by James M. Cypher
In mid-summer of 2006 a Harris Opinion poll:
- 50 percent of the U.S. public believed that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) had been found in Iraq by U.S. forces
- nearly 67% of those polled thought that the Iraqi regime had been collaborating with al-Qaeda forces prior to the Washington invasion in the spring of 2003.
- a large majority of the population believed that the invasion had been a mistake and favored significant troop withdrawals in the near future.
Psychologists might interpret these discordant results as indications of mass cognitive dissonance.
- Although the United States suffered significant losses in terms of death and injury to its fighting forces, the economy boomed during the war, the Depression faded, and the fight was “over there.”
- This unique positive U.S. relationship between economic recovery and heavy bouts of military spending (if not war) has remained up to the present.
- With the onset of the Persian Gulf War of 1991, a new factor was thrown into the relationship—high-tech, “precision-guided” weaponry would make combat antiseptic.
- A childish and disengaged language also began to circulate in this period. There were “good guys” and “bad guys.”
- High-tech war would eliminate the bad guys—not innocent civilians whose deaths had been compartmentalized heretofore as collateral damage.
- The presentation of war as entertainment during the 1991 Gulf War was designed to beat back the Vietnam Syndrome—what conservatives saw as a pathology regarding the U.S. population’s increased reluctance to support interventions in the third world.
- The public will support military adventurism, but it will not sustain high human costs of war in the United States.
- In the United States militarism is and has been since the late 1940s a hegemonic societal perception—the prism through which global political events and U.S. foreign policy are interpreted.