American Elephants


Vice President Pence Spoke Today at a Ceremony of Remembrance, on a field at Shanksville, PA. by The Elephant's Child

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War and Empathy and Unbeliveably Small Strikes. by The Elephant's Child

It is 9/11. and the mind goes back twelve years to that terrible day, and to Benghazi on 9/11. The President and Vice President and their wives and the entire White House staff were photographed on the White House Lawn where they observed a moment of silence, and then the president went off to pass out food to the needy — in his continuing push to make 9/11 a “Day of Service.”

I don’t get it. I see no relation between mourning those we lost and doing some volunteer work. But then I’m not much on “moments of silence,” which I guess are to be seen as a one-minute collective observance of sorrow. If we do it collectively it is more meaningful? I’ll just go on mourning all day, the images don’t stop replaying in my head. I guess if you are a collectivist, you think collectively.

It is another day in the War on Terror. Yes, terror is a tactic, not the producer of terror, but that is simply semantics. What do you want to call it — a war on jihadists?

Americans are confused by World War II, when we had clear enemies — Germany, Japan and Italy. They expanded into conquered territory and we had to drive them out. The War was a total effort. Civilians did war work, bought war bonds, raised victory gardens and did without a wealth of things to which we were accustomed. The war lasted a neat four years, the victory was clear and surrender abject and total, followed by occupation.

Now there remains for Americans an expectation that a proper war will have those characteristics. In World War II people were thoroughly weary of war, but they knew that it had to be won and the enemy defeated utterly. There was no talk of “war weariness.” You even heard people during the War in Iraq or in Afghanistan complain that civilians weren’t asked to buy bonds or accept rationing. They weren’t proper wars because the home front just went on with ordinary life, undisturbed.

Richard Cohen, liberal columnist for the  Washington Post, asked plaintively “Where’s the moral outrage?”

The civil war in Syria has cost more than 110,000 lives. It has produced a humanitarian calamity — well over 2 million refugees.

Bashar Assad has massacred his own people by conventional means and is accused of using poison gas several times, most recently on Aug. 21, when his military murdered 1,429 people, including more than 400 children. …

I pick on the American left because it is liberal and because that suggests empathy, concern and internationalism.

The American right is now going through one of its periodic bouts of lunacy, reverting to a comfy isolationism-cum-selfishness that has often characterized it. (I should note, though, that back in the late 1930s, Norman Thomas, the six-time socialist presidential candidate, supported the isolationist America First movement.)

Isolationism-cum-selfishness? Hardly, but then empathy, concern and internationalism are not reasons to go to war either. War is a serious business, and with Iran in full-fledged support of Assad, must be considered seriously. An “extraordinarily small ” strike is not a serious response. And the president’s speech last night indicated that he is not serious.

My point is that the more military action departs from the example of World War II as it exists in memory, and movies, the more reluctant the people. You need the Draft, War Songs, Bond Drives, and some kind of deprivation for the people so they feel involved.  Americans want to support their president, but when offered only an “extraordinarily small” reprimand, the people sense that there is no clear strategy there at all.




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