War: a feature of American society
War is a unique feature in American society. It is an institution that is entwined into the very nature of the American Republic. Our nation is a country that was birthed in a revolutionary spirit, and the spirit of war that was birthed during the Revolutionary War lives on today. Several times in our past, war was looked down upon as evil, and several large groups of people sought to end all war.
They also sought to keep America out of wars in which our peace and security were not being threatened. In spite of these attacks, war is still an integral part of American culture; war is here to stay. Unless there is a change in human nature, war will always plague the human culture. An example as to why war is here is the persistence of the “myth” as Chad Cole put it. To understand this myth, one must look at several key events and wars that happened during the past 60 years.
The five major wars are the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the Somalia Incident, and the Afghanistan Campaign. The first major war to look into is the Korean War. To really grasp the attitude of the American public at the time, one must first look at the situation just 5 years prior. On the 26th of June, the United Nations charter was signed. The purpose of the United Nations is outlined in the following quote taken from the preamble to the Charter of the United Nations.
We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, and for these ends to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples, have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.
The preamble basically states that the United Nations was founded to end all war on earth. Not even five years later, on June 25, 1950, Communist North Korea invaded her southern sister South Korea. President Truman sent in troops along with several other United Nations countries. He instructed General Macarthur to only free South Korea and relieved him when Macarthur wanted to invade China.
The Korean War was the first major war in which the United States was involved in since World War II, and it was the first in a long series of conflicts the United States would have with Communist nations. The Korean War was also the first time that humor was used to portray the experience of War. In the novel M. A. S. H. , we follow the tale of two army surgeons and their attempt to cope with all the carnage. They pull prank after prank on their fellow soldiers, and somehow manage to retain their sanity. In the novel, we find the main characters questioning the reasons for all the fighting. We see them wonder if they are even making a difference in the world. This attitude is even more rampant in the next war.
The second major war to look into is the Vietnam War. The underlying theme of the Vietnam War is that of waste. This theme is seen throughout The Vietnam Reader, which calls itself “the definitive collection of American fiction and non-fiction on the war. ” The theme is also seen in the new jargon, which developed. Such terms as “he was wasted” in reference to a person being killed in the line of fire became common. (Downey lecture) Another item of note about the Vietnam War is that for the first time, the media was allowed to document whatever they wanted to about the war. For the first time, Americans could experience the war from their own couches at home, and what they saw disgusted them.
Anti-war rallies sprung up across the nation, especially on college campuses, and many families moved to Canada to escape the draft. The Anti-War Sentiment was active and gradually gaining power. The United Nations was also involved in the Vietnam War, but they accomplished little. Our military accomplished few of our objectives in the Vietnam War, and pulled out a defeated nation. The national morale would not begin to recover until 1980 when Ronald Reagan was elected President. In 1980, when Reagan was elected, the United States was undergoing another major change. Reagan promised to get the rapid inflation and national debt under control as well as to give the economy a decent boost by cutting taxes.
He won in one of the biggest landslides in American history. Reagan quickly instituted his policies and got the economy moving in the right direction. Reagan was a firm believer in a strong military and started to rebuild it after it had been neglected during the 1960s and 1970s. Reagan also took a harsh stance against the Soviet Union, and by the end of his second term, it had started to fall. No true wars erupted during his presidency, but his successor President Bush was faced with the third major war, the Persian Gulf War. When Saddam Hussein invaded the tiny nation of Kuwait, America was primed and ready to move in to liberate the oil rich nation.
The military moved quickly and employed many technologies that had been developed during the Reagan years. The United States won a decisive victory and completed all the objectives, which it had set out to do. The “myth” had returned. This “myth” as Chad Cole calls it is his novel How to listen to a War Story is that the United States is the greatest nation on earth. Because of this status, we have the right to police the globe and to work hard to set wrongs right. This is that same myth that was built up after World War II and subsequently debunked by the Vietnam War. In his novel, Chad Cole is also referring to the Marine Corps myth, the myth that the Marines are invulnerable.
According to Cole, this myth has been built up by every generation of Marines since the founding of the Marine Corps during the Revolutionary Period. It is this myth that makes the Marine Corps so appealing to new recruits. In his exposition on the myth of the Marine Corps, Chad Cole describes a scene from the fourth major war, the Somalia Conflict. The conflict in Somalia was not a very big affair in scale, and fewer than thirty lives were lost, but the conflict had similar affects as Vietnam. Once again, American troops under the United Nations were being wasted in a small, destitute nation. Once again, the myth was hurt as America pulled out defeated by a rogue group of militia.
The fifth war, the Afghanistan Campaign, started on a day that will live in infamy as long as it is remembered. On September 11, 2001, Muslim terrorists declared war on America by crashing several airplanes into two different buildings. As happened during the Vietnam War, Americans were outraged. This time we were out to get revenge for the first blood that had been shed on our soil in such a large scale since Pearl Harbor. Almost immediately, American forces invaded Afghanistan to take out the terrorist ring Al-Quaeda and the ruling Taliban party. After a year of conflict, the Taliban have been deposed, but the slippery leader of Al-Quaeda Osama Bin Laden has eluded our grasp.
At first, American flags popped up everywhere from vehicle bumpers to house windows to t-shirts. A year later, as Chad Cole remarked, the enthusiastic spirit has died down, and few people fly the American flag today. War is and always will be an integral part of American society. Despite large efforts to keep war from happening, wars happen everyday. The United Nations has failed at the very thing it set out to do. It has failed to keep war from occurring. The “myth” however lives on. Over a year after the terrorists’ attacks, America is still the greatest nation on earth. We are still serving the role of global policeman and are trying to bring the bad guys to justice.