Friday, December 14, 2007

Forgetting the obvious

Even as we narrow our own view of warfare’s acceptable parameters, trying to harm as few civilians as possible in successful operations, our enemies amplify the concept of total war: They kill tens, or hundreds, or occasionally thousands of civilians in order to undermine the morale of millions.

The killing of 3,000 civilians on September 11, 2001 might have temporarily awakened a warrior spirit in American democracy, but such a spirit is hard to sustain in the crucible of an ambiguous conflict. In Iraq, a country of 26 million people through which more than a million American troops have passed, the loss of a few Americans and three dozen-or-so Iraqis daily in suicide bombs is enough to demoralize a homefront 7,000 miles away.

A non-warrior democracy with a limited appetite for casualties is probably a good thing in terms of putting the breaks on a directionless war strategy. That does not change the fact, however, that Americans as a people are ever further removed from any semblance of a warrior spirit as we grow increasingly prosperous and our political elite grows increasingly secular.

No comments: