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Monday, August 28, 2006

A question for our readers: What will the 9/11 generation accomplish? 


If you've read my most recent post, you know I am thinking about generations this morning. It is perhaps sloppy history to characterize generations of Americans, but we do it anyway. The misleadingly named "greatest generation" that fought World War II, for example, became the only decidedly statist generation in American history. It grew up believing that the New Deal rescued the United States from the Depression, and the waging of World War II stands as perhaps the single greatest accomplishment of our federal government. The result is that the generation born between roughly 1910 and 1930 had a great belief in state action that influenced American politics well into the 1980s.

Similarly, the generation that came of age during the Vietnam war is today at the peak of its power. The political fortunes and attitudes of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, John Kerry, John McCain, Al Gore and any number of others have been influenced by their relationship with the Vietnam war. The Vietnam war was in some respects the central historical backdrop to the presidential election of 2004. Obsession with Vietnam has colored -- some would say warped -- the prosecution of and opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We do not yet have a nuanced understanding of the impact of Vietnam on the American political and geopolitical landscape, but we can be sure that the influence of that war has been pervasive, far beyond its direct consequences.

So what will be the impact of the generation that has come of age during the last five years? More than 300,000 young Americans have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and many of them will come home and eventually enter careers in government, journalism, business, academia and politics. There are many more Americans who did not fight in those wars, who know virtually nobody who has, and who know what they think they know from abstract media -- press accounts, books, photographs and fauxtographs, and blogs of the right and left. What effect will these two groups have when they become the leaders of our government, economy and culture? If you answer in the comments -- and I very much hope you do -- consider particularly the likely impact of this generation on American foreign policy. What will these returning veterans teach us about the Arab and Muslim world, and how will the cohort that stayed at home react to that instruction?

Fire at will.


10 Comments:

By Blogger skipsailing, at Mon Aug 28, 11:00:00 AM:

The war against Islamic inspired facism has created a rift between the military and the Democrat party.

My dad, Lord rest his angry soul, served in the Navy for 23 years and died a Democrat. During the cold war he used to complain that a penny not spent of defense was wasted.

Yet when Reagan came to power my Dad was appalled. Reagan did what my Dad always said should be done, but, hell we was a republican.

I believe that day is over. My reading of the mood of the troops (based I must admit on some scant evidence) is that they have maintained their composure by completely rejecting the entire left side of America.

As the war grinds on and the voices in opposition have become more shrill the guys in the heat of the action are focusing inward and tuning out much of the chatter.

What does this mean twenty years from now? I think the Democrats, should they survive that long, will have a hard time coming up with a Wesley Clark type figurehead.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 28, 12:28:00 PM:

At present, the cohort of men serving, and who will yet serve, is too small to make the significant difference of "the greatest generation", that is, my parents' generation.

I think that 'skipsailing' is wrong. About a third of the officers (maybe less of enlisted men) are in disagreement with the war and the way it has been prosecuted, (think Paul Hackett, who is very popular among some Ohio Democrats, although the Democrat party managed to give him the dirty end of the stick!), and in the years to come, these men and women will be prominent politically, again, if the Democrats don't shoot themselves in the foot (which they do regularly).
This ideological debate will not end in our lifetimes, believe me.

As a side note about Paul Hackett, he was a PI lawyer before he deployed (from Marine Reserve component), and had the victim/ambulance chaser mentality as part of a Marine JAG, which is how he served in Iraq. In other words, he came to the war with politcal predispositions, and came away with the bonafides to back those up.
So I doubt that much will change based on the relatively small number of men that have served, as admirable and honorable as they may be.
The politicos will listen politely and then shut up anybody they don't like. If the press doesn't like them, they will find a way to connect them to Donald Rumsfeld/Abu Graib/you name the smear.
(sarcasm alert!)We can all see the effects of the cohort (larger) that served in Viet Nam, can't we?(think about Jeremiah Denton)

-David  

By Blogger Jason_Pappas, at Mon Aug 28, 03:42:00 PM:

I see nothing new.

The 9/11 attacks and Bush administration’s response revealed that under the surface America is deeply divided – more so than imagined. The differences of the 60s were swept under the rug with only a few superficial issues giving us signs of an underlying chasm. The need to respond to the Islamic threat has blown away the thin veil hiding a vast gulf that can no longer be denied. Bush did nothing but implement the Clinton/Gore policy of regime change in Iraq. But he was Bush and symbolized everything the left hates about America!

The country’s future is at stake as these two camps fight for the soul of our nation. The left has the edge with control of the universities and MSM. The right has been holding its punches. The current generation hasn’t chosen sides yet. No one has clearly defined the issues as in the past when we debated individualism vs. collectivism, democracy vs. totalitarianism, capitalism vs. socialism, etc. Instead we fight a tactic: terrorism. It’s as if our main complaint is that they don’t fight like gentlemen.

What the enemy fights for, we can’t talk about because that would be judgmental; and we are told by our President that they are just like us. And we are told the same thing by the left, who claim we’d to what they are doing (blowing themselves up) if our country was invaded. But any notion that we are fighting a savage enemy (wash your mouth out!) who seeks to spread a vicious religion (don’t you miss atheistic communism?) cannot be discussed in public … only on the Internet behind anonymous identities.

In every generation there are the exceptions that will determine future change. Reagan was that FDR Democrat that you referred to. Today some young confused man or woman is looking at the absurdity of the left’s vilification of America and starting out on an intellectual journey that will make him/her tomorrow’s hope. The seeds of America’s renewal will bring forth a new crop in the decades ahead … but first things get worse before they get better. The current leadership on the right is living on borrowed time; there’s not an intellectual leader among them.

9/11 has revealed our intellectual and moral bankruptcy. But we haven’t realized that yet.  

By Anonymous Phrizz11, at Mon Aug 28, 03:53:00 PM:

One thing I'd love to see from my generation is a political party that is liberal on social issues and strong on defense. Live and let live while protecting our way of life. Is that so much to ask?

Maybe, we'll get so fed up with both corrupt, intolerant Republicans and weak Democrats that we will end up with a third party. Yeah right - only in my dreams.  

By Blogger Andrewdb, at Mon Aug 28, 04:01:00 PM:

My sister is a high school teacher. She says it is amazing to her, as a Child of Watergate, to see the kids today trusting big government, and announcing that if the government is lying, it probably has a good reason. (Whether that will last, given the problems in Iraw remains to be seen - I am clearly on the side of being upset with Bush as he is not doing enough to finish the job right.)

PS - you might also look at the Civil War as a large statist enterprise that changed America, although FDR certainly did a lot too.  

By Blogger Cobb, at Mon Aug 28, 05:31:00 PM:

I have just recently visited the Wikipedia page of Strauss & Howe after being called a (Neoconservative) Straussian. It was a happy accident in rediscovering these gents who wrote The Fourth Turning. It turns out that their prediction of the next generation will probably be correct.

* Nomads are ratty, tough, unwanted, diverse, adventurous, and cynical about institutions. They grow up as the underprotected children of an Awakening, come of age as the alienated young adults of an Unravelling, become the pragmatic, midlife leaders of a Crisis and age into tough, post-crisis elders during a High. Generation X and the Lost Generation are examples of Nomad generations.

* Heroes are conventional, powerful, and institutionally driven, with a profound trust in authority. They grow up as the increasingly protected children of an Unraveling, come of age as the Heroic, team-working youth of a Crisis, become energetic and hubristic mid-lifers during a High and become the powerful elders who are attacked in the next Awakening. The G.I. Generation that fought World War II is an example of a Hero generation.

According to their generational calendar, the next Heroic generation are those who were born between 1982 and 2003.
Millennial Saeculum
Boom Prophet 1943-1960
13th Nomad 1961-1981
Millennial Hero 1982-2003

I've often spoken about the tendencies in suburbs like mine for children's activities to be over-poiliced. Almost every kid around attended a school with a DARE program. I'm on the cusp of GenX and identify with the Boomers too. But I recognize that Nomad pattern in my life, and there's no question that I am raising my kids rather much as the Heroic profile suggests. I've been skeptical about the application of this Sacular theory beyond the borders of the US, but that's not what matters. Here I think it's broadly apt.  

By Blogger FrauBudgie, at Mon Aug 28, 07:37:00 PM:

The brunt of Boomer self-indulgence, and Nam-style politics will fall squarely on the shoulders of the 9/11 generation, and it will fall there in the mostly near future.

We elders aren't going to do squat about social security. It's too painful. We're not going to do squat about energy dependence. It's too inconvenient. It's beginning to look like we're losing out attention regarding Iraq; too long and unpopular.

Our kids will have to deal with an aging population with funds that have bankrupted with Congressional theft. They'll have to manage with limited fuel, and decide whether or not to be jerked around by third world countries. And they'll have to deal with a Califate that hates the US - and is nuclear armed, an EU that stabs the US in the back, and a S.American communist/socialist bloc.

The first thing the kids do should be to pass a Dr.Kevorkian law (euthanasia) for their elders. To make sure Boomers stay out of their hair.  

By Anonymous R. Simpson, at Tue Aug 29, 02:22:00 AM:

To Andrewdb:

I belive you are mistaking William Strauss with Leo Strauss.  

By Blogger skipsailing, at Tue Aug 29, 12:08:00 PM:

hmmm a couple of observations:

First, I live in Ohio and I am a child of the sixties. the differences between then and now are quite apparent. I spend about three hours a day on the road driving through metropolitan areas. In stark contrast to the sixties, the bumper stickers today are pro military by an overwhelming majority. yes there a plenty of faded yellow ribbons, but there are also many, many "freedom isn't free" type stickers as well. An anti war sticker is uncommon unless one travels to a college town.

To me the critical difference is the nature of the force. The guys in Iraq and A stan right now aren't draftees. Their families don't have to feel ambivalent about thier service. so the politicians may ignore the guys in the force, but they do so at their peril. The friends and families of those people serving are staunchly behind them and they multiply the size of the co hort.

Next, the depth the feelings that the guys have is hard to fathom. Permit a single anecdote. Home on leave over christmas my son dropped his cell phone. He was frantic to find it so we called the number to see if perhaps someone picked it up. someone did and a rendez vous was arranged.

when my son returned I asked about the guy that found the phone. My son simply refused to shake the guy's hand because he had a John Kerry bumper sticker on his truck. I don't believe this to be an isolated incident. I think the the guys that are serving, whether they approve of the war's conduct or not, do NOT approve of the behavior of the Democrat party officials.

this anger will not dissapate any time soon. If you visit the Pat Dollard web site be sure to view the "credits" video, it is a clear glimpse of how the guys are responding to the endless litany of anti war agit prop being produced by the american left.

What has Paul Hackett actually won? I chose Wesley Clark because he's the ideal Icon for the left's approach to the military: the service as a bureaucracy. the fact that hackett served in the JAG and not on the lines says all one need hear about the Democrats prospects.

I agree that the country is deeply divided, but it's not along party lines. the critical divider is denial. Significant numbers of the American population are still in deep denial about the Islamic threat. Many of us shook off this denial when hezbullah killed those marines, some with the cole, or Khobar, some with 9/11.

but many, many people are still in denial about the nature of Islamic facism. This is not new, we were in deep denial about european and Japanese facism prior to 12/7. Recall that the vote to authorize a limited draft passed the congress by a single vote.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri Sep 01, 12:58:00 PM:

To tie your two points together, there are few who understand the threats of Islamists better than those in national defense. (caveat: the fighters, not the paper pushers)

If I had a 1 hour program to boadcast on why Islamism is underestimated and more dangerous than people think, I'm sure I could persuade 80%+ of the viewers. There is just so much twisted, hateful, dangerous, bloody stuff that is not know by the general public...  

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