The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Conducting War, Selling War: 1941 to 2003

Readers of the blog are undoubtedly familiar with OD1, a long-time contributor to the site who I'm always glad to hear from. And I'd like to introduce an essay he's written that puts our current military endeavors in a historical context.

Bush's White House loves to compare its phantasmagoric 'War on Terror' with World War II. Now there was a war people could really get behind-- two fascist empires actually attempting to dominate the globe. Sixty years after the fact, it stands as the defining event in 20th century American history. And talk about a war on terror. Between the Third Reich and the Japanese Empire, many nations witnessed terror on a previously unimaginable scale-- World War I set the bar on horrific ways to kill soldiers, but the second World War added civilians to the mix on a grand scale, from fire-bombing to genocide to the atomic bomb. Images of the war and its horrors continue to shock and fascinate us more than half a century later. Once we entered the war (Roosevelt was for it before much of the nation, but faced strong opposition from isolationists), Americans were signing up in droves to serve the cause. None of this is news. But it makes perfectly clear the administration's desire to to link the two in the minds of the public.

One major aspect of the Second World War that I suspect many Americans today are unaware of is the use of propaganda to further the war effort. And I don't just mean Nazi propaganda films designed to provoke hatred of Jews. America ran a massive propaganda campaign on the homefront, up to and including Hollywood, for which Frank Capra, Walt Disney and even Ronald Reagan worked to promote the war effort. (I'll recommend John Dower's 'War Without Mercy' for its examination of propaganda on both sides of the Pacific.)

But enough introduction from me. OhioDem1 has written a piece hosted by that looks at World War II and the War on Terror (or simply 'war on terror,' or short-lived 'War Against Global Extremism,' et al.) in terms of the American response to both, in military action and in propaganda.

(Note that the link is in PDF format.)