Sep 27, 2011
Is America condemned to endless war? And if so, what implications does that have for the American psyche—the American soul?
A friend of mine who is a practicing poet writing under the pen name Pavel Chichikov shares a poem composed after hearing the roar of F-16s—presumably engaged in protecting the citizenry—over the section of Washington where he lives.
A meditation on “security” as Americans have come to know it, it has a simple point: security comes at a price. “There is a gate that must be closed,/Documents that must be seen,/Private life to be disclosed.” And then we are—safe?
I was thinking of these things as I skimmed the outpouring of commentary on the 9/11 anniversary. One piece in particular caught my attention, a page-one article by Greg Jaffe in the Sept. 5 Washington Post describing the evolution of U.S. military policy and the military itself in these last 10 years. Jaffe quoted from a Pentagon assessment that called the present “a period of persistent conflict,” adding: “No one should harbor the illusion that the developed world can win this conflict in the near future.”
Jaffe himself spoke of “endless war.” It has numerous consequences. One is the creation of a tight-knit, highly professional military isolated in significant ways from the people on whose behalf it fights. Another is growing skepticism about peace.
Earlier this year, Jaffe noted, the House of Representatives voted to eliminate funds for the U.S. Institute of Peace (the money was later restored). “’Peace’…has become something of a dirty word in Washington foreign-policy circles,” he wrote. President Obama doesn’t promise it. His approach is to look for ways of fighting—drone strikes and special forces operations—that are more “cost-effective” than putting thousands of troops into places like Iraq and Afghanistan.