Friday, December 30, 2011

Under-reported this year, and last year, and....

‘Tis the season for retrospectives on the past year.  Where the media is involved these usually include most under-reported story of the year.  My candidate this year as it has been for roughly the last decade is the profound change that has occurred in how we make war. 

Think about it.  From Napoleon on the trajectory has been consistently in the direction of more all encompassing, more total war, with larger forces and the line between combatant and civilian becoming less and less distinct.  And then America changed everything with its technology, money, and decency.

Consider Michael Kelly’s description of the Iraq war:

The first morning of the war I was standing across the Tigris River from the Ministry of Defense, looking at the black smoke pouring out of it from a cruise-missile hit five minutes earlier, when the second missile smacked home, shuddering the ground with the explosion and sending up great new billows of smoke.  Five minutes after that, the third missile boomed.  In ten minutes the heart and symbol of Iraq’s armed forces was a burning rubble.  The hospital next to it, though, was untouched, and so were the homes crowded around it.  The attack had been so swift that the antiaircraft guns had not even fired.”

And later in the same piece:

The sight of tomahawk cruise missiles moving purposefully two or three stories above the city streets became a recurring nightmare vision in Baghdad.  Cruise missiles move at subsonic speeds and can easily be followed with the eye as their lethally single-minded little gyroscopes and computer circuits guide them along to their target.  A stunned Reuters correspondent actually saw a missile arrive at a street corner, appear to pause for a moment, and then turn left.”

Not exactly Dresden is it, even allowing for the important differences between a war like Iraq and the WWII. 

And yet to my knowledge that are has been little attention paid to this change.  Why?  Well two suggestions come to mind.  One, to give proper credit to this transformation would be to give due credit to America and we can’t have that.  And two, I don’t think those who would write the stories are comfortable with the implications of more precise, less horrific way of making war. 

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