Politics & Policy

Three Wars, Little News

We’ve ignored the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Mexico long enough.

It is a busy time in America. The Major League Baseball playoffs are competing with the upcoming midterm elections for the public’s attention. The rescue of courageous miners in Chile has for a time overshadowed even the latest psychodramas of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.

There is endemic fear among Americans that continual $1 trillion–plus annual deficits and near–10 percent unemployment are about to destroy the vaunted American standard of living. Who has time to worry about much else?

That said, we have been sleeping through three major wars that will soon wake us up.

#ad#This summer, Americans were dying in combat in Afghanistan at rates not seen since the summer of 2007 in Iraq. In congressional hearings that year, furious legislators grilled Gen. David Petraeus and cited the high number of monthly combat deaths to prematurely declare his surge a failure. MoveOn.org ran ads calling Petraeus a traitor (“General Betray Us”) for continuing the war amid such losses.

No such furor surrounds Afghanistan today. Yet more Americans have been killed so far this year in Afghanistan than during the entire six years of fighting there from 2001 through 2006. U.S. combat fatalities in Afghanistan in just the first 19 months of the Obama administration exceeded U.S. combat fatalities in Afghanistan in eight years under George W. Bush.

This depressing news garners little commentary in the mainstream media but surely raises vital questions of national security. Why has the so-called “good war” suddenly heated up at precisely the same time American combat operations in the “bad war” in Iraq are largely over?

Are casualties spiking because of the surge of American troops, as happened in 2007 in Iraq? Or has the enemy stepped up the offensive in hopes that announced American troop withdrawals mean victory is on the horizon?

Does President Obama plan to win, or is he willing to concede the war with the Taliban? Does the media fear that depressing coverage of Afghanistan will damage this administration in the way daily headlines of violence from Iraq nearly destroyed the prior one?

Meanwhile, almost imperceptibly, the United States has been waging a full-scale Predator-drone war against suspected al-Qaeda terrorists inside Pakistan. This year alone, we have conducted more than twice as many airstrikes inside Pakistan as we did in the eight years from 2001 through 2008. Indeed, in just the first two years of the Obama administration, we have killed more than 1,000 suspected terrorists, along with some civilians, inside Pakistan — or more than double the number taken out by airstrikes during the entire Bush administration.

But again, why the quiet in the news? Are we not relieved that the Obama administration is taking the war to the enemy? Or should we be worried that our drones are now operating on a massive scale inside the borders of a nuclear and sometimes hostile Pakistan? Are Predators an effective way to counter al-Qaeda terrorism? Or as judge, jury, and executioner of non-uniformed terrorist suspects, do they raise the same civil-liberties issues that once raged (but strangely have subsided) around Guantanamo Bay and renditions?

There is a third stealthy conflict to our immediate south. Mexico is convulsed in a drug war far more violent than anything going on in Iraq. Nearly 30,000 people have been murdered in Mexico in the last three years since the Calderón government attempted to wrest back control of large swaths of the country from vicious organized drug cartels.

Some 200 Americans have been killed in Mexico since 2004. In some Mexican towns, mayors and entire city councils have either been murdered or fled, and the violence often spills over into U.S. border towns.

Why the relative silence in our media? The carnage affects dozens of issues — from the now-suspended U.S. border fence and the Arizona anti-illegal-immigration law to current U.S. drug statutes and the upcoming California referendum on the legalization of marijuana.

Mexico is quickly devolving into a failed state. Yet few in the media seem willing to apprise Americans of what that means for the United States. Will Mexico become a Somalia, a Venezuela, or an Afghanistan right on our 1,969-mile-long border?

Americans know more about Lady Gaga than they do about the Afghan war, the Predator war inside Pakistan, or the vicious drug war in Mexico. Apparently our news media has decided that we do not, or should not, care about any of the three.

Like it or not, that is about to change — and very soon.

 Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern© 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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