The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewTom Engelhardt Archive
William Astore: The Fog of War in America
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information


Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

I’ve long been struck by one strange aspect of the most recent part of the American Century: just how demobilized this country has been in the midst of distant wars that have morphed and spread for almost 17 years. I was born in July 1944 into a fully mobilized country fighting World War II in Europe and the Pacific. Pearl Harbor aside, actual war was then a distant reality for most Americans, but there was no question that this nation was at war (as were both my parents: my father in the U.S. Army Air Forces, as it was then called, and my mother in the war effort at home). War bonds, Victory Gardens, Rosie the Riveter — mobilization for war was a fact of life, no matter where you were.

The same was true for another era of war in my lifetime: the Vietnam years. With up to half a million troops deployed, along with significant parts of the U.S. Navy and Air Force, to fight peasant rebels thousands of miles from home, war-making couldn’t have been more distant. Yet from the mid-1960s into the early 1970s, significant parts of this country were once again mobilized, even if in a movement against that war. The streets were regularly filled with protesters. In Congress, opposition was commonplace. In the military, too, there were powerful antiwar currents and, by the last years of that war, the antiwar movement itself would be led by Vietnam veterans.

That was, of course, just how a democratic country, a nation “of the people,” was supposed to respond to the wars its leaders chose to fight. Even if in quite different ways, both World War II and Vietnam were people’s wars fought by draft armies and civilians who felt the call to service in some essential fashion. That’s what makes the twenty-first-century version of American war so eerily different. The one thing it hasn’t been is a call to service of any sort. Quite the opposite. It’s been fought by an all-volunteer military, a force remarkably isolated from the rest of the country that today’s author, retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel William Astore, has in the past compared to a foreign legion.


That military and the demobilized public that goes with it have been a long time coming — since, in fact, the moment in 1973 when President Richard Nixon abolished the draft in hopes of eliminating the very idea of antiwar protest. Our wars are now not only fought in distant lands, but at least in part by a secretive military of 70,000, the Special Operations forces cocooned inside the regular military. Such conflicts are also overseen by an ascendant national security state enswathed in a penumbra of secrecy. Today, America’s wars never end either in victory or defeat. They just go on and on. So they and that demobilized public might be thought of as part of the new definition of the American way of life and, as Astore so pungently points out, the result is a country that your parents and mine wouldn’t have recognized.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, American Military 
Hide 8 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. “Some day this war is gonna end!”

  2. Druid says:

    This country is fast becoming a soiled toilet. Now please don’t tell me if I don’t like it to leave.. I want massive Change for the better

  3. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Pearl Harbor aside, actual war was then a distant reality for most Americans, but there was no question that this nation was at war

    Americans don’t know war; they haven’t had one on their territory since the Civil War and that one has left it’s scars on the US ever since even after all these years. Americans have had the luck of geography, being protected by two oceans, and have had to go out searching for enemies to fight.

    fought by draft armies and civilians who felt the call to service

    Americans are dupes of propaganda cranked out by their own supposed leaders. Smedley Butler’s ‘War is a Racket’ said it all many years ago and is truer now than ever before.

    Today, America’s wars never end either in victory or defeat. They just go on and on.

    Welcome to reality. American minds have been distorted by the constant triumphalism of it’s WWII glories played over and over again in all media whereby the enemy capitulated in unconditional surrender. If anyone would ever bother to do some reading they’d find the majority of conflicts don’t end neatly and things like thirty years war and hundred years war as well as conflicts with stalemates and indeterminate results are closer to the norm. Americans get their reality from the movies.

  4. Anyone remember Code Pink? Cindy Sheehan? War protest outfit during Bush’s Iraq war run up in 2003? They disappeared during Obama’s admin, but they turned up in Florida this week to protest the JROTC program at Parkland HS. JROTC. That’s what she’s protesting with war in Syria and new wars being ginned up in North Korea, Iran and now Russia. What could go wrong?

    • Replies: @RobinG
  5. The half-assed losing wars the government fights are incidental to the vital interest being protected. It’s all one big war, the War to Get Away With It.

    What CIA is doing is creating a crisis atmosphere to obscure the universal-jurisdiction legal exposure of the CIA command structure. UN treaty bodies and special procedures have documented crimes against humanity by US government officials. CIA’s crime against humanity is systematic and widespread torture and murder in secret death camps worldwide. CIA uses the wars to attack universal-jurisdiction legal charges as enemy propaganda. CIA also uses the war to justify the crimes it can’t conceal – even though in universal-jurisdiction law, nothing ever justifies torture.

    You might not recognize the war on the home front, but it’s fiercely fought. Why do you think they barrage you with crap like Homeland? Homeland is illegal CIA propaganda to justify legally unjustifiable crimes. It only works on morons, of course, but that plus rigged polls allow CIA moles in State go to foreign courts and say, ‘the American public won’t accept it’ if courts uphold the law and put torturers in prison.

    CIA installs the worst of its criminals in key positions so they can undermine the government’s legal duty to prosecute or extradite CIA suspects. Torturer Gina Haspel running CIA; torturers Bybee and soon, Nielson on the bench. The CIA’s latest last-ditch battle was shutting up Pro Publica. CIA scoured the obvious documented circumstances to find a nugatory factual imprecision: that Haspel was not in charge of one specific torture chamber when they tortured one particular victim. CIA waved this retraction as a vindication of fugitive torturer Gina Haspel. Gina Haspel is still provably implicated in acquiescence to torture, a grave crime in universal jurisdiction in breach of CAT Article 1, with no statute of limitations.

    Haspel in particular is the Platonic ideal of the CIA torture coward. She don’t want to fight em, she gets somebody else to bring em in and tie em up, then she’ll beat em up when it’s safe. But when it’s time to take your medicine and go to prison for the rough tough heroic shit you did to helpless captives, at great risk to your manicure, then it’s Wah, wahh, wah-baby, Wahh!! Wear your pussy hat with pride, you earned it.

    The whole CIA’s a bunch of cowardly sleeves. And they wonder why Hezbollah and the Russians kick their chicken asses all over Syria. When the SCO invades and hangs these criminal CIA scumbags from lampposts, to set us free, we will strew flowers and sweets. It’s going to take Russians and Chinese to do what JFK wanted to do until CIA shot him – tear CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds. It’s got to be done. Let’s get on with it.

  6. RobinG says:
    @Jim Christian

    Who is this “she,” Jim? Code Pink is not Cindy Sheehan’s organization. She’s an independent activist, and on Saturday (Mar.17) she was in Orinda, CA, on a panel with Ron Paul at a conference on US Militarism. Cindy doesn’t have $$ to jet around the country, so I doubt she was in Florida.

    As for Code Pink, they have members all over the place, so I’ll bet the local chapter was at Parkland. I have some serious gripes with Medea Benjamin, but ignoring foreign wars isn’t one of them. She wrote a book about Obama’s drone warfare. and this year she took a group of women to North Korea. Here’s her schedule for this week, protesting the US and Saudi war on YEMEN:

    Protest the Saudi Prince’s visit to Washington, DC. Facebook Event

    When and where:

    Tuesday, March 20th 11am in front of the White House while the Prince meets with Trump.

    Wednesday March 21st 6pm in front of the Kennedy Center during Saudi Arts and Cultural event in honor of the Prince’s visit

    Thursday March 22nd 11:30am during a private luncheon for Saudi Arabia. Meet in front of the Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave NW

    Thursday March 22nd 6:30pm during a gala dinner for the Prince. Meet in front of the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, 1301 Constitution Ave NW

    • Replies: @Jim Christian
  7. @RobinG

    Code Pink is a franchise. She used to picket W’s home in Texas, she did it in the name of Code Pink. “Her” organization? Who cares? She was their most whiney, nagging member back then. She disappeared for Obama’s depravity in the Middle East.

  8. George says:

    “Our wars are now not only fought in distant lands”

    The description in the press of the 4 Austin bombs sound like the description I remember reading of the Taliban IEDs. So I speculate the bomber is either Taliban, or someone familiar with their methods. So the war might have come home for real.

Current Commenter

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone

 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments become the property of The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Tom Engelhardt Comments via RSS
Personal Classics
Eight Exceptional(ly Dumb) American Achievements of the Twenty-First Century
How the Security State’s Mania for Secrecy Will Create You
Delusional Thinking in the Age of the Single Superpower