Call them the 9/11 generation.
A child born on Sept. 11, 2001, turns 18 this month.
That’s old enough to vote, enter into a contract, join the military (without a parent or guardian’s permission) and do most of the other things an adult member of society may do.
And they have never known a day when the United States has not been at war.
Oh, not the world-girdling, epic battles that formed their grandparents’ generation in World War II.
Or the grinding, weekly casualty totals of the Vietnam era, with the accompanying fables from government spokesmen about the “light at the end of the tunnel” that blighted the lives of the Baby Boomers.
Except for brief flashes of unspeakable violence, it’s been a low intensity, almost invisible war with few clear victories (the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in downtown Bagdad, the death of Osama Bin Laden) and seemingly no clear end in sight.
Of course, It hasn’t been a “low-intensity” war for some two million young men and women we as a nation have tasked with fighting it.
Or for the more than 30,000 who’ve been wounded. Or for the families of the more than 6,000 killed in its 18 year course.
One might think that a war the United States has been fighting for nearly two decades would be a major, or even the only, issue in the nation’s political campaigns, certainly for anyone aiming to be the country’s commander in chief. But except for the fact that individuals on the both ends of the political spectrum denounce “America’s endless wars,” there’s relatively little serious discussion about how they should end.
Americans like their wars to end with clear and decisive victories. The good guys triumph and come home to parades.
That, in fact, hasn’t been the way America has dealt with military conflict for nearly 75 years. Korea, Vietnam and even the first Gulf War ended at best ambivalently despite the valor and skill of those who fought there. And the debates on how and why they were fought continue.
And that may be the legacy we are leaving to the members of 9/11 generation. And we have ill-prepared them for it.
As today’s front page story on the impact of 9/11 reports, many of those born since that day don’t fully appreciate the event or the consequences that continue to this day.
A college professor who teaches Islamic history at UMass-Dartmouth laments the fact that they “don’t know about their war.”
And those who do not learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.