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Remembrance of War as Warning

August 13, 2018 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

Two articles in different weekend magazines have me thinking
about America’s many wars. David Montgomery in last weekend’s
Washington Post pondered the proliferation of war
memorials in our nation’s capital. The second, an excerpt
from C.J. Chivers’s new book in the latest
New York Timesmagazine, details the experiences of an Army
unit in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley.

Some of those killed in that desolate distant place will be
remembered, indirectly at least, in a new Global War on Terrorism
Memorial. Montgomery reports that President Donald Trump
“signed legislation waiving the statutory 10-year post-war
waiting period so planning could begin.” He continues:

That memorial would accomplish a feat rarely if ever matched in
the annals of memorial building: commemorating a war before it is
over. It also epitomizes the new state of affairs, where endless
war means endless war-memorial building.

In a similar context, Chivers notes that the Afghan war will
enter its 18th year in October. As he explains, this means that
soldiers born after the U.S. military toppled the Taliban in 2001,
who were not even crying babes when the planes hit the towers, will
likely be serving there soon. And this is only one of several
initiated after 9/11. Chivers recites the grim statistics that, for
many Americans, have become akin to the music played in retail
stores: We’re vaguely aware that a song might be playing, but
unable to hum the tune, let alone recite the lyrics:

More than three million Americans have served in uniform in
these wars. Nearly 7,000 of them have died. Tens of thousands more
have been wounded. More are killed or wounded each year, in smaller
numbers but often in dreary circumstances…

Beyond the statistics, beyond the numbers killed and wounded,
Americans are similarly disinclined to weigh their deeper meanings.
Chivers spells those out, too.

On one matter there can be no argument: The policies that sent
these men and women abroad, with their emphasis on military action
and their visions of reordering nations and cultures, have not
succeeded. It is beyond honest dispute that the wars did not
achieve what their organizers promised… [They] have continued in
varied forms and under different rationales… They continue today
without an end in sight, reauthorized in Pentagon budgets almost as
if distant war is a presumed government action.

I wonder: Might our war memorials do more than memorialize war?
Might they also help us to avoid future ones?

***

It’s not the first time that I contemplated this
question.

Back in May 2004, I ventured down to the National Mall and
wondered “What kind of memorial will they build for the Iraq
war?
…read more

Source: OP-EDS

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