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What War?

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJanuary 5, 2011 3:29 AM


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Every so often I think about why America doesn't feel like a country at war. Richard Cohen, in his WaPo column today, reminds us why:

The all-volunteer military has enabled America to fight two wars while many of its citizens do not know of a single fatality or even of anyone who has fought overseas. This is a military conscripted by culture and class - induced, not coerced, indoctrinated in all the proper cliches about serving one's country, honored and romanticized by those of us who would not, for a moment, think of doing the same. You get the picture.

Oh, I do. And what is wrong with it, he asks rhetorically?

A couple of things. First, this distant Army enables us to fight wars about which the general public is largely indifferent. Had there been a draft, the war in Iraq might never have been fought - or would have produced the civil protests of the Vietnam War era. The Iraq debacle was made possible by a professional military and by going into debt. George W. Bush didn't need your body or, in the short run, your money. Southerners would fight, and foreigners would buy the bonds. For understandable reasons, no great songs have come out of the war in Iraq.

You know what my most searing memory of war is? I was in 9th grade and my English teacher came to school all broken up one day, because she had seen The Deer Hunter the night before, which had recently come out. The movie had hit too close to home, she said, and she was all torn up over it. Her anguish and pain was palpable. At one point, the poor woman, who I recall being in her early 30s, seemed like she might crawl into a fetus position right in front of the class. If memory serves, I think she had to leave the room at least once to compose herself. Today, the traumas of war are borne as much by the children of American soldiers, as this recent heart-wrenching NYT story makes clear. But their pain and sacrifice is theirs alone, while most of American society remains unconcerned and untouched by the two wars fought in its name.

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