This quick post on JoeUser discusses the altered expectations that today’s society has when it comes to war. I don’t think it’s just the German foreign minister. Americans have incredibly short attention spans and demand instant gratification. This is most evident when discussing the “quagmire” in Iraq or the fact that Afghanistan isn’t a profitable democracy yet.
I think a lot of this has to do with the typical American having little understanding of or knowledge of history. Most information most Americans possess of historical events seems to come from Hollywood movies. They’re not all bad, and some of them go to great lengths to make sure they get the facts right, but that’s not good enough. Most of us just don’t have enough knowledge of past events to view current events in a meaningful context.
I’m a fan of history, and read a lot of it, both online and in books. I watch The History Channel. I check history videos out from the library. I’m far more knowledgable than nearly everyone else that I personally know. But I’m constantly blown away by how little I actually know, and by how little of that that I really understand.
People that have more than a passing knowledge of the Vietnam war realize that Iraq now is nothing like Vietnam then. Could it get there from here? Maybe. But I don’t see any indications anywhere that it will. The cost (in dollars per month) of operations in Iraq have been compared to the cost of operations in Vietnam, but those comparisons don’t take into account the relative cost when compared to the national budget or GDP. People that have more than a passing knowledge of warfare realize that the fighting in Iraq, now in its sixth month, has been about as bloodless as you can get and still have a war, and that it will need to go on for a long time yet before the ‘Q-word’ should really even be considered.
I think that if we all had a better understanding of what has happened before, we’d all have a better understanding of what’s happening now. And what may happen in the future.
What do we do about it? I don’t know.