War Fatigue Is Far Too Late

Our front page Highlights draws attention to Paul Pillar’s post over at the National Interest on war fatigue and how it can be a force for good in American foreign policy. I agree, but may go a bit further than him. So called war fatigue is essentially what people should feel at the onset of war, not after decades of it. The reason it’s called a fatigue is because it takes an exhausted military, budget, and population of both countries to get beyond what we’ve been taught by our government and media to do, which is support war. I’m reminded of what Noam Chomsky wrote in his book Media Control:

One aspect of the malady [“war fatigue”] actually got a technical name. It was called the “Vietnam Syndrome.” The Vietnam Syndrome, a term that began to come up around 1970, has actually been defined on occasion. The Reaganite intellectual Norman Podhoretz defined it as “the sickly inhibitions against the use of military force.” There were these sickly inhibitions against violence on the part of a large part of the public. People just didn’t understand why we should go around torturing people and killing people and carpet bombing them. It’s very dangerous for a population to be overcome by these sickly inhibitions, as Goebbels understood, because then there’s a limit on foreign adventures. It’s necessary, as the Washington Post put it rather proudly during the [first] Gulf War hysteria, to instill in people a respect for “martial value.” That’s important. If you want to have a violent society that uses force around the world to achieve the ends of its own domestic elite, it’s necessary to have a proper appreciation of the martial values and none of these sickly inhibitions about using violence.