While militarism is prevalent across US society, the idea of a new, big confrontation between superpowers seems quite unrealistic for contemporary America.
Our grandparents told us stories of the Second World War. All four of my own had participated in some capacity. The Second World War was not a “regime change” operation carried out under the guise of humanitarianism. The Second World War was a battlefield clash between two global alliances that sought to destroy each other. The war involved mass mobilizations of the population. In order to achieve victory, the Soviet Union, the United States and Britain were forced to put society under the most ironclad discipline.
Would such a thing be possible today?
No war since the the Second World War has been anything like it, despite the fact that US leaders constantly invoke it. World War Two analogies are almost a trade-mark staple of neoconservatism. George H.W. Bush compared Saddam Hussein to Hitler while inciting the US public to support “Operation Desert Storm.” Cable News endlessly brought up the Second World War when his son, George W. Bush, invaded Iraq. Reagan’s invasion of Grenada, Clinton’s bombing of Serbia, the NATO intervention in Libya, and continued US support for extremists in Syria, all have come with rhetoric invoking World War Two.
Vietnam Syndrome, Kicked?
None of these wars were declared by the US Congress under the constitutional procedure. They were “operations” “police actions” or “interventions” ordered by the executive branch, and perhaps approved in a congressional resolution. But these were not “wars” in the full on, legal sense. Everyday Americans were asked to put up yellow ribbons and “support our troops” bumper stickers, but aside from that, American civilians were left to live a normal life, as they watched TV reporters “embedded” in order to repeat the Pentagon narrative.
The political crisis sparked by the Vietnam War still haunts the memory of the US public. Young people burned their draft cards. Soldiers shot their officers. By the time the USA withdrew, insubordination was widespread among the military itself. Peace marches were massive, and public opinion was completely opposed to further military involvement. Urban rebellions shook the Black community, and violent protests rocked the college campuses.
The wars in Vietnam and Korea, with military conscription and significant US casualties may have been experiments with “big war” tactics, but they both flopped. Korea ended in a “stalemate” armistice, with a US Army General actually being captured in the process. When China decided to get involved, and MccArthur’s threats of nuclear attack didn’t deter them, the USA began to sweat. Vietnam was a military defeat for the United States, with the National Liberation Front effectively unifying the country and giving birth to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Despite Bush’s claim that Vietnam Syndrome has been “kicked,” the US public doesn’t seem enthusiastic about wars at this point, and observers have noted that the country hasn’t clashed directly with a rival superpower since 1945. While the United States has the largest military budget in the world, the governments it has selected for attack are all in a much lower weight class.
USA Faces Internal Problems
Now, as US leaders beat the drums against the two Eurasian Superpowers, an unacknowledged truth hides behind the threats and heated words. Russia and China are both highly disciplined, well organized societies. The population marches behind the government and the military in order to achieve its goals even in peace time. Both countries have economies that are centered around the state.
Meanwhile, in the United States, different agendas seem to be everywhere. Political and regional divisions are getting deeper. Different wings of the “deep state” seem to be at each other’s throats with different agendas and goals.
Schoolchildren in the USA are no longer even permitted to defend themselves in schoolyard scuffles, but required to passively accept the blows of assailants while calling for help from police or teachers. In most American schools if a child so much as raises a fist in self-defense, he can expect the same punishment as his attacker.
The US military already relies on a large number of “green card soldiers” i.e. non-citizen immigrants who fight in order to earn legal status in the country. Much like the Saudi military, which is not exactly winning in Yemen, the US military is increasingly made up of people from other countries, bribed to fight our wars on our behalf.
Perhaps it is the huge leap in the US standard of living that followed the Second World War, which made the public less enthusiastic about military conflicts. Wealth comes with comfort, and those who live comfortable lives tend to be far less willing to march off into battle.
Regardless, it is safe to say that a new “great war” in which the USA faces off with “someone its own size” isn’t quite realistic in 2018. However, short, quick “regime change” wars against third world nationalists seem to still be in fashion. Yet, the increasing power of Russia and China on the global stage has made it a lot more difficult.
Originally Published in United World International