The Right Coast

January 01, 2006
Getting Some Perspective
By Mike Rappaport

Victor Davis Hanson voices a view that I have long held. The relative lack of casualties in the Iraqi War are quite an accomplishment:

A historically ignorant populace who knows nothing about past American wars and their disappointments — and has absolutely no frame of reference to make sense of the present other than its own mercurial emotional state in any given news cycle.

Few Americans remember that nearly 750 Americans were killed in a single day in a training exercise for D-Day, or that during the bloody American retreat back from the Yalu River in late 1950 thousands of our frozen dead were sent back stacked in trucks like firewood. Our grandparents in the recent past endured things that would make the present ordeal in Iraq seem almost pedestrian — and did all that with the result that a free Germany could now release terrorists or prosperous South Korean youth could damn the United States between their video games.

Instead, we of the present think that we have reinvented the rules of war and peace anew. After Grenada, Panama, Gulf War I, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and the three-week war to remove Saddam, we decreed from on high that there simply were to be no fatalities in the American way of war. If there were, someone was to be blamed, censured, or impeached — right now!
I am not sure, though, that I think the major problem here is a lack of knowledge of the sacrifices of the past. Rather, I think it is primarily that opponents of the war have sought to portray matters in a way that ignores the historical perspective -- Iraq is Vietnam, except nothing is said about the fact that 2000 are dead rather than 50,000.