[OPE] Glad it's not me, they say...

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Sun Sep 05 2010 - 18:47:00 EDT

Andrew Bacevich succinctly explains the logic of social distance, in a
review in The Nation ("Unequal Sacrifice", September 1, 2010):

(...) Who cares if "poorer and less-educated citizens are more likely to die
in America's wars than richer and more educated citizens"? We all care,
Kriner and Shen insist: "Americans are disturbed by casualty inequalities."
Citing the results of an imaginatively constructed survey, they suggest that
public awareness of the casualty gap can reduce popular willingness to
support interventionist policies or to fight on regardless of cost. Once
sensitized to this pattern of unequal sacrifice, Americans "drastically
change their military policy preferences" and become "much less willing to
accept large numbers of casualties in future military endeavors." Put
simply, as people become conscious of the casualty gap, they become more

For Kriner and Shen, the policy implications are clear: citizen awareness of
the casualty gap can serve as a "democratic brake," helping to avert
ill-advised or unnecessary wars. The key to activating this brake, they
believe, is to "encourage an open discussion of how the burden of wartime
sacrifice...is borne differently across the country." Open discussion will
raise public consciousness, constraining warmongering policy-makers as a

Would that such expectations were even remotely plausible. The authors'
faith in the power of "open discussion" is touching but profoundly na´ve.

Recall that inequality of service and sacrifice is not exactly a deep, dark
secret. After all, millions of people saw Fahrenheit 9/11 and absorbed its
angry message. Nor has Michael Moore been alone in complaining that a
fundamental unfairness pervades the way the United States has come to wage
its wars. Yet the ensuing "discussion" has not notably reduced Washington's
inclination to use force-it certainly didn't prevent Barack Obama from
escalating US military involvement in Afghanistan by "surging" an additional
30,000 reinforcements. Even if knowledge of the casualty gap induces a
certain unease, that alone does not suffice to change policy. If anything,
policy-makers have displayed a considerable aptitude for ignoring qualms of

Although Americans more generally might bemoan the casualty gap, they won't
exert themselves to close it. The reason seems quite clear. Casualties
affect public perceptions of policy when they hit close to home, when the
sense of loss is direct, immediate and palpable.

Yet the communities on whom the burden of sacrifice falls most heavily are
precisely those that wield the least clout. Not having much money, they are
easily ignored. "Citizens from low-income, low-education communities,"
Kriner and Shen write, "are disproportionately less engaged in politics than
their fellow citizens from socio-economically advantaged communities." "Less
engaged" is, to put it mildly, an odd formulation. The plain fact is that in
Washington the less affluent are less likely to get a hearing. "The
populations with the most to lose in war become those communities with the
least to say to their elected officials." That's one way to put it. Another
is that these communities are most easily blown off.

So how about the unemployed?


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Received on Sun Sep 5 18:48:32 2010

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