Conflict is still seen as crucial - and very, very far away. The next leader faces quite some task to confront this attachment
By Simon Jenkins
".....Yet now is not the time to admit it. A war that is unpopular with 60-70% of Americans (depending on the question) is not politically sustainable, however stupefying the cost. But the modalities of its ending are unpredictable and possibly humiliating. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama may call for early withdrawal, at least of "combat troops". But the real paradox of Iraq is that McCain knows he must find a way of leaving, and Clinton and Obama know they must find a way of staying, if only for the time being. For all of them, getting from here to there crosses uncharted territory and none wants to glimpse the map....
Americans still do not travel abroad, and rely on television news for their knowledge of foreign places, which they continue to regard with bizarre suspicion. Hence a world view is lumped in with defence and security in a collective paranoia. And a candidate's stance on foreign policy is a proxy for his or her character.
To this the candidates must pander.......
Everywhere is on display the conundrum described in James Sheehan's The Monopoly of Violence, subtitled Why Europeans Hate Going to War. A more realistic title would be Why Americans Love It.
Europeans, writes Sheehan, have tested war to destruction as a way of settling the world's ills and reject it. Electorates now demand "material wellbeing, social stability and economic growth" and have demoted military virtues and the military class to history's dustbin. In modern Europe, "colonial violence seems wasteful, anachronistic and illegitimate ... grandeur no longer an important goal". That is why few Europeans other than Britons will help America in escalating the Afghan conflict. They just do not believe it will work.
To Americans it "must work". The mistakes made by America in Iraq and Afghanistan are seen from Washington as accidents in necessary wars, as they might have been in Britain in the 19th century. Such wars present puzzles to be resolved, tests for weapons systems, trials of strength for Pentagon lobbies, budget barons and thinktanks. And they seem very, very far away......"