This isn't a war," said the artilleryman. "It never was a war, any more than there's war between man and ants.
It struck me that such analyses had it backward. It’s the American public for whom the Iraq War is often no more real than a video game. Five years into this war, I am not always confident most Americans fully appreciate the caliber of the people fighting for them, the sacrifices they have made, and the sacrifices they continue to make. After the Vietnam War ended, the onus of shame largely fell on the veterans. This time around, if shame is to be had when the Iraq conflict ends - and all indications are there will be plenty of it - the veterans are the last people in America to deserve it. When it comes to apportioning shame my vote goes to the American people who sent them to war in a surge of emotion but quickly lost the will to either win it or end it. The young troops I profiled in Generation Kill, as well as the other men and women in uniform I’ve encountered in combat zones throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, are among the finest people of their generation. We misuse them at our own peril.
For many people, that war [WWII] is called the “good war” because it was fought against a regime guilty of unspeakable atrocities. But the Allies did not enter the war to save Jews from extermination. The United States entered the war after it was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor and, as a nation, we certainly did not do as much as we should have to save the Jewish population of Europe. The basic question is still with us: Is it right, justifiable, to intervene in a nation’s internal activities when those activities include genocide, ethnic cleansing, or some other demonstrable harm to a subset of its people?
One of the great myths about war is that there is a ground zero, a center stage, where the terrible forces unleashed by it can be witnessed, recounted, and replayed like the launching of a rocket. War is a human activity far too large to be contained in the experience of a single reporter in a single place and time in any meaningful way. When it comes, it happens to everyone. Everything is in its path. Yet this is the allure of war reporting, the chance of acquiring some personal mother lode of truth to beam back to the living rooms of a waiting nation. The fear that comes from reporting on a war is as much a fear of missing this mother load as it is of being injured or killed in battle, and it sets reporters apart from the people who have to fight wars. Soldiers have their own agonies to think about as a battle approaches. Missing the war is not generally one of them.
The war dragged on, as wars tend to do.
And what she understood-what none of the ones who came to touch Simon’s forehead understood-was that the misery of war represented the world’s only truly universal language. Its native speakers occupied different ends of the world, and the prayers they recited were not the same and the empty superstitions to which they clung so dearly were not the same-and yet they were. War broke them the same way, made them scared and angry and vengeful the same way. In times of peace and good fortune they were nothing alike, but stripped of these things they were kin. The universal slogan of war, she’d learned, was simple: If it had been you, you’d have done no different.
The greatest war story ever told commemorates a war that established no boundaries, won no territory, and furthered no cause.
A civil war is, may we say, the prototype of all war, for in the persons of fellow citizens who happen to be the enemy we meet again, with the old ambivalence of love and hate and with all the old guilts, the blood brothers of our childhood. In a civil war – especially in one such as this when the nation shares deep and significant convictions and is not a mere handbasket of factions huddled arbitrarily together by historical happen-so – all the self-divisions of conflicts within individuals become a series of mirrors in which the plight of the country is reflected, and the self-division of the country a great mirror in which the individual may see imaged his own deep conflicts, not only the conflicts of political loyalties, but those more profoundly personal.
During an hour-long conversation mid-flight, he laid out his theory of the war. First, Jones said, the United States could not lose the war or be seen as losing the war.'If we're not successful here,' Jones said, 'you'll have a staging base for global terrorism all over the world. People will say the terrorists won. And you'll see expressions of these kinds of things in Africa, South America, you name it. Any developing country is going to say, this is the way we beat [the United States], and we're going to have a bigger problem.' A setback or loss for the United States would be 'a tremendous boost for jihadist extremists, fundamentalists all over the world' and provide 'a global infusion of morale and energy, and these people don't need much.'Jones went on, using the kind of rhetoric that Obama had shied away from, 'It's certainly a clash of civilizations. It's a clash of religions. It's a clash of almost concepts of how to live.' The conflict is that deep, he said. 'So I think if you don't succeed in Afghanistan, you will be fighting in more places.'Second, if we don't succeed here, organizations like NATO, by association the European Union, and the United Nations might be relegated to the dustbin of history.'Third, 'I say, be careful you don't over-Americanize the war. I know that we're going to do a large part of it,' but it was essential to get active, increased participation by the other 41 nations, get their buy-in and make them feel they have ownership in the outcome.Fourth, he said that there had been way too much emphasis on the military, almost an overmilitarization of the war. The key to leaving a somewhat stable Afghanistan in a reasonable time frame was improving governance and the rule of law, in order to reduce corruption. There also needed to be economic development and more participation by the Afghan security forces.It sounded like a good case, but I wondered if everyone on the American side had the same understanding of our goals. What was meant by victory? For that matter, what constituted not losing? And when might that happen? Could there be a deadline?
In the end the war was Hitler's war. It was not perhaps the war he wanted. But it was the war he was prepared to risk if he had to. Nothing could deter him...He was no longer prepared to wait on events. He needed to force them to manipulate them to manufacture incidents to create pretexts for action.