The End of American Apathy Towards War?

Americans love war, but after waging (at least) two in the last decade, we have become tired of spilling blood in foreign lands. Our current apathy towards conflict has been labelled the “Iraq Syndrome” – a disease characterized by our collective doubt regarding the use of force.

However, our fatigue towards warfare may be succumbing to the threat of ISIS. A CCN/ORC poll from October discovered that 46% of the country would support sending ground troops to fight the Islamic State. This number will most likely increase after the latest attacks in Paris, driving support for another war in the Middle East even higher. The outcome seems clear: the media will do all they can to sell fear and hatred, while Republican candidates will happily provide their nativist base with racist generalizations and fantasy-like plans for war.

Take for example Jeb Bush: a stumbling presidential candidate who is hoping to become the third Bush to start an American war in the Middle East. After the Paris attacks, Bush said that the US “should declare war” on ISIS. Specifically, he advocated for taking “it to them in Syria and Iraq.” He then went onto explain how he would do this:

You destroy ISIS. And then you build a coalition to replace this radical Islamic terrorist threat to our country and to Europe and to the region with something that is more peace-loving.

(It’s all so simple! Just blow ISIS up and create a peace-loving regime in its place. Why hadn’t Obama thought of that before?) During this incredibly unintelligent interview on Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked Bush what he would say to an American people wary of future wars in the Middle East. His answer is revealing:

I tell the American public that a caliphate the size of Indiana garners strength each and every day if it’s not taken out.

In the Republican worldview, anything less than total war equals defeat. Republicans will try and turn a complicated matter into a simple problem, by making those that don’t advocate for their strategy un-American and defeatist. Bank on it: this is how Republicans are going to frame this issue from now until election day. It’s going to get ugly and partisan very quickly.

We cannot let Republican fear-mongering get the best of us. Americans must remember that wars cost us lives, international goodwill, and further embolden our adversaries. After the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American people were right to feel doubtful about the positive impacts of war. We saw firsthand just how difficult it is to tear down evil regimes and replace them with “something that is more peace-loving.” We cannot let our violent impulses get the best of us.

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Nick Cassella
Nick Cassella graduated from the University of St Andrews in Scotland in 2014. After graduating, he worked on the Initiative 594 campaign before joining Civic Ventures, where he now manages Civic Skunk Works' social media presence.