MHP   |  January 19, 2014

Understanding the realities of war

The MHP table discusses the disparity of knowledge and information when it comes to understanding the complexities of what happens on the ground in wars.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back and trying to think carefully about this question about our place in the world, particularly in terms of america's relationship to war and war making. we spent the first half of the hour, marcus, talking about whether or not democracy can hold accountable a government around spying and around privacy rights . and i'm thinking, you know, as i'm listening to the colonel and as i'm listening to earl talk about the complexities of on-the-ground realities, i keep thinking, how does an ordinary citizen hold accountable our lawmakers about the decisions they're making about how they deploy troops?

>> i think compared to spying and the trade-off between security and privacy, this is much harder that be that.

>> yeah, yeah.

>> it makes the spying debate look easy. it is just far too complicated and the way we're used to, as civilians, think about war and victory and loss, is incredibly binary. so modern warfare is not something we're prepared or educated for at all. so i don't have to be an optimist, because i'm a journalist. i get paid to be a skeptic. the fact is, i don't see how you educate a populist of the most powerful nation on earth to twa be able to hold accountable our government, in a time when war and win and loss is so undefinable.

>> and it seems to me that this -- particularly if we go back to colonel jacobs' point, about our multiple use of -- we have diplomacy and economic capacity and the war machine , but the war machine is the only one we seem to be able to use, in part because we're not very good at the rest. i want to listen to secretary of state kerry, who's talking about our need to use dploiplomacy.

>> for anyone seeking to rewrite history or muddy the waters, let me state one more time what geneva ii is about. it is about establishing a process essential to the formation of a transition government body, governing body , with full executive powers established by mutual consent.

>> so here he is, talking about syria , saying, we've got to put asad out. we've got to get in there and have this engagement with syria , but we're in a war-weary nation who feels like we didn't even win the iraq conflict . how can we effectively engage in this moment?

>> that's exactly why he's saying that. because we are so war weary. if you recall, toward the end of the summer , when it became clear that syria used chemical weapons against its own people, the majority of americans , even then, opposed military intervention. and look at now, there's a recent cnn poll done about the afghanistan war , the war in afghanistan and support for that. and out of the 20 years that they've been asking about support for various conflicts and wars, 17% of americans supported it. so it's arguably the least popular war that we've ever aged. so i'm really underscoring this point of how war weary this country is. and that's why the whole debate over what's happening with iran, i hate to pivot that way, but on iran's sanctions, it's really almost a tactical debate about how to avoid armed conflict . neither side is saying we want to go to war. neither side is kind of accusing the other. the white house has accused those who are pushing of --

>> of saber rattling .

>> of essentially leading us on a path to war. this is the narrative that we're operating and the environment we're operating in. is that the majority of americans , the public, who isn't touched by war the way that those who go and serve in these conflicts and their families and communities are, day just don't want any part of it.

>> i want to go to exactly that. if i'm an ordinary voter and this has suddenly broke down along partisan lines, how do i strategically understand whether or not that sanction is, in fact, good strategically, or not, if, in fact, i see this as political or partisan instead.

>> well, you're right. war is politics by other means . it is almost impossible for the average citizen to figure out how to act and what to do, which side to come down on. because his own government can't figure it out. we don't know in syria . we can't -- one of the reasons we're not acting in syria --

>> we don't know what to do?

>> we don't -- on the one hand, we're saying, well, we've got to get rid of assad. assad's a bum and hezbollah's all hooked up in there. and we need to go in and get rid of him. and putin, when the door closes says, are you guys out of your minds? do you know who's this back of that guy? we can't -- the average can't decide, because the government can't decide. and until we have some genuine strategic vision, we're not going to be able to find our way down.

>> and these will be continuing challenges for all of us. thank you, to colonel jack jacobs . also, thank you to earl jr ., i hope you'll be here and i hope you will come back. everyone else will stick around a bit. coming up next, the latest on the chemical spill in virginia. and cc mcdonald will join us live for her first television interview since she left prison. more nerdland at the top of the