Are Americans Detached From War?


Americans are disconnected from the wars we fight like never before. There is a whole range of reasons why we are so incoherent to the most pressing matters of the day.

Last week the Obama administration was slighted for its oblique indoctrination of new weapons capabilities into modern mainstream. With disregard of traditional sensory channels, this administration has instituted a targeted killing program that has completely altered our perception of war. 

With the advent of these new technologies, no longer can we be sure if we are even at war. 

Tuesday’s State of the Union address elaborated on many things but the changing face of modern warfare. President Obama sidestepped the matter with the sweeping generalization that "in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world." 

The fact is, things are so different today that I don’t even think our leaders can be sure whether we’re at war or involved in something else entirely. If the American people want transparency, they’re going to have to dig for it and look inside themselves.

Our world has changed a lot in the last century from the cars we drive, to the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the women we love — a pack of "Luckys" is pulling on an electric-cigarette: now-a-days kids have slicked back hair again but it ain't "Beau Kreml.". We love the killing fields in Platoon and the battle at the bridge in Saving Private Ryan; a lot of us fancy ourselves war fanatics — virtual men of honors — but “killing spree candies” is more like it. 

The truth is for most of us we have no idea what it’s like to stick a man or bleed for our country. How we imagine war in the 21st century is how we like to imagine war; it’s on demand and a few clicks away but not kilometer klicks, remote clicks. What we know about modern warfare is what we care to know when it’s convenient for U.S. 

I’ve never gone to war but my grandfather and father did — maybe yours did too. My father’s war was Vietnam and my grandfather’s was WWII. In the latter there was a draft lottery and in the Great War there was rationing, in both wars there was domestic sacrifice.

Military service is, as former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated, “something for other people to do.” 

In our parent’s wars it didn’t matter whether you agreed with it or not, everyone sacrificed something and everyone got involved. It was about social consciousness and conversations.  

Gate’s vast experiences as defense secretary, CIA director, Deputy National Security advisor and finally civilian lecturer, among other things, give him ultimate credence to talk about domestic disconnect with modern warfare; but even he doesn’t have the answers to the questions not being asked. Herein lies the problem. 

It’s any wonder why civilian life is so far removed from the lives of those protecting our civil liberties. Maybe the rest of us are just soft: soft bodies, soft minds, soft couches?  We can’t even fathom news that’s not a headline or human interest; and forget about civil unrest in other countries — where’s that? 

Who are we at war with anyway? Yeah, for those of us in the “know” that’s the question-that’s the headline": in Tuesday night’s State of the Union, President Obama declared, “After a decade of grinding war our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.”  But whether the war is over, still remains to been seen. The revamping of our securities’ arsenal has dynamically changed the landscape of modern warfare today and begs the question what constitutes an outright war. 

Drones have quickly become the weapon of choice for Western nations. They are functionally superior to manned aircraft: they fly cheaply, stay aloft longer and are flown remotely, meaning zero danger to flight crew. 

Consider the NATO led intervention in Libya, where not a single American ground troop was deployed and not a single American life lost. White House spokesperson Jay Carney, was asked during intervention” What is this military action? ... Is it a war?" He replied, "It is a time-limited, scope-limited military action, in concert with our international partners." When urged to elaborate, Carney said, “I'm not going to get into the terminology. I think what it is certainly not is, as others have said, a large-scale military open-ended military action the kind of which might otherwise be described as a war. There's no ground troops as the president said. There's no land invasion.”

Senior counterterrorism adviser John Brennan compares drone strikes to “deploying large armies abroad” and “large intrusive military deployments.” According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, from 2004 to 2013, 2,634-3,468 people have been killed in 363 drone strikes in Pakistan; including the lives of 473-893 civilians. If John Brennan is correct, it’s kind of like the Pakistanis have had 363 Normandys, just slightly less obvious. 

The institutionalized-targeted-killing of our enemies has completely altered the perception of those on capital hill; who share in President Obama's and Mr. Carney’s belief, that drone strike’s are contained military interventions and do not require a declaration of war. 

As the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) becomes more commonplace, as it appears to be in Washington, what will protocol be when there are hundreds of thousands of (UAVs) powering through the atmosphere — how will we contain that kind of influence abroad? 

Journalist Micah Zenko wrote in a recent article that “using lethal force against other countries and developing and sustaining the capabilities to do so in perpetuity -- are the distinguishing features of a country at war.” I agree. The fact is that (UAVs) are making war easy. Americans like easy. 

To apply Zenko’s definition of war to contemporary growth fields and the development of new technologies, war will most certainly sustain itself indefinitely; just as long as the tertiary threat exists and our enemies seek to weaken us — that is not likely to ever fail entirely considering that, we’re not always the most popular kid on the block. 

This is certainly not our father’s war or our grandfather’s war. Maybe there’s no such thing as war anymore — and we should just hang it up like a rusty old metal relic — and change the rhetoric to something more specialized and less apparent — abstraction complete and government-approved. 

However, if we do that, we undercut the innocent civilian lives taken by drone strikes, we undervalue the brave faction of troops worldwide, who as we speak, are still protecting us from danger and we complete the disconnect between our citizens and our protectors. 

So what defines war today? There is no clear answer but one thing is for sure: if ever fast-moving ominous terror clouds start drifting into our sky, we’ll know we’re at war.