The Chaos of Modern War

Since 1940, the face of war has changed dramatically. World War II had clear fronts, clear boundaries, clear uniforms, and clear aims, but every war since has seen a deterioration of these certainties. Beginning with Korea, wars were not even officially called wars anymore; they were referred to officially as “operations” or “police actions”. The enemy was less obvious as well: the North Koreans were the enemy, but so were the Chinese, even before they officially entered the conflict. Vietnam, for example, was divided into two warring regions with a DMZ in the middle — similar to France and Germany in World War II — but the fighting in Vietnam was scattered seemingly randomly throughout the country, and was not centered at the DMZ as might have been expected in previous conflicts. In Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the line between civilian and combatant — and even the line between friend and foe — was significantly blurred. Reporters talk about how, “you could easily run into a hostile unit without knowing it, in an area that should have been okay, plus the friendly units were firing at you because they didn’t know who was who“ (Dell’Orto, 274). This shift from fighting in clear lines on a battlefield map to fighting step by step through a jungle or city to fighting with drones in the air may shed light on the changing relationship between the military and the press. Through the decades, as the definition of war has become more and more nebulous, and the justifications for war more difficult for the public to understand, the American military has been struggling more and more to win the battle in public relations as well as the one overseas. Trying to garner support for a war effort is more difficult than it was in the past, and so information on the conflict is censored to diminish the effort the military needs to exert to defend its actions. The press has a responsibility to their viewers and sensationalism to report what they can, but the fickle nature of the news means that the media storm will only last so long. Also, with the use of the internet, they could conceivably get around a government ban. With the military refusing to release certain information, and the media attempting to make the biggest splash, Americans are left with a more incomplete picture of war today than they have had in the past.

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