Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Global Troubles

America isn't war weary or war apathetic. We're just getting used to what a lot of the world experiences--terror and security as a way of life.

Americans are adjusting to the new world we are in:

And while McMaster isn’t wrong [about American war weariness], the focus on war-weariness obscures the more general and arguably more pernicious fact that the American population is broadly disengaged from American foreign policy and the places it takes soldiers like myself. In fact, during CNN’s series of hour-long town hall events with five leading 2020 Democratic candidates in April, only three questions were asked about foreign policy. None of them were about America’s nearly two-decade-long post-9/11 wars.

Because of our position away from other major threats separated by oceans, Americans haven't experienced a feeling of daily threat since we were colonies clinging to the Atlantic under threat by Indian tribes. Yes, we had the threat of nuclear war during the Cold War. But that was not a daily drip of violence in small levels.

But the United States really isn't at war. Yes, American forces are in combat at low levels. And there are occasional casualties. But we are not engaged in large scale combat using larger combat forces in direct combat. We are advising allies who exist because of past wars (in Iraq and Afghanistan) and other entities that can fight for themselves with our help (like the Kurds and many African states who fight jihadis):

I'm not the only one to notice that we really aren't in "endless wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan any more. What we are doing is committing troops and money (and yes, occasional casualties) to defend what we achieved. All without "exit strategies." Let's keep it that way.

If we counted our troop deaths (from training and sometimes terrorism) in Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Italy after the major combat ended, it would look like our "endless wars" in those places continue to this day. Let's pay the price to defend our gains to make the higher prices we paid to win them not go to waste.

That's a good thing.

And the author of the first article even admits that when American casualties go down, media interest wanes, and people don't pay as much attention.

Again, that's a good thing. Especially since modern media attention tends to accusing American troops of war crimes simply for fighting for us.

But we aren't used to this background "noise" of conflict. Colombia had a five-decade war against insurgents. The Philippines has been fighting terrorists and separatists since independence. And there are Israel, Afghanistan, Somalia, Burma, Zaire, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, and Iraq, just to name some countries with ongoing and lengthy political violence.

Perhaps the British had the right idea by calling their long struggle with Irish terrorists "the troubles."

We have the "war on terror" which for a while in the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters was a real war.

But once the direct threats were defeated on the battlefield and whittled down to a size allies can handle with our help, it is something other than a war despite continued American military roles.

Indeed, just after the September 11, 2001 attacks, I wrote that we can't maintain a war focus forever:

Selective enhanced security measures localized by geography and time to respond to reasonable suspicions or actual threats may be more appropriate than a constant uniformly maintained bunker mentality that cannot in any case be maintained indefinitely. We do not expect our entire military to maintain Threat Condition Delta indefinitely and still remain effective, and civilian society cannot do that either and still function.

So the fight goes on. And the real fight is a civil war within the the Islamic world where we are potential collateral damage in the fight over who defines Islam--jihadis or normal people who would rather just get along with non-Moslems or even just Moslems who aren't Islamist fanatics of the proper sect.

Americans aren't war weary. Or war apathetic. Americans are perhaps realizing that we've joined the rest of the world whose people long faced endless violence. Travel and media got good enough that our long isolation in the New World has shrunk the distance that once kept us safe from global troubles.

And it is an adjustment Americans have to make if we are to carry on until a victory that might not come for many decades.

Have a super sparkly day.