America: A Country Constantly at War

May 29th, 2015 - by admin & Philip Bump / The Washington Post – 2015-05-29 01:43:58

If the Majority Wants Peace . . .
Why Do We Always Get War?

(May 28, 2015) — Polls show Americans want out of the business of running the world. They’re sick of perpetual war and they think Washington should mind its own business. And yet we still hear the war whoops of the politicians and their pet pundits, intent on ginning up new wars for other people to fight.

The reason for this disconnect is that the War Party has a powerful Washington lobby: they give money to elected officials, they have a firm hand on the “mainstream” media, and they live all in the Washington bubble — where running the world is just another day in the lives of Very Important People.

Outside the Beltway, a rebellion is brewing — as the public response to Obama’s decision to bomb Syria showed. That time, the public rose up and said “NO!” And the politicians backed down. was a big part of the campaign to stop that folly — but we can’t continue to mobilize the public for peace without your help.

Here’s How Much of Your Life the United States Has Been at War
Philip Bump / The Washington Post

(May 25, 2015) — Somewhere in the ever-flowing river of flotsam that is Twitter, a simple data point offered by a college commencement speaker jumped out at me before being borne away on the tide of immediacy. This bit of data:

“You have spent more than half your lives with this country at war. And yet the huge majority of you, and those your age, the huge majority of all people in this country, have not been affected by these conflicts.

I can imagine all of you as 9- 0r 10-year-old children, huddled with your parents on 9/11, scared or just confused. Your parents surely thinking, as I did, that our lives would never be the same, you lives would never be the same. But while threats remain, we have come so far in our healing, and so much opportunity has come our way, your way.

And here we are today. But in that decade plus, while you grew and studied and become the promising young people you are today, more than 6,500 young men and women died in those wars, more than 5,000 children lost a parent or sibling, and tens of thousands have life-altering injuries.”

The speaker was ABC journalist Martha Raddatz, and the point is the key one in the intro: The graduates have spent half their lives with America at war.

It’s a startling idea, but an incorrect one. The percentage is almost certainly much higher than that.

Using somewhat subjective definitions of “at war” — Korea counts but Kosovo doesn’t in our analysis, for example — we endeavored to figure out how much of each person’s life has been spent with America at war. We used whole years for both the age and the war, so the brief Gulf War is given a full year, and World War II includes 1941. These are estimates.

But the beginning of the conflict in Afghanistan in (late) 2001 means that anyone born in the past 13 years has never known an America that isn’t at war. Anyone born after 1984 has likely seen America at war for at least half of his or her life. And that’s a lot of Americans.

These figures shift easily. An end to the conflict in Afghanistan (and, if you include it, the overlapping fight against the Islamic State) means that the percentage of time those young people have lived in a state of war will decline quickly.

But that state of war, we are told (I am too young to know better) feels different than America during World War II or, particularly for the college-aged, Vietnam. Moreso than those wars, war today is distant, fought on our behalf.

That’s Raddatz’s other, perhaps more important point: Young Americans have lived in a country at war for almost their whole lives, but they have to be reminded of it.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.

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