Tuesday October 24, 2017
Sometimes it is possible to read or view something that completely changes the way one looks at things. I had that experience last week when I read an article at Lobelog entitled “A Plea for Common Sense on Missile Defense,” written by Joe Cirincione, a former staffer on the House Armed Services Committee who now heads the Ploughshares Fund, which is a Washington DC based global foundation that seeks to stop the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
The article debunks much of the narrative being put out by the White House and Pentagon regarding missile defense. To be sure, it is perfectly reasonable to mistrust anything that comes out of the federal government justifying war given its track record going back to the War of 1812. And the belligerent posture of the United States towards Iran and North Korea can well be condemned based on its own merits, threatening war where there are either no real interests at stake or where a diplomatic solution has for various reasons been eschewed.
But the real reason why the White House gets away with saber rattling is historical, that the continental United States has not experienced the consequences of war since Pancho Villa invaded in 1916. This is a reality that administration after administration has exploited to do what they want when dealing with foreign nations: whatever happens “over there” will stay “over there.”
Americans consequently do not know war except as something that happens elsewhere and to foreigners, requiring only that the U.S. step in on occasion and bail things out, or screw things up depending on one’s point of view. This is why hawks like John McCain, while receiving a “Liberty” award from Joe Biden, can, with a straight face, get away with denouncing those Americans who have become tired of playing at being the world’s policeman. He describes them as fearful of “the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, [abandoning] the ideals we have advanced around the globe, [refusing] the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism.”