Sunday, August 6, 2017


On August 6, 1945, the Americans attacked the city of Hiroshima with an atomic bomb, the first such attack ever. Interestingly, its anniversary is not well remembered. At least 140,000 people were killed in the initial attack; the lingering effects are myriad.

There are countless topics that can be derived from this event but there is a specific modern American peculiarity whose origins I have always pondered: The reluctance to fight wars seriously. Since the Second World War the United States has gone out of its way to sanitize combat. It fights wars as a community effort--as part of coalitions or the United Nations--as if there is "nothing personal". They place limits on objectives, they never participate in the time honored purposes of war--slaves and booty--and often will compensate or rebuild the enemy after the fact. Most significantly, they try to distance their own citizenry from the combat. From a volunteer military to the creepy draft lottery the average citizen is moved as far as possible from the war. Indeed this compartmentalizing of combat seems to dictate policy as the government limits action and objectives to limit domestic impact.

The attempt to isolate foreign war as a domestic policy is, of course, impossible. The American inflation chart follows the war chart point by point. Worse, the people become inured to the violence and destruction, like the gradual therapeutic desensitizing to an allergy. But the worst point is the nation's military purpose and its domestic purpose are allowed to diverge. In the Vietnam War American troops were under a greater threat because several sites of enemy troop operations could not be violated for diplomatic reasons, because the war might expand and become a risk to the citizens at home. No nation should allow its sons to be under fire without being willing to commit completely to their defense and well being. That is, no nation should allow its sons to be under fire without risk to itself.

War is too terrible to be dabbled in. The soldier is immersed in total war; his society should be too. That the soldier is a volunteer is no excuse. If every action was supported with a war tax, if gasoline was diverted or food sold for the expressed purpose of troop support, if the citizen were made to suffer, to participate in the actions of their military children in some--even symbolic--way there would only be serious efforts undertaken.

War is an active, inevitable evil. Yet it cannot be softened or cleaned up. No politician can tweak it to make it more gentle. It is vicious and lethal. Even in the strange Aztec "Flower Wars" everyone died in the end. The citizens of Hiroshima knew this. They lived and died it. It may be that their lesson is too hard for us to face.

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