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It seems to me there are two types of "war-weariness". There is the genuine type, experienced by those who have seen a particular conflict close up, loathe it and would do almost anything to avoid going through the same again. And then there is another variety, felt by those who have generally suffered nothing at all but who feel a sort of sentimental ennui, generally caused by over-consumption of media.

US Secretary of State John Kerry actually saw war service in Vietnam, but even that does not explain his recent declarations. And it certainly does not explain those of President Obama.

In a recent speech Kerry said: "After a decade of conflict the American people are tired of war." He added: "Believe me, I am too." In his speech on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11 the President — who has never actually seen war — referred to post-Iraq America as being "sick and tired of war". 

I suspect that Obama and Kerry have got hold of the wrong end of the schtick here. It is possible that the sheer effort of watching 24-hour news channels for more than a decade has frazzled the minds of most people in the West and made them long for a purer and more consistent diet of celebrity news. But more likely is that the Americans, like many of the rest of us, are not "tired of war" so much as tired of not actually winning a war for some time.

Nobody could claim that America and her allies "won" in Iraq. We deposed a vicious dictator, screwed up the aftermath and have now handed most of the country over to Iran. And as coalition forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan next year, could anybody really say that we have "won" there? With the Taliban being brought into negotiations just as we are about to leave?

 Rather than being "tired of war" it seems far more likely that the general public is just fed up, after a decade spent watching the world's most advanced militaries fight out a draw (at best) against men armed with improvised explosive devices, guns and the odd pick-up truck.

To talk of war-weariness in such a situation is not merely sentimental and misleading but desperately counterproductive. Kerry has promised his "war-weary" nation that if it does do something against Assad it will be something "unbelievably small". 

Who would have thought that "unbelievable smallness" would have become an American objective in our lifetimes? And who can doubt what the unbelievably large consequences of such an achievement would mean?


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February 4th, 2014
1:02 PM
America is suffering from its desire to apply peacetime standards and constitutional protections to enemies who are indistinguishable from the civilian population. The Allies did not have to suffer the indignity of war crimes for bombing the civilian populations of Dresden and Hamburg.

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