Thanks to those who have served in uniform, we've lived in such safety and comfort for so long that for many Americans sacrifice means little more than skipping a second trip to the buffet table.
Two trends over the past four decades contributed to our national ignorance of the cost, and necessity, of victory. First, the most privileged Americans used the Vietnam War as an excuse to break their tradition of uniformed service. Ivy League universities once produced heroes. Now they resist Reserve Officer Training Corps representation on their campuses.
Second, we've stripped in-depth U.S. history classes out of our schools. Since the 1960s, one history course after another has been cut, while the content of those remaining focuses on social issues and our alleged misdeeds. Dumbed-down textbooks minimize the wars that kept us free. As a result, ignorance of the terrible price our troops had to pay for freedom in the past creates absurd expectations about our present conflicts. When the media offer flawed or biased analyses, the public lacks the knowledge to make informed judgments.
Myth No. 1: War doesn't change anything.
Wars, in fact, often change everything. Who would argue that the American Revolution, our Civil War or World War II changed nothing? Would the world be better today if we had been pacifists in the face of Nazi Germany and imperial Japan?
Myth No. 2: Victory is impossible today.
Victory is always possible, if our nation is willing to do what it takes to win. But victory is, indeed, impossible if U.S. troops are placed under impossible restrictions, if their leaders refuse to act boldly, if every target must be approved by lawyers, and if the American people are disheartened by a constant barrage of negativity from the media. We don't need generals who pop up behind microphones to apologize for every mistake our soldiers make. We need generals who win.
Myth No. 3: Insurgencies can never be defeated.
The insurgencies we face today are, in fact, more lethal than the insurrections of the past century. We now face an international terrorist insurgency as well as local rebellions, all motivated by religious passion or ethnicity or a fatal compound of both. The good news is that in over 3,000 years of recorded history, insurgencies motivated by faith and blood overwhelmingly failed. The bad news is that they had to be put down with remorseless bloodshed.
Myth No. 4: There's no military solution; only negotiations can solve our problems.
In most cases, the reverse is true. Negotiations solve nothing until a military decision has been reached and one side recognizes a peace agreement as its only hope of survival.
Myth No. 5: When we fight back, we only provoke our enemies.
When dealing with bullies, either in the schoolyard or in a global war, the opposite is true: if you don't fight back, you encourage your enemy to behave more viciously.
Myth No. 6: Killing terrorists only turns them into martyrs.
The harsh truth is that when faced with true fanatics, killing them is the only way to end their influence. Imprisoned, they galvanize protests, kidnappings, bombings and attacks that seek to free them. Want to make a terrorist a martyr? Just lock him up.
Myth No. 7: If we fight as fiercely as our enemies, we're no better than them.
Did the bombing campaign against Germany turn us into Nazis? Did dropping atomic bombs on Japan to end the war and save hundreds of thousands of American lives, as well as millions of Japanese lives, turn us into the beasts who conducted the Bataan Death March?
Myth No. 8: The United States is more hated today than ever before.
The fashionable anti-Americanism of the chattering classes hasn't stopped the world from seeking one big green card. As I've traveled around the globe since 9/11, I've found that below the government-spokesman/professional-radical level, the United States remains the great dream for university graduates from Berlin to Bangalore to Bogota.
On the domestic front, we hear ludicrous claims that our country has never been so divided. Well, that leaves out our Civil War. Our historical amnesia also erases the violent protests of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the mass confrontations, rioting and deaths. Is today's America really more fractured than it was in 1968?
Myth No. 9: Our invasion of Iraq created our terrorist problems.
This claim rearranges the order of events, as if the attacks of 9/11 happened after Baghdad fell.
Myth No. 10: If we just leave, the Iraqis will patch up their differences on their own.
The point may come at which we have to accept that Iraqis are so determined to destroy their own future that there's nothing more we can do. But we're not there yet, and leaving immediately would guarantee not just one massacre but a series of slaughters and the delivery of a massive victory to the forces of terrorism.
Myth No. 11: It's all Israel's fault. Or the popular Washington corollary: "The Saudis are our friends."
Israel is the Muslim world's excuse for failure, not a reason for it. Even if we didn't support Israel, Islamist extremists would blame us for countless other imagined wrongs, since they fear our freedoms and our culture even more than they do our military.
As for the mad belief that the Saudis are our friends, it endures only because the Saudis have spent so much money on both sides of the aisle in Washington.
Myth No. 12: The Middle East's problems are all America's fault.
Muslim extremists would like everyone to believe this, but it just isn't true. The collapse of once great Middle Eastern civilizations has been under way for more than five centuries, and the region became a backwater before the United States became a country.
The unprecedented wealth and power of the United States allows us to afford many things denied to human beings throughout history. But we, the people, cannot afford ignorance.
hattip to Salamantis
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