March 15, 2005


Living Room War: You fight. We consume. (Andrew J. Bacevich, March 14, 2005, The American Conservative)

The contrast could hardly be more striking.

When Confederates attacked Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln responded by immediately quintupling the size of the U.S. Army, calling for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion. As events soon demonstrated, this was a mere down payment. Utterly determined to repair the Union, Lincoln would stop at nothing to achieve his aim. In the bloody Civil War that ensued, virtually every household in the nation, both North and South, found itself called upon to sacrifice.

Similarly, when the Japanese attack of Dec. 7, 1941 thrust the United States into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wasted no time in putting the entire nation on a war footing. He directed immediate implementation of the War Department’s “Victory Plan,” calling for the creation of an army of some eight million. The draft, initiated a year earlier on a limited scale, expanded many times over, the state asserting unconditional authority to order male citizens to serve “for the duration.” To outfit fighting forces with the tanks, artillery pieces, fighter planes, and bombers they required, the federal government terminated the production of consumer durables, imposed wage and price controls, rationed scarce materials, and generally made it clear that nothing would impede the war effort. For Americans in and out of uniform, World War II became an all-encompassing enterprise. Other priorities would have to wait.

Not so with the global War on Terror. The attack of Sept. 11 elicited from the American people a universal sense of shock, anger, and outrage. But when it came to tapping the energies inherent in that instantaneous emotional response, the administration of George W. Bush did essentially nothing.

And nothing was ample. While we mourn the few dead and injured, the war was, in historical terms, nearly cost-free.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 15, 2005 6:53 PM

one thing the author doesn't take into account, is that in 1941 we didn't have much of a military industrial complex and so huge swaths of the economy had to be moved over to war production.

of course now we have a huge MIC that can ramp up without drawing on the rest of the economy.

maybe gwb is saving the national unity thing for when we take down the prc.

Posted by: cjm at March 15, 2005 7:30 PM

Except that only requires the excess inventory of missiles from the Cold War.

Posted by: oj at March 15, 2005 7:35 PM

In WW2 America faced a real enemy, with real armies and industrial bases, not a pathetic collection of imbeciles, deluded religeous fanatics and local small-time criminals.

In WW2 the challenge was beating the enemy, in 2004 the challenge is finding these cockroaches, squashing them takes five minutes.

Posted by: amos at March 15, 2005 7:47 PM

I thought it was The American Conservative editorial policy to refer to that 19th Century conflict as The War of Northern Agression, or Lincoln's War. Since when do they think that it is a proper model for how wars should be fought?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at March 15, 2005 10:51 PM

Besides, if W. had tried to increase the military, the usual chorus would be shrieking about the militarization of the country. That's the grea thing about the hyperventilating set - since they'll yelp no matter what you do, you have no reason to pay attention to them.

Posted by: Tom at March 16, 2005 3:53 PM

Just heard Bacevitch rant today at the AEI. Fallicies! But he did make clear just why "some academics" won't support the Bush Admin no matter what...I'll see if I can find the time to blog my notes.

Posted by: Solomon2 at March 16, 2005 10:57 PM

amos, you have not been listening to Orrin. He said Predators would take care of that.

He hasn't had anything to say about Predators lately, probably because they have turned out to be practically useless.

Now, if we had sufficient infantry . . . .

Posted by: Harry Eagar at March 17, 2005 4:24 PM

We've too much infantry. They're just aggravations to the populace and easy targets.

Posted by: oj at March 17, 2005 4:30 PM