The Legacy of War

>> Tuesday, June 08, 2010

This is one reason why Europeans understand war differently than Americans:

An Allied bomb left over from World War II has exploded in Germany, killing three military engineers who were trying to defuse it. The blast occurred in the central city of Goettingen on Tuesday after construction workers building a sports stadium discovered it in a densely populated area.

Bomb disposal experts were called to the scene to defuse the 500 kilogramme device, which police said was likely to be British. But it exploded before they could neutralise the device. Another six members of the bomb disposal team were injured in the blast, but all were expected to survive.

The legacy of war remains written into the landscape of Europe in a way that’s not really understandable to Americans. This legacy doesn’t provide a full explanation for why Americans and Europeans tend to view military adventurism differently, but there’s no doubt that it’s a factor.

8 comments:

Anonymous,  9:51 AM  

i live in an area that saw massive action during the civil war. believe it or not, every so often, some dumbass digs up and brings home unexploded ordinance from that conflict.

we usually hear about it from the newspaper headline, after the dust settles.

cpinva

Anonymous,  1:12 PM  

I went to high school in Germany in 1976 and a 250 lb bomb was found buried in our baseball diamond.

Chris 1:03 AM  

There was a bomb found in our town about 15 years ago just outside the gates of a 20,000 seater football (soccer) stadium. Never even made the national news.

You can't over-stress this point. Americans have never seen mechanised total war from the inside (the Civil War was bad enough, but 150 years ago).

In Europe, people still in the workforce like me can remember the old ladies, the women who were widowed or never married because a generation of men was killed 1914-18. They were in every family. Most adults still have/had grandparents who survived the Blitz, Dresden, Hamburg, whatever, who remember bread rationing and real hunger. There is no equivalent experience in the US.

Anonymous,  12:00 PM  

The first time I lived in Germany it was 1964 the little village we lived in had almost no men at all my father's age. He was in his 30s. Just a bunch of old men and teenagers.

Anonymous,  1:18 PM  

The British (at least Tony suckass Blair) still seem to like military adventurism.

Stuhlmann,  2:22 AM  

I've lived in Germany almost 25 years now, and finding these leftover WWII bombs is a regular occurrence at construction sites. This is the 1st time I can remember that one exploded.

Burkeman1 3:07 PM  

Americans have a very warped idea of war. Most of the wars this country has fought have been small wars against weakling enemies that never stood a chance . . . from the dozens of wars and campaigns against Neolithic Indian tribes and colonial superpower skirmishes (we laughingly call battles in our text books) to the land theft war against Mexico and later a weakling Spain- to present day. Of course we had some "major" wars- in which we suffered more than a few thousand causalities- but even in these we suffered far less comparatively or proportionally than the rest of the world.

War is something that we inflict on other people far far away from us.

Thus we view it from the perspective of people who have no stake in it and we glorify it and revel in stupidity about war day in and day out.

Of course- war sustains the empire and our entire system of government- and is now the backbone of our economy if not society.

We are a militarist country without looking like one.

This country has no shortage of undeserved pride in its vast bloated and historically awful military. And there is likewise no shortage in the abysmal ignorance of Americans about the experiences of other countries and war as well.

I love the example of the widespread American wing nutter belief in French martial cowardice and the constant jokes about the French being generally "pussies"- which comes from them "surrendering" to the Germans in WWII.

Yes- France- which lost well over a million men in WWI- spent the first 40 days of WWII losing to combat 125,000 men fighting the Germans. In 40 days! America lost 350,000 during the entire war. But they are cowards to dumbo Americans. France is country which only a couple years ago finally got rid of reserved seating on subways for war amputees . . .

. . . so yeah- Americans have a different view of war- an H-wood corporate sanitized childish view of it- and now- thanks to technology- many of "hero" troops now understand war like it is videogame.

By the way- am I supposed to be impressed by the "bravery" of a military that runs ads emphasizing the personal safety of the troops in the ads- how they are "taking the soldier off the battlefield"? Are you a "Veteran" of a war if you blow people apart in an apache helicopter using your computer joy stick while you are two miles away? Are you entitled to veteran benefits for being a cowardly little worm who kills people with drones while commuting to the office every day in the good ol US of A?

Am I supposed to get all gushy at the feet of "troops" who spent a year on some base in Iraq in which they saw no Iraqis and where waited on by slave workers from satrap states of the American military empire?

WrongfulDeath,  12:56 PM  

As much as I agree that war is an unseemly business, I can't think of one political boundry that has not been determined directly or indirectly by war.

I believ it is part of the human condition and to be 'anti-war' under all circumstances is simply polyanna.

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