Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Now And Then

I was speaking with a New Zealand colleague of mine this morning about the attitude in States towards members of the armed services. He observed that there seems to be a steady outpouring of support for the individual solders, sailors, airmen and marines, while still being plenty of disagreement over the war in general. It’s seems to be politically correct to protest the war and it’s strategic protagonists, yet crosses a line when the young service members are being maligned. The Kiwi ended the conversation by making comparisons to the 1970s and America’s soldiers returning from Vietnam. It looks as if the America’s anti-war movement has matured in the last thirty years.

2 comments:

Tom said...

Eric,

The two anti-war movements you refer to don't have much connection, so I wouldn't say the movement now is a maturation of the other.

But there are many myths about the Vietnam War that now leave us little able to learn from its history.

The idea that returning soldiers were mistreated by war protesters in the 'Nam era is an urban myth. I don't know of it happening, and there are no news reports of that at the time.

But the Vietnam war was different. First, the draft was in effect and that war was far more deadly. As the movies [Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, many others] suggest, America and its soldiers were an 'uglier' presence in Vietnam than we are now in Iraq. The military has matured since the 70s.

It is more the case that in the 70s American soldiers who served in Vietnam were underappreciated generally by the public as a whole. There will be no failure of appreciation after the Iraq debacle ends. We know more about what the soldiers are experiencing in Iraq now because of cable news, etc, than was possible 30+ years ago. We isolate Abu Graibe as being due to the conduct of just a few, whereas in the 70s things were sketchier and we could imagine My Lei as being representative of many other incidents.

Eric said...

Tom,

Firstly, thank you for the kind words on your blog.

Good comment and I agree wholeheartedly with you. I would say that Iraq and Vietnam do not exist independent of each other. America’s military and civilian leadership is drawing on countless lessons learned during the 1960s and 70’s. Iraq, like Vietnam, has become a laboratory for counter-insurgency techniques.

To the media, however, Iraq is a much different conflict than Vietnam. The networks are getting unprecedented access to “the troops”, to the point where most outlets are burnt out with “troop stories”. I know several journalists whose personal goal is to do an entire rotation in Iraq and not put a single U.S. soldier on camera. A U.S. soldier once described the Iraq conflict as “America’s own reality TV show that no one wanted to watch anymore”.

Best,
- eric