We were assured at one time, that Americans understood war. That came from our Civil War, the model for industrial warfare. Mass produced killing and destruction, studied assiduously by all since 1865, world wide.
Technology changed war, mass producing death and destruction through WWII. Now though, technology has gone the other way, pinpointing targets for drones while avoiding “civilians” because their deaths appear at once on the Internet, indicting their killers. (Never mind the facts of a given case.)
Wars, once won by denying the enemy his desired land, supplies and people, are now won by making the other guy appear worse than we are on the Internet and You Tube. Drone assassination of roadside bombers is laudable, so long as no ‘innocents’ are harmed. So bomb making shops are all located in residential areas now.
In WWII carpet bombing of cities was normal. All the dead and maimed were innocent civilians by today’s standards, so what? They were enemies. Now, U.S. troops are court-martialed for killing “civilians” in house-to house fighting. American troops in Afghanistan and the Middle East are not allowed to return fire unless granted permission by higher authority; it can lead to bad publicity, a new definition of war. Perhaps it may explain why the U.S. no longer seems to win its wars?
One may note too that when war is no longer clearly “won” by anyone, it can become perpetual, supporting politicians and contractors ad infinitum. Impoverishing taxpayers, but never mind, they’ll vote for it. And it distracts from governmental incompetence and corruption. What’s not to like?
The WWII Allies destroyed enemy people and property until the enemy agreed to stop fighting. The enemy did the same; the Allies did it better. It ended in the paroxysms of nuclear explosions in 1945. It was the “War to end all wars.”
Five years later, we began the Korean War. War has been perpetual since. And as You Tube and the Internet have put the result on our screens, the public relations rules of engagement have taken hold; war must be seen as sanitary, at least from the American side. Never mind dead American soldiers, protect the “civilians” at all costs. That eliminates “winning” in any real terms. Few seem to notice, or care about that.
A luminous case in point is Israel: Arabs lobbing missiles into Israel is what one expects, not news. It has restarted from Gaza recently with nary a mention. But let any Israeli fire back in self defense and his blood thirsty aggression is instant news world wide. President Obama and the E.U. will issue warnings against Israeli brutality.
If not in propaganda, in real history, war is about destroying the foe’s goods, people and will to fight until he accepts your terms. The alternative is to accept his terms. Americans once understood that. Now, they seem to perceive war as sort of public relations exercise. That is a self-destructive delusion.
Reality seems likely to be preparing two hard lessons for America; one is economic; the other is about the nature of war. Both seem in need of re-learning.