New burdens for a new war

By on March 27, 2003

Once troops are committed, politics subside, but the burden on the President grows. By day four of the Iraqi campaign, it became plainly evident that the march through Iraq would not be a ceremonial parade, but instead a very real military encounter, with very real dangers, and very real consequences.

President Bush must vigilantly and consistently justify the ends of this war, or it will quickly become less necessary than the toll is great-quickly become nothing more than Vietnam without the draft.

Specific pronouncement and explication of imminent threat is particularly important, for if the only reason for engagement is abusive Iraqi leadership, the United States will set a precedent for perpetual warfare.

Who is to determine which despotic regimes are in the most dire need of removal? Do they all warrant military action? If they do result in engagement, the only outcome will be the constant proliferation of new enemies as the United States spreads itself thin around the world, and opportune dictators attempt to capitalize on a weakened, extended United States military.

The President’s public relations chore is an unprecedented one-he must convince a generation of Americans that has only seen war on film that military action is necessary. Even if the cause be virtuous, will America really be able to stomach the reality of fighting an enemy that feigns surrender, then picks up its weapons, and kills American soldiers. Steadfastness is necessary, and a measure of tragedy inevitable.

The last American generation has, for the most part, lived in a world of relative peace. It has learned about patriotic sacrifice from “Saving Private Ryan,” comprehended the intensity of warfare tragedy from “Black Hawk Down,” and viewed the dehumanization of man through films like “Life is Beautiful” and “The Pianist.” But no matter how vivid art becomes, it can never thoroughly and completely resonate. For even as Captain John Miller dies at the end of “Saving Private Ryan,” Tom Hanks shows up at the Oscars three months later.

With new challenges come new ethical dilemmas. Journalists provide the crucial function of facilitating public knowledge, but the trend towards reporters reporting from within combat units while encounters are in progress must stop. As soldiers fight and endanger their lives, the least they can enjoy is absolute concentration. And God forbid a soldier be wounded and his mother have watch it on live television.

Art has already been questioned-with the Oscars contemplating cancellation and movie content being more heavily scrutinized-but its practice is beyond the realm of confrontation, and must be constant, as art is as natural as violence, and essential to the endurance of the full scope of the human spirit.


About Joe Reynolds