I think highly of Ivan Eland as a person and as a foreign policy analyst. His piece on today’s site on the danger of recruiting into the military people with bad records of behavior is on target. On the way to making his points, though, Ivan writes the following:
One problem is that when the U.S. is not fighting a war against what the American public perceives as a dire threat (for example, the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese during World War II) â€“ that is, the war is one of choice, such as Iraq or Vietnam â€“ the nation is unwilling to make the sacrifices needed to win. In World War II, serving more than 12 months overseas was not an issue.
Is he sure that these tours were not an issue? Or could it be that people didn’t dare protest because they feared being accused of being unpatriotic or even feared being punished if they protested? After all, many of them probably knew how Woodrow Wilson had handled dissent during World War I. Maybe they learned the lesson. There is far too much nostalgia about World War II but, interestingly, less so from people who were actually in it. When I was a child in the 1950s and 1960s, I couldn’t get WWII vets to say much about their experiences. Maybe they thought no one would really listen.
But we need to listen. Next time you talk to a World War II vet, make sure you don’t presume to know what he thought and felt.
Two final notes about Ivan’s use of language. First, nations don’t make sacrifices; people do. Second, any war a government engages in is a war of choice. Even if your side is attacked, going to war is still a choice. It might be a good choice, but it’s a choice.