When it comes to sacrifice, those who enlist represent a very small percentage of the general public. We see them in airports, making connecting flights like the rest of us. But they aren’t like the rest of us. And no matter how much national pageantry gets directed their way during holidays like Memorial Day, the 365 day-a-year need of our veterans is a sensitive subject for a country that doesn’t collectively go to war like the WWII generation did.
America’s wars are remote. They’re remote from us geographically, remote from us emotionally (unless you’re serving in the military or have a close relative or friend who serves), and remote from our major media outlets, which have given us no compelling narrative about them, except that they’re being fought by “America’s heroes” against foreign terrorists and evil-doers. They’re even being fought, in significant part, by remote control—by robotic drones “piloted” by ground-based operators from a secret network of bases located hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from the danger of the battlefield.
Their remoteness, which breeds detachment if not complacency at home, is no accident. Indeed, it’s a product of the fact that Afghanistan and Iraq were wars of choice, not wars of necessity. It’s a product of the fact that we’ve chosen to create a “warrior” or “war fighter” caste in this country, which we send with few concerns and fewer qualms to prosecute Washington’s foreign wars of choice.
The results have been predictable, as in predictably bad. The troops suffer. Iraqi and Afghan innocents suffer even more. And yet we don’t suffer, at least not in ways that are easily noticeable, because of that very remoteness. We’ve chosen—or let others do the choosing—to remove ourselves from all the pain and horror of the wars being waged in our name. And that’s a choice we’ve made at our peril, since a state of permanent remote war has weakened our military, drained our treasury and eroded our rights and freedoms.