August 6, 2005

No Heroes Here

There is a story in the NY Times today about the lack of real high-profile war heroes from the current unpleasantness.

Many in the military are disheartened by the absence of an instantly recognizable war hero today, a deficiency with a complex cause: public opinion on the Iraq war is split, and drawing attention to it risks fueling opposition; the military is more reluctant than it was in the last century to promote the individual over the group; and the war itself is different, with fewer big battles and more and messier engagements involving smaller units of Americans. Then, too, there is a celebrity culture that seems skewed more to the victim than to the hero.

Collectively, say military historians, war correspondents and retired senior officers, the country seems to have concluded that war heroes pack a political punch that requires caution. They have become not just symbols of bravery but also reminders of the war's thorniest questions. "No one wants to call the attention of the public to bloodletting and heroism and the horrifying character of combat," said Richard Kohn, a military historian at the University of North Carolina. "What situation can be imagined that would promote the war and not remind people of its ambivalence?"

Of course, any modern war hero will be subjected to the standard celebrity treatment, which will pretty much take the shine off of anybody.

Mr. Mead said that "the cult of celebrity has cheapened fame." He added, "What's a war hero to do? Go on 'Oprah'?"

1 comment:

Laura said...

This might also have something to do with the way that the war is being shown to us here at home. All we're getting is x number of soldiers or x number of Iraqis died today. Also, this isn't like WWII or Viet Nam where there were very visible bad guys. Then the Americans had Nazis and Commies to hate, now we have the somewhat anonymous "insurgents." And insurgent is, after all, just another word for rebel. And people usually rebel for a good reason. Makes it a bit harder to villify someone when you call them rebels. Maybe we should call them "Horrible monsters who want to kill our children." Bet we'd have some heroes then.