When did war change?
To me, it’s an interesting question. Armies used to meet on the field, all having pretty much the same weapons, and the better men won. At some point, the leader of one of the armies walked down into the valley and called out the other leader. But this time, instead of that leader meeting him, he shot him from the hill. Did all of his men cheer or stare at him in disbelief? When did war become about fighting smart rather than fair?
Believe me, I’m not judging…or if I am, then I’m judging myself equally. I applauded my approval as loud as everyone else when Indiana Jones faced off with that huge Middle Eastern man with the swords. You remember…Indy gave that smirk, pulled out his pistol, and shot the man dead. Why did we cheer? If I had watched that in a theater in Tehran, would they have cheered?
Shortly after the Iraq war started, U.S. soldiers were racing toward Baghdad. There were several instances when Iraqi insurgents came out waving a white flag to surrender. When U.S. troops approached, the man would drop the flag and open fire. The news covered the story, and the American people went nuts. “That’s against the rules of war!” But soon after, those same U.S. troops approached the city and found Iraqi troops dug in. Stealth bombers took out those trenches and at night, from high altitude (out of range of anti-aircraft fire) with laser-guided missiles. That was completely legal according to the rules of war…any guesses as to who wrote those rules?
Anyone remember Bill Maher’s mistake on his old show “Politically Incorrect”? When one of his guests said that the terrorists on 9/11 were cowards, Bill disagreed. He said that he’d call them a lot of things, but not cowards. After all, he reminded his guest that they had at least gone down with the plane. Then, his mistake. He compared them to U.S. pilots who often bombed with little risk to themselves with far superior technology. He lost his show days after due to the fallout.
Now, we practice targeted assassinations from drone planes, flown by a soldier using a mouse, completely away from the battlefield. Will it be considered war anymore, if we don’t even have to send troops? What is that called? After all, the game is called “Risk”.
A conservative colleague cornered me in the teacher’s lounge one day, as he loves to do. He confirmed what he had heard from students, that we were studying WWII. He then went into an interesting History Channel show he had recently seen that convinced him that the U.S. really did have to drop the A-bomb. He echoed the common defense, that dropping the bomb saved so many American soldiers’ lives. He asked what I thought (always a trap with him). I said, “Since when, in war, are civilians killed to save the lives of soldiers? I thought the purpose of war was for soldiers to sacrifice their lives for civilians.”
When did it change?