Can Modern Democracy Survive War?




 
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Boots
 
July 12th, 2005  
Whispering Death
 
 

Topic: Can Modern Democracy Survive War?


With the press more free to influence public opinion than any other society in history, can a democratic society actually win a long-term war?

In the recent war in Iraq it was seen that ON DAY 4 of the war the news networks where spouting out "is this a quagmire" because the American armed forces had merely stopped to resupply. With such an outlook, do democratic systems actually have the stomach for war anymore? The politicians are dependent on the voters for their opinions and if the voters are motivited in a certain direction by the media (as shown to be effective in the Madrid train bombings) can a democratic system actually win a high-intensity war like WW2 when mid-intensity wars like 2002 Iraq war have proven so controvertial? What happens when the body count is 300,000 instead of 1,700?

Which begs the even greater question, is autocracy the only governmental system that can provide the #1 reason that human beings create governments, protection from extortion and death by war? Over a long-term timespan can "free" people's live out free lives or do they become so decadent, like gluttonous morbidly obese persons who are so fat that they die or heart attack, that they can't do what is neccessary to maintin their ability to live?
July 12th, 2005  
chewie_nz
 
heres where the difference is, WWII was incontravertaly "just" war, bad people started it and did bad things.

Vietnam was a more political war, people in the states didn't see the threat. the domino effect after all was just a theory.

Iraq is almost the same when it comes down to it, there are serious doubts held by many over the reasons for origionally going to war...and thats when the press starts asking difficult questions.

compare afghanistan and iraq, the entire world saw the need for the US to invade iraq...the US was attacked, the Afghan powers supported al queda = clear link. but when iraq gets targeted the waters muddy.

lets look at another modern conflict...the falklands war, the british press rallied behind thatcher becuase there was a clear reason for armed intervention...property of england had been forcibly invaded.


the press can be like sharks....they sense blood in the water.
July 12th, 2005  
Whispering Death
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chewie_nz
heres where the difference is, WWII was incontravertaly "just" war, bad people started it and did bad things.
I'm not so sure that is the case. You have to remember that president FDR couldn't get America to fight Germany even as the Nazis stormed across Europe. It was through the 'lend lease act' that FDR was able to bypass laws and regulations that kept American arms from being sent to English and Russian forces, these acts where considered "warmongering" by the oposing politicians. The American public's rallying cry up until December 6th, 1942 was "No foreign entanglements." Now imagine if "lend lease" was on Hannity and Colems or in the 'Crossfire' on CNN and had 'exposes' by New York Times journalists into why FDR 'really' was creating lend lease or how FDR 'sexed up the dossiers' to make Germany look worse than it really was.

Keep in mind that no one knew of the holocaust until the war's end, it was never used as a justification for the war until after the fact.

Even more, as a person who knows a deal about millitary history you know how F*ed up the DDay operation was and how the plan went to hell and many young men from a number of countries, but mostly American, lost their lives to plans that fell apart. Imagine how the modern media would pounce on that, or the german counter offensive that later was called the "battle of the buldge"? Imagine for a second what the press would call the battle of the buldge if a one day stop to resupply in iraq is a 'quagmire'.

And the thrust of all this is that in democracies, politicians are at the mercy of voters. With a modern media (the primary system by which voters learn about how they should vote) that is so critical and sensational, can democratic systems defend themselves when its public is so easily manipulated?
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Boots
July 12th, 2005  
chewie_nz
 
good points mate

especially liked this;

Quote:
Now imagine if "lend lease" was on Hannity and Colems or in the 'Crossfire' on CNN and had 'exposes' by New York Times journalists into why FDR 'really' was creating lend lease or how FDR 'sexed up the dossiers' to make Germany look worse than it really was.
thats a brilliant thought!

and i think you raise some interesting points. one thing that the US people are very good at is mobilising against an enemy or attacker (the japanese, Bin Laden etc) but not so good at doing the same for bad people that pose no DIRECT threat (hitler, saddam, the north vietmanese). the reason that the US media is able to pull off so many damaging stories about US involvment in iraq (and in the past, Vietnam) is that there is a market for those stories...a large enough segment of the country has doubts about what the Govt is doing, where as with WWII and say...Afghanistan, it wasn't much of an issue.

and in the case of british involvment in iraq (your comment about "sexed up" dossiers) i think that is the media filling a vital role, keeping the Govt Honest!

another thing i have noticed is that media outlets (and the public) have learned their lessons from the vietnam era...they are still behind the troops, just not the Govt that sent them.


your thoughts?
July 13th, 2005  
DTop
 
 
The difference between the role of the American news media today as compared to what is once was (in WWII for example) is drastic. It used to be that everyone was either tuned to the same radio broadcast, hearing the same fireside chat or later squinting at the same images on their tiny television sets. These were considered to be unifying moments.
I can remember when everyone felt the same sadness and sorrow when JFK was assasinated. I also remember the excitement and pride when the Apollo astronauts landed on the moon.
That, I think is probably when the American news media began its metamorphosis. It changed from primarily a fact reporting mechanism to one that has taken upon itself the task of forming public opinion.
Today any even slightly critical event is immediately reacted to by a media blitz filled with answers and explanations long before all the facts are ascertained.
Lots of things have changed that can account for this evolution. Modern technology has lead to immediate transmission of news. It is so fast that journalists and others have little or no time to consider their responses.
In WWII a story might have taken a month or more to reach home from some far flung battleground in the Pacific. During Vietnam, the news from the battlefront might be a week or more old. Today, we see it virtually happening in real time. As a result the news media is often criticized for intrusiveness, having tendencies to offer opinions without facts, and even for being unpatriotic.
As the distinguished U.S. appellate court judge Learned Hand observed, "The hand that rules the press, the radio, the screen, and the far-spread magazine, rules the country." Judge Hand also said that media's power was an unchangeable fact of life: "Whether we like it or not, we must learn to accept it." What's most interesting is that he said it in 1942.
For better or worse, the media has the power to influence public opinion on the actions of their government and those in power.
Democracy has survived up to this point and I think it will survive the current situation just as well. I have faith that free people will, once they are allowed to see the merit and necessity of any given conflict, will support it to its conclusion as long as they are allowed to make up their own minds. When they believe that their government's policy is just, they will support it and their support will bring a conflict to a quicker positive conclusion.
Perhaps the media will one day evolve to allow all sides to be properly presented to the public. I believe that in a democracy, an informed public will make the right decisions don't you?
July 13th, 2005  
chewie_nz
 
i call the metamorphasis that you're talking about there "scoop journalism" it's not about who gets the story right any more, it's about who gets it first.

it's the truth that suffers.


but what i see on this forum is all journalists (worldwide) being tarred with the same brush...believe me there are MANY MANY journo's who struggle on fighting for the truth.
July 13th, 2005  
DTop
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chewie_nz
i call the metamorphasis that you're talking about there "scoop journalism" it's not about who gets the story right any more, it's about who gets it first.

it's the truth that suffers.


but what i see on this forum is all journalists (worldwide) being tarred with the same brush...believe me there are MANY MANY journo's who struggle on fighting for the truth.
I agree that it's the truth that suffers. It seems that it's the definition of what the truth is that is most often muddled.
July 13th, 2005  
Whispering Death
 
 
But the nature of journalism isn't the direct point of the discussion here. We all know the effects modern media and journalism have on society. The question is, does this impact, combined with various other impacts such as the changing western culture, spell the end for liberal societies. The other factors such as values are things like in the WW2 era people felt joining up was "just what you do" in a time of war. Now, there are a surprising number of young people who say they would flee the country if there was a millitary draft, they're too scarred to fight. Values like these (and I'm not turning this into a values debate, it's just the current state of Western culture). I'm sure you can think of a number of other ways that liberal societies have changed since the last high intensity conflict they fought.

I really liked that insight Chewie, about how Americans especially seem to be much better at unifying to combat direct threats yet are so warry and disjointed when it comes to dealing with indirect threats. I'll have to do some thinking and researching about that one, definately a perspective I hadn't seen before.
July 13th, 2005  
DTop
 
 
The evolution of the American news media is symptomatic of the other factors you speak of. I am not so sure that there are as many young people willing to flee rather than fight as some might lead us to believe. I have no proof of this other than my own personal experience. You see, my father enlisted in WII, I enlisted during Vietnam and stayed in right through the Gulf War, and my sons enlisted with one serving in Afgahnistan and the other in Iraq. The kid down the street joined the Marine Corps and is proudly serving now. I'll be attending his wedding next month.
I don't find it surprising that Americans are quicker to rally against someone who directly attacks their country as opposed to those who may be potential threats. I really don't think that's a trait that only Americans have, do you? It's really just human nature.
The opposition to WWII before the attack on Pearl Harbor that you mentioned is well documented. When a community feels threatened, it unites in its own defense. Heck, even ants and bees do that.
I have faith that our young people would respond if they felt their service was needed to defend their country. I'm sure they'd rise to the occaission as they always have. In this respect, I believe this generation of young people is no different from any other. They are as capable of courage and bravery as any that went before them. So I guess I don't agree with some of the assumptions about the current state of Western culture. Even if I were to hear some folks say that they'd flee the country in the advent of a draft (that's the situation we're talking about), I'd really have to wonder if many of them would actually go through with it.
As a parent, I would have felt more secure if my sons decided not to enlist. It sure would have saved my wife and I a good deal of worry. But I supported their choices and continue to be proud of them as I think most parents would.
Maybe those you spoke of that would rather run away are just not properly motivated. Maybe it is all about the the nature of journalism after all.
July 13th, 2005  
Italian Guy
 
 
Top you gave an excellent picture of Conservative America. Unfortunately enough, the same would not be true at all for Europe.