I have been watching (6+ hours so far) of the Ken Burns epic. No complaints after sitting through the first third. . . [H]e is pushing (in my judgement) something far more subtle: the senselessness and stupidity of war. Certainly he is emphasizing the latter when over and over again he shows how stupid decisions made by field commanders caused horrendous slaughters without accomplishing anything.I've watched The War as well. It's a death-obsessed downer, a "magnificent failure" according to Jules Crittenden, "dwelling on the ugliest parts of war, more interested in folly than success." To be fair, however, that's by design: Burns is uninterested in tactics or technology, cool to both battles and bravery. He's documenting hearts: the emotions of war. So one quibble is the title: the show should be called The Homefront (with occasional newsreels). The sub-head's the star--great combat footage.
Frank is right that Burns stresses the senselessness of war. And that's my central complaint about The War. If Burns and Frank want to stop war, they must take responsibility for the alternative. And Plan B isn't some mythical earthly paradise. Inaction means jackbooted Nazis enslaving all of Europe; Saddam planting 300,000 Iraqis in mass graves; monks massacred in Burma, etc. As I wrote on the one year anniversary of Saddam's fall:
It's easy to dispute, cluck and tsk-tsk from a well-worn easy chair. But real world problems, like radical Islam, require real world actions--including force. A decade of UN talk-talk, diplomatic isolation and trade sanctions failed to dislodge Saddam. Yet the anti-war left insisted inaction was preferable to, well, anything--or anything supported by the United States. That's when liberals transformed from merely silly to hallucinatory and amoral hypocrites.So, contrary to Burns and Frank, the "sense" of war is choosing between the awful and the unendurable. Yet that's impossible for pacifists who exclude military power ab initio: ending the slave trade required both Wilberforce and force. Yet just recently, Europe's elected officials imposed a preemptive appeasement on the chance it might might moderate Muslim extremists' violence. They traded centuries of civil liberties for a hamburger today, a protection racket which is un-Constitutional here.
As the conservative Protest Warrior group quips, "Except for ending slavery, fascism, Nazism and communism, War has never solved anything." So lefties stuck on war's supposed senseless
Slavery can be worse than death, ever-increasing blackmail and extortion amplifies anger: lingering and degrading injustice provokes wider and worse wars. That's the teaching of the time-tested "Just War" doctrine:
As a tradition of statecraft, the just war argument recognizes that there are circumstances in which the first and most urgent obligation in the face of evil is to stop it. Which means that there are times when waging war is morally necessary to defend the innocent and to promote the minimum conditions of international order.To those like Burns and Frank, convinced war always is senseless and stupid, "Which side are you on?"