Operation Eggnog and the American Psyche

Quote: “… Collier’s, titled ‘Preview of the War We Do Not Want’. An impressive list of masculine literary, military, and political authorities, from Arthur Koestler to Edward R. Murrow, contributed to the detailed production of ‘Operation Eggnog’ – planned ‘to demonstrate that if The War We Do Not Want is forced upon us, we will win’. While the US-led United Nations force begins by avoiding ‘population centres’, concentrating on ‘legitimate military targets only’, American cities are directly bombed, leading to a retaliatory ‘mission to Moscow’ witnessed by Murrow, and, ultimately, the occupation of the Soviet Union.”

The example of “Operation Eggnog” is representative of the contemporary American attitude and outlook which – as per Farish’s contention – was heightened to a level of deep anxiety and catalyzed by the advent of the atomic bomb.

The appearance of the hypothetical operation in a public issue of Collier’s itself is an indication of the immense fascination that the atomic bomb and its potential for destruction had garnered. The atomic bomb galvanized the American public in a fascination over its destructive capabilities. The fact that people were willing to pay to read about things as morbid as nuclear fallout shows how deeply anxious the American public was. This fascination is a key tenet of Farish’s argument.

Tantamount to this atomic anxiety, the “operation” manifests other key notions with which the American public sympathized. The “operation” is captioned “the war we do not want,” thereby exerting American superiority and virtuosity. Moreover, the authors go on to detail the fact that Americans would attack only legitimate military targets first and avoid population centers. The only instance where population centers are bombed is if such a bombing occurs in America. The effect is to say: ‘we do not want to make war, but we will reciprocate if attacked first.’ This is remarkably in-line with the doctrine of Massive Retaliation posited by John Foster Dulles three years later. Moreover, the “operation” reflects the deep naiveté that Americans fostered towards nuclear potential: “if the war we do not want is forced upon us, we will win.’ This baseless exertion reminds one of the “Burt the Turtle” videos that were compulsory in elementary schools. It’s clear to see that if war were to have broken out, millions of people would have died. The illusion that a nuclear war could be ‘winnable’ was nevertheless sustained as it appealed to the contemporary American social anxiety towards a nuclear exchange, thus corroborating Farish’s argument.

Through the lens of Farish’s argument, I think it may be easy to see the bombing of the World Trade Center as analogous to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But I think these two events worked in drastically and disparate ways. One key difference is that the 9/11 attacks were conducted on American soil on an American target. The incessant imagery paled to the tangible destruction wrought by these attacks. Americans didn’t need to delude or fixate on images of falling towers – they dealt with the aftermath, they lost the people, they felt the anguish and pain first hand. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on the other hand, were felt on a second-hand basis. No Americans died there. In fact, the bombings precluded a conventional attack on the mainland which probably would have cost many American lives. Thus, the nuclear bombings in 1945 engendered nothing more than anxiety. On the other hand, 9/11 engendered the despair and the anguish and the desire for revenge and the unity. The image of a destroyed Hirsohima and Nagasaki had a far greater impact on the Americans than did the videos of the tower falling.

 

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