Thursday, April 21, 2011

Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Cared?

We’re now just over one month into the Libyan war campaign crusade skirmish and the most striking thing to note at the moment is just how completely apathetic the American public has become to it. When the bombs first began to fall, politicians and pundits on the right questioned the rationale for US involvement in the efforts to stop Qaddafi, asked what the national interest was, and wondered what we really knew about the “rebels” whose side we were suddenly supporting. On the far left, many of the usual anti-war suspects questioned the president’s authority to engage in such military action, denounced the “needless” violence, and called for negotiations to resolve the matter peaceable.

But in the last few weeks, as the rebels and government forces chase each other back and forth in around a couple of key coastal cities and the now NATO lead bombing continues, it seems as if most of the country has completely checked out on events in Libya. Should the bombing continue? Should the US send in advisors to help the rebels on the ground as the UK and now Italy and France are committed to doing? What would it take to decisively tip the tide in the rebels favor? What will happen if and when the rebels do prevail? Will Libya end up divided as a result of some sort of peaceful settlement? Does anyone care anymore?

No, I don’t think most Americans do. Even the unfortunate deaths of two photojournalists in the city of Misrata this week only briefly brought the Libyan conflict back to the media forefront and that has more to do with the personal tragedy of their loss rather than concern with the broader story. Whether the eventual outcome is that the rebels are victorious, are crushed by Qaddafi in spite of the bombing, or something in between is rarely discussed and I would guess that most people don’t necessarily care one way or another at this point.

Some of this apathy is no doubt the result of President Obama’s lack of resolve and less than stirring rhetoric about what we’re doing in Libya and why. But we were already seeing some of this public disinterest in regard to the war in Afghanistan. After nearly ten years of fighting, there is bound to be a certain level of fatigue and frustration among the American people when it comes to Afghanistan. With no clear end in sight and no clear idea of what a victory would even look like, it’s natural that people would tend to tune out and prefer not to think about it. But it’s also disturbing how easy it seems to be to avoid and ignore that war when Americans troops are still fighting and dying almost every day.

Thankfully, we haven’t suffered any military causalities in Libya yet and God willing we won’t. But I wonder if short period of time that transpired before events in Libya were for the most part pushed off the front page indicates that the public’s attention span for following America’s military involvements overseas is shrinking while our country’s leaders willingness to engage in such conflicts is growing. If so, it’s not a pattern that bodes well for the future.