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Date Posted: Wed, December 22 2010, 20:19:48
Author: Matt Molloy
Author Host/IP: cpe-75-82-145-91.socal.res.rr.com / 75.82.145.91
Subject: Your Thoughts on War and Modern Society?

Matt: I will express my opinion within your below email. Don Poss

On 12/22/2010 6:26:40 PM, Matt Molloy (hermanjnr@aol.com) wrote:

From: Matt Molloy [mailto:hermanjnr@aol.com]
Sent: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 6:27 PM
To: dlp@war-stories.com
Subject: Your Thoughts on War and Modern Society?

Dear Mr. Poss,

First of all I apologise if this is the wrong contact address. I only recently discovered the site, but I think it's a great project. As a British student born in the 90's, I wasn't alive in the Vietnam period, but I've always had an interest in history and the history of war. For the obvious reasons, I think it's extremely important that records are kept of such events.

I've thought a lot recently about the relationship war has with modern society, and (what I see as) the hypocrisy of society when dealing with the subject. I think in the present day war is perhaps exposed to the general public more than ever - through news, film and entertainment forms such as video games. What I struggle to understand is whether this increased exposure educates people about war or desensitises them and makes them ignorant to it.

(Don Poss) With media embedded within military units today, and satellite coverage, exposure to military events will become common place worldwide. The issues are not only exposure, but the media’s slant on the events presented (pro or con). Form your opinions from several sources. I am sure you are aware of those sources unduly pushing an agenda.

(Matt Molloy) With the current situation in Afghanistan seemingly sharing parallels with the Vietnam War (with some in this country even calling Afghanistan "Britain's Vietnam"), I seriously began to wonder if lessons have been learnt from Vietnam if that statement could be classified as accurate. More to the point, I began wondering what Veterans of that war think of the present day media coverage and public opinions on war.

(Don Poss) It seems the British public, like the American public, have bought-in to the premise that the Vietnam War (Vietnam calls it ‘The American War’) was a military defeat for the United States. All United States military were withdrawn from South Vietnam by January 27, 1973, after ‘Vietnamization’ of the war (training and turning over military responsibility to South Vietnam). The South Vietnamese successfully defended their country for a period Dr. Henry Kissinger referred to as ‘A Decent Interval’, for over two years, until April 30, 1975, when North Vietnam’s military invasion successfully defeated the South.

The North Vietnamese were victorious. The South Vietnamese were defeated. Both North and South Vietnams formed what is officially called the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. To me, if there is a parallel between the Vietnam War and the current Terrorist War, it is our president has set dates for U.S. withdrawal. My concern is if there will become a “Decent Interval” for Iraq and Afghanistan after U.S. and allied departures? If they succeed in defending their countries, where South Vietnam failed, then hallelujah. If Iraq or Afghanistan falls to insurgent forces-- would their defeat(s) be declared a USA/British defeat? And where it so --then why? Just how long must a country be responsible for the life of any country unable to stand on its own after a lengthy departure by us? In Vietnam…we were winning when we left. Independence was the South’s to defend or lose.

(Matt Molloy) One of the most disturbing parallels between the present war and Vietnam in my opinion, for example, is the lack of public support for British Soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan. While most people in this country do seem to support our troops over there, there have been some disgusting scenes of troops being labeled as "murderers" as they returned home by radical groups that have shocked and revolted me.

(Don Poss) The USA and Britain have common values, and therefore similar concerns and problems nationally. The people of both our countries genuinely do not like the pursuit of war. Our peoples will be patient for a time but will grow weary (as they did in WWII) and yearn for the return of peace. The problem today is the Terrorist Wars are likely to last decades. Defeating an ideology is not the same as pulverizing an advasary of a known country.

(Matt Molloy) When reading up on past wars I have noticed this common theme. Brit Veterans of WWII were promised "homes fit for heroes", and yet were sorely disappointed. Many felt extremely angry with the government for betraying them, and disappointed with civilians for forsaking them. Then, in Vietnam, the protests and apparent public apathy.

(Don Poss) The US government made empty promises to our WWI veterans. It sometimes seems that a nation returned to a peaceful state often forgets their ‘warriors’. I think most military in the current war zones are aware of the overall strong public support. Likewise, they are aware of opposing opinions.

(Matt Molloy) It's my personal belief that no matter what cause a war is started for, support must be shown to those who fight it, regardless of whether people believe the causes for a war are just. I despise the British politicians who lead us to join the war (several have been shown to have made substantial personal profit from it) because I believe they did it for purely selfish reasons…

(Don Poss) I understand your point; however, it is difficult for a nation’s people to support troops of what may be perceived as an unjust war, for a blanket time-frame. I am sure Germans supported their troops in what today must be viewed as an unjust war from a German perspective.

As for some politicians exploiting political events to their advantage…it has always been so. Likewise, war cannot be waged against an enemy cheaply. Countless billions of dollars and pounds are at stake for the industry winning contracts to manufacture weapons. Profits are there to be won…like it or not.

(Matt Molloy) …However, the men who fight for the country are in a different class entirely and I have profound respect and admiration for them. I know several people from my area who have died in Afghanistan, some only a few years older than me.

Then I realised my own hypocrisy and how I was just as much a part of it as everyone else. I mentioned video games earlier - I, like many people my age, play them and enjoy them. They vary greatly in theme, but some of the most popular right now are based blatantly on the very war our real soldiers are fighting right now.

(Don Poss) I do not have a problem with video games. They are just that. The problem would be for the poor soul that cannot distinguish reality form a game. But I understand your point. Even video games can be made to support an anti-war point of view.

(Matt Molloy) You could argue that perhaps such games show public interest in the real war, but I'm not so sure. I think the more disturbing conclusion is that we now brand war as a cheap form of entertainment. How many "headshots" can you kill people with? How much gore is in this particular game? "Buy this game for the most realistic battle experience yet."

That's all a little alarming when applied to alien planets or outlandish scenarios, but now games are constantly striving to apply these mechanics to situations that try to mirror real warfare…
(Don Poss) No one who has fought or survived a war would consider war as a cheap form of entertainment.

(Matt Molloy) I'm taking a pretty negative and generalised look at games here, but as they make me feel sick in that context, I'm genuinely interested in what someone with real military experience thinks when they see games and movies being marketed to people like this. To me it seems a bitter irony indeed that we say we support our soldiers, and then turn around and start playing a simulation about shooting them.

Do you think these forms of media can serve to educate people, or are simply exploitative and morally wrong? Is there a way to balance entertainment with respect for those who sacrificed themselves in service?

(Don Poss) Answering this point raises could raise a greater danger in any attempt to restrict freedom of speech (video game or otherwise) used for purposes we might disagree with. Maintaining such freedom is part of what the military defends.

(Matt Molloy) It's getting late and I fear I'm rambling, so I'll stop there. I've been hesitant to mention the Vietnam War too much, because frankly I'm very ignorant about it compared to someone who served there. I can't even imagine what it was like. Instead I've tried to talk more of the present situation and compare it with some observations.

I sincerely hope I haven't caused any offence with my thoughts, that is definitely not my intention. I don't know how much you hear from younger people, but I hope I provided some points of interest with what I wrote.

Yours Sincerely, Matt Molloy

Matt: Thank you for a thoughtful and considered email. If your peers have such concerns as yours, then I will not worry for Britain’s safety. Only a democracy would worry over these issues. Those against democracy will destroy more than video games if given the chance.

I have posted your email on my two military website bulletin boards (http://www.voy.com/283/ (War-Stories.com) and http://www.voy.com/287/ (VSPA)); therefore you may receive additional replies regarding all or part of your remarks (please advise me of any disrespectful replies).

Don Poss

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