knowing that though they destroy our buildings, we will not destroy theirs.

The "War on Terror" has come to resemble more an xbox game than the destruction levels of WWII that convinced the German, Japanese and Italian cultures to get along with the West. And because we fight wars this way, we seem willing to fight them when no discernible mission or clear national threat is present. Libya is along this vein; in this category.

Some may suggest that I'm only critical because this present action was ordered by a President that I did not vote for. But in defense I say that the "War on Terror," though seemingly closer to that standard at the front end, has slipped below it over the years. Therefore, I believe this is a consistent opinion. America does not like war, and thus needs better reasons to enter into it. But the xbox generation needs only the thrill of fighting to justifying picking up the controls and rebooting the game.

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