Stephen Green, following up on a post by Steven Den Beste, contrasts the brutal sacrifices made during WWII in general and D-Day in particular with the comparative timidity of the way we’re fighting the war on terror and its Iraqi subsidiary.
D-Day was a huge risk, militarily and politically. And even though it was a risk that paid off, the cost was still 10,000 dead and wounded American soldiers.
1944 was a Presidential election year. That’s right Ã¢€“ President Roosevelt risked it all on D-Day, in the middle of an election campaign.
This year’s election, just like any other, is a popularity contest. The war, however, is not. The war isn’t about winning votes. The war isn’t about pleasing the EU or the UN. And the war is most certainly not about trying to make those in Fallujah who ought to fear us, like us instead.
Let’s hope President Bush still understands all that.
I’m pretty sure he does, although I’m less convinced of that than I was a year ago. In some ways, this war is more important to the U.S. than was WWII. Hitler wasn’t a threat to the U.S. mainland, after all. But we live in a much different social climate. We’re much more cynical and much less deferential to presidential authority. Today, the actions of a Pat Tillman are virtually unfathomable to most Americans; in 1941, they were the norm. Even single digit losses of volunteer soldiers causes a panic. We lost more people in the first few minutes at Omaha Beach than we’ve lost in the entire thirteen months plus in Iraq.
For whatever reason, Bush and Co. made a decision after 9/11 that the war was going to be handled by the professionals and that ordinary Americans should simply go about their lives as if nothing has happened. Tom Friedman and others made passionate arguments that this was a mistake; that war should require across-the-board sacrifices from everyone. I’m of mixed minds on the issue. Modern warfare can’t be fought using the mass mobilization techniques of the past, making a WWII-style effort both unnecessary and counterproductive. Still, societal buy-in to the war effort is crucial. The president has been asiduous in reminding us that a war is on, that it will be a long one, and that there will be much sacrifice. I’m just not sure most people believe it or really understand what that means anymore.
Could we sustain 400,000 battle deaths in an “optional” war today? I tend to doubt it. At a minimum, it would take another 9/11 to provide the opportunity to mobilize that support. The last one is too distant a memory already.