U.S. Domestic and National Security Agendas: Into the Twenty-First Century

By Sam C. Sarkesian; John Mead Flanagin et al. | Go to book overview
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War without Killing

Harvey M. Sapolsky

Americans do not want to die. By itself, this is not an especially distinguishing characteristic, but nearly alone among the peoples of the world, Americans are both rich enough and arrogant enough to try to do a lot about this very common desire. In attempting to avoid death by disease, war, and accident, Americans spend vastly more on medical care, the military, and risk reduction than do most other people. Our often professed religiosity notwithstanding, we seem distressed by the inevitability of dying.

We are becoming even more peculiar. Increasingly, we want our wars to be without killing of any sort. That we would not want Americans--civilian or military--killed in war is to be expected. There is nothing especially new or unusual here except perhaps how adamant we are about this. That we wish to avoid killing noncombatants, including enemy civilians, is also not unique, although the lengths to which we expect our military to go to ensure that noncombatants are not harmed surely is. But what are quite strange and new, as witnessed in our latest wars, are the growing qualms Americans apparently have about killing enemy soldiers.

This chapter explores the implications such qualms have for the planning and conduct of future wars. It seeks to understand the likely effects on America's willingness to fight, weapon development policy, military doctrine, and the reporting of war. It recognizes that the qualms are to a large extent a luxury of our current security, protected as we are from invasion by two big oceans, two docile neighbors, the demise of the Soviet Union, and our own fearsome military power. If a foreign army were to be slicing into, say, Oregon, I have no doubt that we would not only annihilate all the enemy military personnel but also attack the enemy's homeland, with little regard for the cost in noncombatant lives. It is precisely because our future wars are likely to be fought far from home and for national interest rather

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