30 November 2011

Martial Ignorance

More from Salon:

As the Pew data show, the younger generation, whose foreign policy views were shaped not by World War II triumphalism but by grinding quagmires like Iraq and Afghanistan, has a far more realistic view of America’s role in the modern world. While that position may shift somewhat over the years, the numbers are striking enough to suggest an impending cultural break from the past. As the younger generation assumes more powerful positions in society and more electoral agency in our democracy, the possibility of such a break gives us reason to believe America can create a new foreign policy paradigm in our lifetime.

Most people’s understanding of the martial arts is quite limited.  Most, one could say, are quite ignorant of the matter.  As such, it should not be surprising that one’s views of the military are contingent upon one’s experience with the social significance of the military during one’s youth.

For example, it’s considerably easier to be a war hawk when you grow up remembering how powerful the United States’ military was, as evidenced by its actions in WWII (or Korea).  One does tend to remember that sort of success, and it is highly likely that said experience predisposes one to try to recreate it.
The problem, though, is that the current situation in the Middle East bears little resemblance to WWII.  In WWII, the United States was warring with highly militaristic European states, wherein massive army fought against massive army.  Lots and lots of resources were needed to win the war because the outcome of the war, fundamentally, was more contingent on having massive amounts of resources than on having superior skills.  Basically, the wealthiest country would be most assured of success if no other reason than it could afford to waste more resources in the course of war.

The situation is different today because the United States’ enemies have clearly recognized that they cannot outspend the United States in an arms race.  (Seriously, just imagine how ludicrous it is to suggest that al Qaeda could match funds with the United States over the past ten years of war.)  Instead, the United States’ enemies have decided to engage in guerilla warfare, which is more effective because it relies on small-scale attacks, which are in turn more expensive to defend than carry out.  The goal, then, is not to kill one’s enemy but to bankrupt it.  And since martial victory is contingent on having resources to waste, bankruptcy is as viable a tactic as a massive invasion.

Anyhow, the problem that currently exists regarding foreign policy is that those who make the policy still think the United States still need a WWII army even though it’s an al Qaeda world.  And it is these people who are out of touch.

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