NVWeb: War Time Again
"War is becoming routine. It is sandwiched between the soap operas and the sitcoms, between the traffic and weather reports... It's as if war itself has become another consumer good. Another event to be packaged for commercial television. Given a theme song."

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"NVWeb Upfront" Featured Essay, March 25, 1999

War Time Again
By Martin Kelley
Here we go again. The United States is hungry for war. In the past year President Clinton has ordered military attacks on three sovereign nations-Iraq, Afghanistan and the Sudan. What once was shocking has become routine. Last November's military action against Iraqi oil facilities was the largest cruise missile attack in history. This week NATO forces began what analysts predict will be a sustained military attack against Serbian Yugoslavia.

International readers might not realize just how painfully ignorant almost Americans are over the situation in the Balkans. Over the last year even the national news organizations have under-reported the situation in Kosovo. As a editorialist I should come up with some witty comparison: that more people can name the color of Gwyneth Paltrow's Oscar dress than can name the Serbian president. But this doesn't even begin to describe the situation. No one here could find Kosovo on a map or name its capital or discourse for even five minutes on the political situation there.

It's embarrassing. Tonight local TV news anchors across the U.S. gave what is essentially their first reports on Kosovo, reports that invariably began "So where is Kosovo? Kosovo is a region in Europe." The anchors could just have easily said we were bombing the Duchy of Grand Fenwick and as long as Clinton said they were all neo-Nazis, no one would notice or even care. (Meanwhile in the Yugoslavian capital, President Milosevic stands in front of his TV cameras to call us neo-Nazis).

For the sake of argument, let's concede that there may be a time when guns and bombs and missiles can bring about peace. That there might be a moral imperative to go to war with Yugoslavia. If so, then Americans aren't there yet. We haven't studied the situation, we don't know the actors, and the great majority of us just don't care as long as President Clinton's press conferences don't interrupt prime-time television.


There's a great danger in all this. A danger to the soul of America. This is the fourth country the U.S. has gone to war against in the last six months. War is becoming routine. It is sandwiched between the soap operas and the sitcoms, between the traffic and weather reports. Intense cruise missile bombardments are carried out but have no effect on the psyche or even imagination of the U.S. citizens.

It's as if war itself has become another consumer good. Another event to be packaged for commercial television. Given a theme song. We're at war with a country we don't know over a region we don't really care about. I'm not be facetious, I'm simply stating a fact. The United States can and should play an active peacemaking role in the region, but only after we've done our homework and have basic knowledge of the players and situation. Isolationism is dangerous, yes, but not nearly as dangerous as the emerging culture of these dilettante made-for-TV wars.


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