The War on Terror and Pop Culture
Since 9/11 there have been three movies that to me seemed to exactly capture the feeling in the country and the themes of the War on Terror. First was The Fellowship of the Ring.
“I wish The Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had ever happened.” “So do all who live to face such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”Next was the Two Towers.
Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not.Unfortunately Return of the King (although a great movie) is not the third in this particular series. The third movie is Spider Man 2. As I wrote about in this post about this column of Peggy Noonan's, which has caused a great stir in the blogosphere, America is tired of the war. Like Peter Parker we want to get on with our life, have a chance to kiss the girl and keep a job. The parallels aren’t exact of course. America is so powerful that we have been able to spend plenty of time kissing girls and we are certainly keeping our jobs. Like Peter Parker we are tired of the super hero gig though. I think this exhaustion is of a moral, rather than physical nature. We have great power; no one argues that, and most of us agree that with this power comes a great responsibility. Determining the responsible nature is difficult however. When should we invade another country? How much proof do we need that they are a threat? What does it mean if we are wrong about WMDs? What does Abu Ghraib say about our character as a nation? How much loss of innocent life is justified? What powers should we give law enforcement to deal with this threat? These questions are hard. They have no easy answers and constantly require revisiting. And there will never be complete agreement on any of them. Instapundit has posted an email from Austin Bay in Iraq today. While I agree with everything written there I think he missed the point a little about the source of the weariness with the war. In some ways I think this is easier for a soldier than for a citizen. As citizens we need to collectively set the policies of our nation, chart out the next steps, determine what is moral and what is not. A soldier just needs to act to follow orders; a citizen needs to decide when and how to act, what orders should be given. This is not intended to minimize in any way the sacrifices of those serving in our armed forces. They don’t get to kiss the girl and they don’t get to have regular jobs. And of course our soldiers are citizens as well and share in the responsibility of governing the conduct of our nation. But I think for a soldier there is less time to worry about the moral ramifications of our foreign policy as they deal with the day-to-day issues of fighting bad guys and rebuilding nations. In many ways this exhaustion is a good thing. We are tired because we are doing hard things, making difficult choices. If Americans were blasé about our actions, were unwearied because we were sure we were always right, simply too disinterested to worry about what our government was doing and unconcerned about the lives of those living in distant lands that would be dangerous. Just because we are tired, even if being tired is a good thing, is no reason to quit however. I believe strongly that there are many more difficult decisions that need to be made. Our enemies our still out there and they are unencumbered by moral qualms. Terrorist groups and countries that opposed to American power will continue to work together in the shadows to harm our country, and all who oppose freedom. I believe that now is the time to press forward rather than pause to consolidate our gains. Update: I want to clarify a little what I meant when I said that soldiers just have to act and they have less time to worry about the moral ramifications of our foreign policy. This is an attempt to explain why soldiers, such as Austin Bay, don't seem to be affected by the weariness with events that Peggy Noonan talks about while many of the rest of us, even the supporters of the war are. In no way is this meant to diminish the sacrifice or disparage the professionalism of our soldiers. Our soldiers are doing great work, with huge sacrifices in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places. They are amazing people who are doing great things every day.