Tuesday, September 14, 2021

What Have We Learned from Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam… Lesson 3

The Military learned how to gain public support 

Vietnam illustrated what happens when the American people lose faith in a war. Ironically, it is the only real lesson that Military Brass did take to heart, specifically because it allows more war. It is often said that American public grew to hate the war because it was defined by anti-American propaganda. And, for the military, they needed to change how Americans perceive war. They had to start controlling the narrative. They did this in ways big and small.


1. They stopped drafting kids. 

During the Vietnam War the military used conscription, that is drafting, to build a fighting force. Once a year the military would draw birth dates out of a sphere, much like a very very horrible game of bingo. When their children were at risk of being killed in war we were not winning, parent’s support dried up. After Vietnam the military stopped drafting - although men to have to register for it when they are 18 still.

2. Stop counting and presenting death totals for civilians. 

Like most people, Americans do not like to think of innocent people killed by our weapons. In Vietnam, 2 million (2,000,000) civilians were killed. From images of children on fire, to total numbers, civilian deaths are not something Americans support. So, the military stopped counting and publishing figures. 

In case you did not know, 240,000 thousand civilians were killed in Afghanistan by US forces. That is more than the population of Boise Idaho. In Iraq the war (the second war) cost about 200,000 civilian lives (+/- 10,000). How many of us knew this? The military doesn’t release these figures, and Americans have grown to ignore the wars, much less the civilians lost.

3. Ignore the American dead but focus on Americans that recovered. 

In Vietnam, the arrival of dead body after dead body was broadcast. Under Bush, Obama ad Trump, this tradition was lost. Often, even filming has been illegal. When it is legal, but the President does not attend the arrival, it isn’t newsworthy. But we get endless videos (approved by the military) of homecoming surprises, soldiers overcoming amputation and getting dogs out of war. 

Joe Biden actually went to the Air Force base when the dead soldiers were brought home. The Republicans made fun of him for it.

4. Make the news media PART of the story and you will get positive stories. 

Bush2 did this most blatantly with the Iraq invasion. He put news people in with the military. This makes sure only the stories the military want are shown. And, if you are a newsperson, who is going to report negatively on the people that are keeping you safe?

5. More subtle, but very effective, is the support of the military in movies and films. 

The military will very often support and provide assistance to films where the military is part of the good guys. American Sniper, Black Hawk Down, Air Force One, Behind Enemy Lines, Deep Impact and others were all supported by the Military. And, in all of them, the US Military is a force for good. 

On the contrary, military movies during the Vietnam War were much more negative - or balanced, depending on your viewpoint. These movies were more problematic for the war machine: Apocalypse Now, Deer Hunter, MASH (the movie was very negative), Coming Home and others.

There are other things the military has done as propaganda FOR war, but these are the most important (in my opinion)


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