Impending War and Its Impact
As someone in that Young X-er/Old Millennial split, I have vivid memories of 9/11 and its aftermath. Terrorism is simply an intangible part of life, but I live in a place where it only has an impact on me sporadically. The specter of it lingers on the edges of life. One memory, in particular, stands out in the post-9/11 world, and that is October 7, 2001. The U.S. government launched Operation Enduring Freedom on that day; it happened to be my 22nd birthday. I remember feeling desperately conflicted about this conflict: on the one hand, Patriotism! On the other, why was it happening there? What was our justification for this? Fewer than two years later, we launched another operation in Iraq that seemed even more muddled and hazy. We’ve been there ever since. It is the elephant in the corner of so many of our lives; it is always present and yet ignored as much as possible.
Unfortunately for many, it is not something that can be ignored. Studies show that those that were raised in childhood poverty are more likely to join the military. While commissioned officers often come from more elite families, the front lines of our wars are often fought by the most vulnerable of our population. So often, the people that make the decisions to go to war have absolutely zero chance of actually serving in a hot zone. There was a phrase that was used even back in the Civil War era: “This is a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight”.
War is complicated, but the wish is often that it will come to an end. At the dawn of a new decade, many were hopeful that we would begin the arduous process of removing ourselves from the conflicts in the Middle East. Unfortunately, that hope ended on January 2 when the decision was made to assassinate Qassim Suleimani, the leader of the powerful Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iraq. As of this writing, we don’t know what the consequence of that decision will be, but there are many scenarios that could play out badly. Iran will take this as an act of war. Experts on each side of our political aisle will bicker back and forth. Non-experts will do the same. The reality is that we don’t know what will happen; that is the only certainty.
I am not an expert on Middle Eastern relations, but the sociological implications of this decision are vast. Conflict Theory tells us that the most vulnerable and powerless in our society are disproportionately impacted by decisions like this. Those that have the power make the rules, and war often advances the ideals of the military-industrial complex, so it is likely to keep happening. Conflict theorists have long argued that the United States engages in military action not for the noble goal of democracy but for imperialism and power in the region. In addition, security and war are expensive line items in our budget, and this could increase that spending. Our social needs often suffer the most in times of conflict; the money that is needed for the conflict has to come from somewhere.
Only time will tell with this newest clash, but if history is any indication, the burden of war is great and powerful, and it is often taken on by those who have no say in it.