Monday, January 30, 2006

A Nation At War?

Sometimes the contrast between the United States and Europe come out in a rather striking way.

This morning I attended a breakfast briefing here in Washington by the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the so called Quadrennial Defence Review due to be released to the public on Monday. The QDR is a major multi-annual defence planning exercise.

I was struck by him saying that this was the first QDR made "with the nation at war".

At war?

There is no denying the complexities of Iraq, and a poll in one of the newspapers of issues which the public are most concerned about puts Iraq on top of the list. And there are certainly serious challenges in both Afghanistan and elsewhere.

To say that "the nation is at war" seems to me to carry it too far. War for Europeans is a far more all-encompassing challenge and task than the operations now carried out, and requires far more fundamental changes in society.

But we are dealing not with objective realities but with subjective perceptions that are shaped by different cultural and political perspectives. That's simply the way it is.

In today's New York Times one finds a full-page ad signed by a distinguished group of Americans across the political spectrum claiming that "America is still dangereously vulnerable."

A nation at war. A nation that sess itself as dangereously vulnerable.

Is this the confident superpower? Or a nerveous nation not really understanding what's happening?

Partnership for a Secure America