Remember the saying? As signs of Iran war fever build in the mainstream press, no one asks why, once again, we’re priming the pump for the beating up of someone smaller and weaker.
Over the Christmas holiday I read Neptune’s Inferno, by James D. Hornfischer, a book on the naval battles that took place off Guadalcanal in the Second World War.
Post Midway, the Imperial Japanese Navy was still exceptionally powerful.
It fell to the US Navy to keep what became known as the Tokyo Express, the IJN’s resupply sorties to its army on Guadalcanal, from tipping the campaign against the United States.
It was a near thing.
Casualties were great. No quarter was asked, none given. And the US Navy almost always went into action out gunned. American naval men expected to lose their lives against an enemy considered highly trained and possessed of fearsome night-fighting warships.
It’s an excellent account, one that underlines how different things are today.
The US war machine never clashes with someone who stands a chance. It faces no IJN. It isn’t ever in combat with anything like the Wehrmacht in Normandy.
I can’t dredge up a single instance of the US fighting anyone it could have lost to in my lifetime.
As a consequence we have a country where everyone pays lip service to the military on holidays out of a guilt and obliged behavior coerced by being allowed to be largely exempt from war and its consequences.
And we have an entire class of people in the national security apparatus who spout rubbish about how they’re underwriting and guaranteeing my right to say stuff like this by dint of their patriotic
duty. It’s like being in a bad movie.
How many Americans can even name the generals who are in charge of the fighting?
Who remembers who was the architect of the campaign that
invaded Iraq? Where is Tommy Franks now? Who cares? (Even the man’s own vanity page doesn’t mention the invasion until the fifth paragraph. He knows as well as anyone, I bet, he wasn’t exactly outmaneuvering Erwin Rommel at el Alamein.)
No matter how daring or satisfying the takedown of Osama bin Laden was, it also invites unfavorable military comparisons with WWII.
In 1943, American fighter planes ambushed the architect of Pearl Harbor, the IJN’s Isoroku Yamamoto, killing him when his transport flight was shot down over Bougainville Island in the South Pacific.
Japan was still a formidable enemy.
By contrast, Osama bin Laden was killed a decade after 9/11, at a time when, if one measures by operational tempo, al Qaeda was and is for all intents and purposes, destroyed.
So as the drums beat louder (here’s the Short Count, aka Arnaud De Borchgrave, cluing us to an October surprise) and the secret war against Iran threatens to turn public, the US military — in this case, the navy — will find itself going into action against an “enemy” that stands
not even the slightest chance.
The rest of the world knows it, too.
There will be nothing good from this, no nobility, no feats of military leadership to be remembered years later, no stories worth repeating.
It will be another case of the world’s biggest, wealthiest and most fearsomely armed military, taking a couple weeks to crush the over-matched, in the process uniting another entire middle eastern country against us.
The country, the military, the people in Neptune’s Inferno are all long gone.
Reading it raised the question: Do our current military leaders think of themselves as those who have common tradition with the sailors who went down fighting in the Slot?
Maybe. If so, perhaps they’re also greatly deluded. In 1941, the entire country took part in the war. In 2012, not so much.
Just don’t bother us here, please.
Culturally, we now we make two types of war movie. It is proof of the
uncomfortable split and shared guilt in American society. It shows
the recognition that the military does things in our name, things most
people have no interest in coming to grips with.
The first type of war movie are those audiences are reluctant to see because they’re too close to the real. The second kind, which so many like to see, have no connection with reality.
The first kind, based on books published in the last decade on the war are made on small budgets. They comprise documentaries or recreations.
None of them make money. Hardly anyone sees them. They’re painful, all unpleasant. No one pays them the slightest attention except a few entertainment critics.
The second kind are done on giant budgets, no expenses are spared, and the heroic US military is engaged against giant talking robots or unspecified alien invasion forces with firepower far in excess of anything the good guys bring to bear until the final ten minutes of the last reel.
Lots of people see the latter. Big names like to show the square heroic jaw while acting in them.
The latest, Battleship, advertised during the Super Bowl, has Liam Neeson as everyone’s favorite grizzled military leader.
It’s another in the line of couldn’t find anyone big enough for a fair fight so they made someone up.
It may be fair entertainment but it’s nothing to be proud of. The psychology exploited may have something to do with the lack of overwhelming enthusiasm for national war-on-terror victory parades.
Who would we celebrate victory and success in an existenstial struggle over? Aliens? Robots?
No, those people on the other side of the globe, who it has been decided need pre-emptive destruction, ten years after the fact, because the fear-based economy says so,