Sunday, October 31, 2010
"An age without surrender ceremonies"
Mary L. Dudziak
Here’s a snippet from the book I’m finishing up this fall. This passage is about what I think of as President Obama’s “Mission Accomplished” moment, and it raises questions about how to think about the role of wartime in American history during a period when wars don’t seem to end.
If we ever get to a Constitutional Convention, perhaps the "war" experiences of the 20th and 21st (still in progress) centuries may require a closer look at the "Commander-In-Chief" role of the President. But for the reactions to the draft, might Vietnam have continued on, perhaps leading to dominos falling? We don't have a draft today and in these important 2010 midterm elections the current wars (Afganistan and, yes, Iraq!), are apparently NOT of major concern to voters. I'm thinking of the Seinfeld episode, where Jerry told Elaine that the title originally proposed for "War and Peace" was "War, What is It Good For?" When we look back, can we say "Absolutely Nothing" when it come to our current wars? Or were the Three Stooges prescient with their feature "Oil's Well That Ends Well"? Mary's closing sentence says it well:
"The circularity befitted what the president called 'an age without surrender ceremonies;' an age when conflict could end, even as it remained on-going."
Which reminds me of Groucho Marx in "Animal Crackers" about going/staying.
William J. Astore's sobering essay at TomDispatch (10/31/10) "The New American Isolationism - The Cost of Turning Away from War's Horrific Realties" in its penultimate paragraph tells us:
"Today, Americans are again an isolationist people, but with a twist. Even as we expand our military bases overseas and spend trillions on national security and wars, we’ve isolated ourselves from war’s passions, its savagery, its heartrending sacrifices. Such isolation comforts some and seemingly allows others free rein to act as they wish, but it’s a false comfort, a false freedom, purchased at the price of prolonging our wars, increasing their casualties, abridging our freedoms, and eroding our country’s standing in the world."
Let's ask again, "War, What Is It Good For?" The military-industrial complex? And David Broder suggests in his recent WaPo column that Obama should consider going to war with Iran as a means of pulling America out of the Bush/Cheney Great Recession. What we need is "SANITY NOW!" But there is no "Sanity Clause" in the Constitution, despite its empowering Congress to declare war.
I think the surrender ceremonies have morphed into the interfactional compromises conducted to form weak governments, rather than taking the form of the pomp and circumstance of truce and armistice led by civilian and military conventional brass. The extending of financial support to militias begins the process of coordination and negotiation. One of the difficult spheres in the metamorphosis to postbellum civil rule is the issue of the Establishment Clause in its various permutations; for example, consider the structure of family law courts in Kenya, and that nation's recent referenda for constitutional revisions affecting related matters, as well as addressing other elements of the executive branch's part in filling that country's judiciary.
The kind of cash-for-polity deals developed in Iraq under US participation appear to have analogs currently in Afghanistan as the US administration continues its drive toward some quantifiable drawdown of military presence.
Surrender ceremonies occur between nation states. America has simply gone back to the low intensity wars of its past like the Indian wars, Philippines, Central America, Haiti, etc. Low intensity wars do not end so much as they peter out as the enemy disbands.
Low intensity wars do not end so much as they peter out as the enemy disbands.
# posted by Bart DePalma : 3:30 PM
Or we finally realize there is no point in pissing away lives and money for nothing. That appears to finally be the case in Iraq, and will eventually happen in Afghanistan.
From the thin air of the hills of CO, we hear this:
"America has simply gone back to the low intensity wars of its past like the Indian wars, Philippines, Central America, Haiti, etc. Low intensity wars do not end so much as they peter out as the enemy disbands."
Once again, our former Backpacker come up with "simply" to describe a situation that is quite complex. Was Iraq a low intensity war that has petered out as the enemy disbands? (Query: has the enemy really disbanded in Iraq?) I wonder what the dead and injured on both sides in Iraq might think of this analysis? Mary's snippet focuses upon Iraq and President Obama's "Mission Accomplished" moment. And how inexpensive was Iraq as a low intensity war? Perhaps our former Backpacker's goal is to minimize the Iraq War for the benefit of the Bush/Cheney image? And Afghanistan is comparable to Haiti, Central America? "Simply" doesn't fit the situation of Mary's snippet but is reflective of its author.
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