Mark Benjamin penned 2000 Dead? Who Cares? on the non-issue of American War deaths in Iraq.
It's not just eerie that fewer Americans feel the burden of war. Politicians no longer have to fear a broad public backlash for waging an unwise and costly conflict. David M. Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and history professor at Stanford University, calls that phenomenon "a standing invitation to military adventurism."
After Vietnam, the military reorganized to restrict politicians from engaging in another unpopular war. In what's called the Abrams Doctrine, after Gen. Creighton Abrams, Pentagon brass backed active-duty fighting units with reserve units, or weekend warriors, for transportation and other logistical support in a big ground war. It was basic politics: The Pentagon figured a president would be reluctant to mobilize waves of weekend warriors from across the American heartland without broad public support. "The logic was to compel the president to carefully evaluate the political price before undertaking a Vietnam-scale military deployment," Kennedy says.
Since then, rapid advancements in military technology have allowed the United States to dispatch an exponentially more lethal, but smaller, all-volunteer force. "What was supposed to be the restraining logic behind the Abrams doctrine has been seriously attenuated," Kennedy says.
In a July 26 opinion piece in the New York Times, "Bring Back the Citizen Soldier," Kennedy argued that compulsory military service would put the American public more in tune with the fate of the G.I. "A universal duty to service -- perhaps in the form of a lottery, or of compulsory national service with military duty as one option among several -- would at least ensure that the civilian and military sectors do not become dangerously separate spheres," he wrote.
The media has also struggled to cover the violence in Iraq. Americans see few images of their own dead in Iraq. Roughly two dozen Western photographers are covering a war in a country the size of California. When photographers do manage to capture images of dead G.I.'s, some editors are reluctant to publish the photographs.
Early this month, 1,000 G.I.'s were days into "Operation Iron Fist" in western Iraq. It was a major operation to cut off insurgents entering Iraq from Syria. Five G.I.'s were dead. The only images on television were clouds of smoke.
Editors who shy away from images of dead Americans may be in tune with their readers or viewers. Horrible as it sounds, a few dead Marines each day just isn't news. Ralph Begleiter, a journalism professor at the University of Delaware, and a former CNN world affairs correspondent, says his students have expressed relatively little interest in war news because of the monotonous pace of casualties. A few soldiers die each day, mostly from roadside bombs. "It is like a drip," Begleiter says. "Two marines killed here, and a chopper down there. It is not really a war, or they don't see it as a war. It is just low-intensity conflict."