LIMITED WAR….The Economist weighs in on the willingness of Americans to accept casualties in war:
History teaches that Americans are prepared to accept and inflict massive casualties in pursuit of victory (witness the campaign against Japan in the second world war). But as both the Vietnam quagmire and the first Gulf war suggest, they are much more nervous about backing a government perceived to be pursuing half-hearted aims.
I’ve seen this sentiment (or variations on it) a lot, but it strikes me as seriously misguided. I don’t think Americans are unwilling to support limited wars, they’re just unwilling to support wars that don’t seem entirely justified. After all, the Cold War was the granddaddy of limited wars, but it maintained very broad support for over 40 years. The reason is simple: most Americans truly believed that communism posed a threat to the United States.
Conversely, a lot of Americans simply decided that Vietnam wasn’t much of a threat to the United States, and this had nothing to do with the fact that the war was allegedly a limited one (a proposition, by the way, that owes more to Pentagon propaganda than to actual reality). I suspect that the same is true of Iraq, and this means that while backing for the current war is broad, it’s also very shallow. The only thing that really keeps support high is the mistaken notion that Saddam was associated with the 9/11 attacks ? the real reasons for the war are simply too subtle for most people to grasp ? and I think it would crumble to pieces at the first sign that it required serious sacrifice on the part of America.
This is why it’s so important for the administration to keep the neocon grand plan out of the public eye. As Tom Friedman learned on Oprah, once middle America gets a whiff of this, the game is over and the neocons are going to get sent packing.