While America has gone a century and a half without being “war-torn” in the conventional sense, the damage of war is not limited to that inflicted by guns and bombs.
by Whitney Webb
Despite concern that the United States will soon find itself in a major war that could have global consequences, many Americans are uninterested in that eventuality as shown by the minimal attention major geopolitical events, like the recent bombing of Syria or the 17-year-long occupation of Afghanistan, receive compared to the President’s alleged sexcapades and rapper Kanye West’s tweets.
Though many theories have been put forth as to why so many Americans are uninterested in their government’s military actions abroad that are committed in their name and with their tax dollars, there is one that stands out from the rest.
The United States has been at war for 93 percent of its history. However, a vast majority of those wars took place abroad and did not drastically alter domestic life for most Americans, except in the case of the Civil War. The suffering of wars in which the U.S. has participated has largely eluded the majority of Americans, save for American servicemen and veterans — who are often forced to internalize their suffering in a country disconnected from the consequences of war.
Compare, for instance, the suffering unleashed upon the people of Korea during the Korean War, the people of Vietnam during the Vietnam War and the people of Iraq during the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq to the domestic experience of the average American while those wars were taking place.
Even the “just” wars of years past, like World War I and World War II, did not cause the type of destruction that those wars wrought upon Europe. In fact, the U.S. government – beyond the loss of life of its soldiers – benefited greatly from these catastrophes and allowed the country to become a world power.
As a result, there is a prevailing, though likely unconscious, perception that U.S. military adventurism abroad, no matter how brutal or criminal, does not significantly impact the day-to-day activities of American life, allowing a substantial portion of the population to ignore the more sordid consequences of U.S. imperial ambition.
Yet, while America has gone a century and a half without being “war-torn” in the conventional sense, the damage of war is not limited to that inflicted by guns and bombs. With yet another war looming, it is worth revisiting the effects past wars have had on American domestic life as well as the dangerous precedents that past actions of the U.S. government taken during war-time have set.
Indeed, were the U.S. to get involved in a major war with a country like Russia or Iran, many of the past actions taken by the government, particularly those aimed at curbing dissent, are highly likely to make a comeback to the great detriment of American domestic life and, most of all, American democracy.