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Americas Cultural Gravitation Towards War: Why We Feel the Need to Fight

Since the turn of the century, war has played a pivotal part in American foreign policy.

After the September 11th attacks on U.S. soil America saw an immediate surge of civilians in

military recruitment offices; men and women hoping to play a role in the country's retaliation for

the losses it suffered that day. Since the event, our military has proven itself to be one of the

most combat experienced forces in the western world having seen warfare in Afghanistan,

Pakistan, Iraq, and a multitude of theaters that our government has declared an interest in

fighting terror. Inherently the decade and a half long Global War on Terrorism has provided

Americans with more loses and has left us with objectives we have yet to accomplish.

From my time served in the United States Marine Corps, and I remember the mental

health clinic at the Naval Hospital being filled with veterans of these wars whenever I walked

passed. Many of my co-workers wore memorial bracelets following their deployments with

various units. These bracelets read the names of sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, most of

them service members who had died overseas. These deployments would also place a strain on

the families of those who had gone on them. It was not uncommon for relationships to fall apart

when spouses and children are away from a loved one for so long. After seeing the effects of war

amongst people I had grown to care for, I began to ask myself What was the purpose for these

conflicts, and what did we get in return? What depressed me the most was how hard the

questions were to answer? It wasnt that I became outright opposed to the idea of America

engaging in warfare, but I had developed an appreciation for alternatives to combat.

As a nation, the American public seems to overlook the crudeness of war when dealing

with foreign affairs. Many times Ive participated in pro-war conversations, and after several

terrorist attacks accredited to the newly emerged organization, ISIS, Ive noticed a trend in the

pro-war sentiment over social media. A poll hosted and published by ORC International revealed

that 53% of Americans supported sending ground troops, to fight ISIS by late 2015, showing the

public was increasingly ready to enter yet another conflict (Agiesta). With the awareness that

our country is in a state that is quickly compelled to combat its enemies I ask why war is such

popular response to foreign policy amongst Americans, despite the bereavement experienced in

the last few U.S. conflicts.

With a history of military expansion the United States has developed a hegemonic

bravado that promotes aggressive stance around the world. Politicians and the media also play a

role by influencing the American audience to support policies that advance global agendas.

Furthermore, the 21st century has brought an epidemic of fear towards Islamic terrorism, and this

fear has become a factor in our societys judgment. In our diplomatic community the American

public's approval ultimately determines the countries policy, and by evaluating our hegemony,

politics, and underlying fear, we will have a better understanding of what drives our collective

reasoning, helping us make more informed decisions in the future.

There is a good case to be made for the confidence Americans feel in their dominant

presence around the world. Right now the United States is the only remaining global superpower,

annual spending over 600 billion dollars on its military alone. The U.S. possesses 19 aircraft

carriers in comparison to rest of the worlds combined total of 12 (Jones). Also the America

occupies 6,800 nuclear warheads, just behind the Russians in the most warheads own

(Davenport). However, our nations supremacy is far from an overnight occurrence, but is the

result of a rich history of conflict, globalization, and civilian support.

Since the 18th century American Revolution, the United States has participated in many

different wars and smaller conflicts. Following the country's independence from the British

Emperor Americans have engaged in many campaigns against the North American natives,

fought various amphibious battles against the French, Caribbean Islands, and North African

colonies, and has promoted exceptionalism through conflict in many developing nations.

Nonetheless, by the early 20th century the American public enjoyed relative isolationism with an

economic boom from 1910 till the great depression in 1929. Still, the popular isolationist attitude

remained during the Laissez-faire period up until an attack on U.S. Naval Base in Pearl Harbor

propelled the United States into the Second World War. By the end of the war with the exception

of Pearl Harbor American soil remained unscathed by enemy forces, and U.S. troops now

occupied vast regions in both Europe and Asia. With the creation and use of the first atomic

weapons America instantly qualified itself as a world superpower.

With the Post World War 2 era came a new breed of America military confidence and

expansionism. As the West grew more afraid of the world's second superpower, The Soviet

Union, a fierce arms race sparked between The U.S.A and The U.S.S.R that lasted almost half

the 1900s. During what history knows as the Cold War, the U.S. advanced its global presence

by initiating alliances with western nations and engaging in civil conflicts where likely

democratic and capitalist allies fought against perceived communist opponents such as in the

Korean and Vietnam Wars. To promote this expansionism, influential figures like U.S. Senator

Joseph McCarthy encouraged anti-communist sentiment and propaganda that brought distrust to

foreign ideology. Though the collapse of the Soviet Union saw an end to the Cold War, its

legacy of U.S. hegemony and concern against un-American philosophies still stand today. After

decades of Cold War development America currently possess a military unmatched by any other

nation, giving the public the idea that the U.S. can take on any threat at any time.

Another probable cause for Americas attraction to warfare is the influence of both

political rhetoric and the media. With the most recent of technology available communicating

through broadcast and publication has never been so widespread. Todays media sources can

affect the thoughts and behavior of a massive American audience. Also, America still plays a

large role in geopolitics, which easily provides opportunities for American politicians to advance

certain agendas and policies, inspirations that at times concern the country's involvement in war.

Using the media politicians are able to talk to a massive amount of constituents at once, and by

marketing themselves to whatever ideological climate is most present at the time they are able to

entice a majority to support their claim or cause.

An example of the political promotion of war is in late 2001 to early 2003, when the

Bush Administration had spent over a year advocating to both Congress and the American public

for an invasion of Iraq. President George W. Bush and his cabinet campaigned for support by

establishing allegations that the Iraqi government was partnered with the terrorist group al-

Qaeda, and also shelter weapons of mass destruction that could easily fall into the hands of their

terrorist allies. By highlighting the potential threat of the unfounded claims that Saddam Hussein,

the Iraqi President at the time, possessed WMD capabilities the Bush Administration was able to

convince a majority of Americans to support the 7-year war in Iraq. On March 24, 2003, Gallup

Inc. published a poll conducted by CNN that suggested seventy-two percent of Americans

supported the Iraq War, and seventy-one percent gave their approval of the President's job thus

far (Gallup Inc.). Over the years as America became more invested in Iraq, and with the

unlikelihood of the nation ever possessing WMDs becoming more evident, public approval of

the conflict began to decline. In 2008 a poll taken by the Washington Post found that sixty-four

percent of Americans believed the war was not worth fighting.


Another example of politicians using military bravado is in December of 2015, when the

issue of terrorism had returned to being a big concern for many Americans. During the

December 15th Republican presidential debate many of the candidates on stage were outspoken

on being tough on terrorism, using very aggressive militaristic language to convey their stance as

the better candidate. Suggestions quickly went from carpet bombing to the development of a

Syrian no-fly zone, to one candidate even mentioning the start of World War III. Although the

candidates debated a great deal of issues it seems as though America has regrown a support for

pro-war rhetoric with Republican Donald Trump determined the recent President-Elect.

Now, at some point in time as humans, we've come to the realization that fear is

psychologically one of our biggest motivators. Our fight-or-flight response is our mind's natural

reaction to any perceived threat to our survival. As more and more Islamic-based terrorist attacks

emerge around the world Westerners are forced to consider the possible harm that could be

inflicted upon their communities, families, and upon themselves. As a result, Americans have

become so afraid of terrorism they are willing to send troops to war to protect their livelihoods.

From a natural and psychological standpoint the idea is simple. If there is nowhere to run we

obviously most fight.

As I stated before the adrenaline of war slowly wore off during George W. Bushs tender

as U.S. president. However with the recent appearance of the Islamic State, and an escalation of

inspired attacks on U.S. soil polls suggest that Americans have regained the thought of battling

their enemies in the Middle East once again. A poll taken by the Harvard institute of political

science revealed that sixty percent of the of the millennials who took the survey believed the

U.S. should send troops back east after the last terrorist attack in Paris, France, while only

sixteen percent were willing to join the military and fight in the theater themselves (Perez). The

poll gives clear evidence to the fact that our flight-or-flight response has kicked in an America

could be ready for the next campaign.

In summary during the Cold War, the American Public embraced the fear of communism

and nuclear destruction, which promoted wars in the Korean region and Vietnam. With the

exposure to the media being so potent today's Americans face the reenactment of their fears

through many outlets from political dialog, television and newspapers, and plethora of post and

articles easily found on the internet. When politicians, co-workers, friends, and family members

are constantly inciting a neurological response to react to the potential terrorist threat, it is only

natural to commit to an intuitive stance, whether that response is fully rational or not.

Its undeniable that we as a society are influenced and persuaded every single day. Ultimately all

things in life are subject to cause and effect, including cultural opinion. Humans are constantly

bombarded with many different factors, elements in our lives that sway our opinion, and as a

result bring physical change to the world around us. As I demonstrated in this piece, when it

comes to the American willingness to solve problems with a sword in hand our history as a

nation plays a major role. Through history, weve built progress, and from progress weve

inherited pride. Although it is not wrong to find satisfaction in the growth this country has made

it is flawed that we don't account for its effect on our beliefs and behavior. We influenced too

much by the politics and media that unite us under an agenda influenced banner.

Lastly, our fear is our greatest motivator due to it being our most internal and natural

factor. As Americans, we together make up a democratic system, and the nation's policies are

bound by our support. With the power held by the public it is our responsibility to investigate all

avenues before making decisions that affect our lives and others. Going to war may not always

be the wrong commitment, but by relying on emotion alone and not considering alternatives it

only seems to harm us in the long run. It is no secret that American troops have come home with

an array of problems, and the western world has not felt much safer than it was the morning

following September 11, 2001. Today the middle-east remains in disarray and it's implied that

our investment there has gone for not. As time goes on and new threats emerge my hope is that

as a society we will become more inclined to consider the conclusion to the actions we take in

the future.

Works Cited

Agiesta, Jennifer. "Poll: Most Say Send Ground Troops to Fight ISIS." CNN. Cable News

Network, n.d. Web. 01 Jan. 2017.

Cinquegrani, Joe. "The Three Causes of Terror: Their Myths, Truths and Shocking Facts"

Essai,2006, pp. 25-29.

Davenport, Kelsey. Fact Sheets &Amp; Briefs. Nuclear Weapons: Who Has What at a Glance

| Arms Control Association, Arms Control Association , Jan. 2017,

Fischer, Mia. "Commemorating 9/11 NFL-Style: Insights into Americas Culture of Militarism."

Journal of Sport & Social Issues, Jun. 2014, pp. 199-221.

Gallup, Inc. "Seventy-Two Percent of Americans Support War Against Iraq."

Gallup, Inc, 24 Mar. 2003. Web. 01 Jan. 2017.

History of American Wars - Three Centuries of America's Wars. History of American Wars

Jones, Brian. One Chart Shows The Magnitude Of US Naval Dominance. Business Insider,

Business Insider, 13 Nov. 2013,

McKinnon, John D. "Bush Ties Iraq Effort To Vietnam Lessons." The Wall Street Journal, 23

Aug 2007, pp. A5.

Perez, Esten. "The Institute of Politics at Harvard University." Harvard IOP Fall 2015 Poll | The

Institute of Politics at Harvard University. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Jan. 2017.