I'm going to make this short because I simply don't have a thousand-word essay in me about war fever. But the more I think about our campaign against ISIS, the more dismayed I become. I always figured that if the time ever came when a president wanted to bomb Iran, it would be pretty easy to whip up the usual war frenzy over it. That's been baked into the cake for a long time. But Iraq? And without even a very big push from President Obama? I mean, for all that I'm not happy over his decision to go back to war in Iraq, he's been relatively sober about the whole thing.The ease with which Bush and Cheney whipped us into war frenzy for their attack on Saddam was one of the most depressing experiences of my lifetime. I don't think it is because Americans really get off on blowing up Arabs. I think it is because Americans believe we have a right to live in perfect safety and are easily enraged by the thought that someone would attack us -- fear, not imperialism, seems to be the main driver.
But it barely matters. The mere concrete prospect of a new war was all it took. According to polls, nearly two-thirds of Americans are on board with the fight against ISIS and nearly half think we ought to be sending in ground troops. That's despite the fact that practically every opinion leader in the country says in public that they oppose ground troops. At this point it would take only a tiny shove—a bomb scare, an atrocity of some kind, pretty much anything—and 70 percent of the country would be in full-bore war frenzy mode.
It's like we've learned nothing from the past decade. Our politicians are in love with war. The public is in love with war. And the press is really in love with war. It just never ends.
But at a deeper level the need for enemies, and the savage joy of crushing them, is still every present in our souls.
Americans love war because they do not live it.
American wars are foreign, distant things that happen to other people who "deserve" it. They're out of sight and out of mind - easily easily supported, easily "justified", and easily forgotten.
So we send off our children to kill, telling young men they're too young to drink but old enough to die for their country - or at least for their country's politicians. They come home damaged - if they come home at all - perhaps spared physical wounds, but never spared mental ones. We sweep them under the rug, tell them to "soldier on", and quietly add them to our nation's pile of mentally unstable individuals we refuse to provide adequate help for - or even just acknowledge exist, much of the time.
We love war. It doesn't happen to us, so what's to hate? We do a "decent" job keeping our troops alive, and we do a "decent" job keeping our veterans quiet about what they went through and did, so most people never have a reason to care.
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