Some Thoughts on War Apologia and the Lack of Empathy, Then and Now

With the ten-year anniversary of the Iraq War upon us, quite a few pundits are trying to explain how they got it so disastrously and murderously wrong. Ultimately, they failed to ask the basic question: are the goals of the war worth fighting and killing–and possibly dying–for? Not in the abstract, but personally. Were they willing to do it? I can’t speak to their ability to pass a military physical, but many of the supporters were young enough to sign up. Why didn’t they, if they thought the war was just? Even if all they would have done was relieve someone in a completely peaceful Iraq (the fighting supposedly would have been done by then), it would have allowed the combat veterans to rotate home earlier.

Yet they never got around to doing this. Must have slipped their minds. Taxes Wars are for the little people.

The great failure of the run up to the Iraq War was the widespread inability to empathize with someone who would have to serve over there. When I, and I think many who opposed it, thought about the war, we personalized it. Is this worth the orphaned children, the crippled and scarred veterans, the anger and the fury? What would you say to someone’s parents when they receive that folded American flag?

Instead, some were worried about things like the ghosts of Vietnam, while others were entranced by someone else’s idealization of what war can do. But nowhere do I read an accounting that admits just how callous they were towards those who would fight this war. In fact, there is still no explicit recognition that soldiers–people–fight wars, not philosophical concepts, that ideas must always be judged by their effects on living, breathing people. They shelter behind inadequate words of analysis and mediocre philosophy.

Based on the apologia I’ve read so far, they still haven’t figured this out. They still harbor a pathological inability to empathize with those who will actually be affected by their decisions.

They still have a lot to work on. Hopefully, they figure out before the drumbeat starts for the next war.

Related: Charles Pierce brings the heat:

And precisely what risk did you “manage” ? What chance did you take? You gambled with other people’s children in a game you’d helped rig. What cost was exacted from you, sitting your fat ass in a swivel chair at a wingnut intellectual chop-shop while kids are still staggering around the wards without legs and arms, or the cognitive functions to get them through the day? What price did you pay? You have to send out for lunch one day? Show me the butcher’s bill for the Perle household, you vampire son of a bitch.

And let us not forget Perle’s onetime co-author, David Frum, who’s mysteriously been allowed through the tradesmen’s entrance back into the discourse conducted by decent people. It should be recalled, before we all start doing that which Winston Wolf cautioned us not to do, that Frum did a lot more than write one speech in 2002. Two years later, he also wrote a discreetly McCarthyite book with the aforementioned Perle called An End To Evil. If we’d found a single cache of biotoxins anywhere in Iraq, Frum would have been waving his warrior dick at CPAC last weekend. Instead, we hear about Dick Cheney, and Tony Blair, and how really sorry David Frum is for the hand he played in the deaths of so many people who are not named David Frum.

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6 Responses to Some Thoughts on War Apologia and the Lack of Empathy, Then and Now

  1. Mike Knox says:

    Frum began his journey on this planet as a Canadian. On behalf of my country, I apologize. Abjectly and sincerely

    Just Another Mike

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  3. kaleberg says:

    If I remember correctly, there was a big push to cut combat pay even as the war was ramping up. It was kind of nauseating.

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