Why are Americans such cowards?


America has a problem that afflicts both her foreign policy and domestic affairs: cowardice.

A nation of wusses. That’s us.

That’s not how we see ourselves, of course. Whatever our flaws — impetuousness, naivete, our sense of exceptionalism — few Americans count pusillanimity among them. For conservatives bravery as a national trait is a given; if anything, progressives wish we’d walk it back a bit, toning down the testosterone in favor of a little humility.

From the outside, however, we look like a nation happy to inflict all manner of mayhem on people all over the world, yet unwilling to put our own precious skins in the game.

Drones are the ultimate manifestation of America’s newfound risk aversion. After more than 12 years of remote-controlled aerial killer robot warfare, the statistics are undeniable: Unmanned aerial vehicles are an ridiculously sloppy assassination method that kills anywhere from 28 to 49 times more innocent civilians than targeted alleged terrorists. With the myth of accuracy thoroughly debunked, drones remain popular with the public for one reason: They don’t expose American soldiers to return fire.

What we see as an advantage, however, sparks contempt among foreigners that our adversaries in this war for hearts and minds exploit in their recruitment and fundraising efforts. You see it in the faces of the Afghans and Pakistanis I have interviewed: If the United States military had any honor, they say, it would come and face our warriors man to man, on the battlefield, rather than pushing a button thousands of miles away. Every “terrorist” we blow up makes us look worse.

Moreover, cowardice is unproductive on a psychological level.

During the early years of the American occupation of Iraq, British forces (who patrolled the region around Basra) suffered lower casualty rates in the zones under their control than their American counterparts.

One reason, according to military psychologists, is that British troops presented themselves as more willing to expose themselves to the Iraqi public and less afraid of being hurt or killed. Whereas U.S. forces wore wrap-around sunglasses and set up checkpoints behind sandbags and blast walls, sometimes identifying themselves only by shooting at approaching cars — which caused confused Iraqis to floor the gas, prompting U.S. forces to kill them — the Brits acted more relaxed, like traffic agents standing right out on the road.

Americans covered themselves with Kevlar and automatic rifles; the British wore formfitting uniforms, eschewed helmets and satisfied themselves with sidearms. Sunglasses were banned. The American approach seemed safer, but the opposite was true. It’s easier to shoot at something — the Americans looked like fascist robots — than someone.

For a country that used to pride itself on a certain stoicism, the United States has become a land of whiny little boys and girls.

Oh, how we cried after 9/11. Three thousand dead! Those “Wounded Warrior” TV ads asking for donations to support Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans — excuse me, but why am I spending 54 percent of my federal tax dollars on defense if I also have to donate to a sketchy charity? — use the same melancholy tone and weepy delivery as Sally Struthers’ classic “save the children” messages. Obviously it sucks to lose your arms and legs, but let’s grow a pair. Fewer than 7,000 Americans got killed invading two countries where they had no business being in the first place.

Let’s put those numbers into proper perspective, shall we? The Soviet Union lost 20 million people fighting the Nazis (who invaded them, by the way). France lost 11 percent of its population during World War I — the equivalent for us would be 34 million Americans. But the Russians or French don’t bitch and moan as much as us.

Speaking of which, Americans have a lot of balls calling Frenchman “surrender monkeys” considering that nearly twice as many French soldiers were killed in the 1940 Battle of France over six weeks as the United States lost in Vietnam over the course of a decade. Meanwhile, we’re still whining about the 58,000 we lost in — no, invading — Vietnam.

Here at home, we’re infested with wimp cops.

In recent weeks, we have been treated to grand jury testimony in the shootings of two black men, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York.

Both killer cops are bruisers — big, muscular guys. Most of all, they are cops. Cops have partners. They have the backing of the state. They carry tasers. They have nightsticks. They go to the police academy, where they train long hours in the art of subduing human beings. And as we well know, they have access to military-style hardware and defensive gear.

As these two sniveling wimps tell the tales, however, they were in desperate fear of their lives. From two guys, both now dead, who were morbidly obese.

Not to mention unarmed.

Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson (193 cm, 95 kg) claimed that Brown (193 cm, 132 kg) terrorized him. “I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan,” he testified. Brown “had the most intense aggressive face,” he said. “The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”

The NYPD’s Daniel Pantaleo told a grand jury that, after he got his arm around Garner, he was terrified that the two of them would crash through the thick glass window of a storefront they were leaning against.

Both grand juries declined to indict the cops.

Sure, these were the testimonies of two heavily lawyered defendants following a script that has gotten countless white policeman off the hook for killing unarmed black men in the past. But you still have to ask: aren’t those big “brave” policemen ashamed of themselves? I’m not sure which is worse, pretending to be afraid of an unarmed civilian — in the New York case, the guy wasn’t even resisting arrest — or the possibility that they actually were scared.

There’s nothing wrong with being scared in the face of danger. Bravery, after all, is the act of keeping cool in the face of danger.

In the U.S. in recent years, however, bravery has been in short supply — even in the face of very little danger at all.

Ted Rall is a syndicated writer and cartoonist © 2014, Ted Rall

  • kyushuphil

    Someone suggesting Americans have, or believe in, more humanity?

    Oh, no — the law of the land, thanks to Citizens United, now puts piles of money way far above mere human-type humanity.

    Human-type humanity has disappeared from all “higher” ed in America, too. Instead of it, in all departments, specialist robotics exclude the personal — exclude reference, too, to anything in any of the adjoining departments. A new type of creature is evolving — corporate careerist. These things aren’t really human. And why should anyone be human? Corporate consumerism teaches all that we get to be “ourselves” not by any human effort, but just by buying the stuff that is marketed to us in each of our respective demographics.

    K-12 ed? Hey, it’s all numbers now — no people involved, nothing human, just lots of standardized tests turning all into numerical metrics, that’s all.

    We’ve come a long way from the day of The Ugly American. A long way downward, worse, more materialist, emptier, venal, thuggish.

  • zer0_0zor0

    No need to look any farther than that disgrace GW Bush, who dodged the draft (or at least avoided serving on active duty) in the Vietnam War era because daddy was a big wig in the criminal wealth class’ representative party.

    He’s as representative example of the problem as there is, descendant of a secret society banking family masquerading as a Texan in Dallas! He even has a cowboy hat!

    His daddy–the other George Bush–at least served on active duty
    as a pilot, but he was shot down by the Japanese, incidentally, in WWII. And he lived-obviously-but he cried while waiting to be rescued, wading in the ocean. Boo hoo, the Bush family…

    America is beyond decline, it could be facing implosion.

    • Lawrence Klepinger

      Hello Zero,

      I understand your opinion of the Bush family. It oozes with contempt. You might have a point. I am just wondering why you mentioned them BOTH. Yes, George HW Bush might have cried in the water – after being shot down. As a Vietnam Vet, I saw soldiers cry – more than once. Which leads me to ask – what branch of the service were you in?

      And why all the backbiting on the Bush family – without mentioning Bill Clinton – who successfully dodged the draft on numerous occasions? And then, we have Barack Obama, the “Peace Prize Winner” who has killed more people than most other recipients of that “honor.” And Obama never served in the military either,

      Just wondering why you did not mention those two?

      Finally, you sound like an Obama supporter. I just wonder if you voted for him once – or twice?

      Best wishes,

      Lawrence Klepinger

      • zer0_0zor0

        The army.
        I have less marginally less contempt for HW, marginally, as he was a Skull and Bones Director of the CIA and probably associated with that agency from earlier, though that is denied.
        Didn’t know Clinton dodged the draft.
        Obama has to clean up the horrendous scenario inherited from GW/Cheney, trying to untangle US involvement and leave places in something other than a state of chaos.

        GW/Cheney were unabashed in their deceit of the public to start a war for ulterior motives while posturing as defenders of the free world.

        While I don’t agree with everything Obama does, he doesn’t exude pompous swagger in an effort to deceive Americans about what he is doing. He supported release of the Torture Report, etc., and shows a far higher level of understanding and humility than his predecessor.

  • I disagree only with the final statement that Garner wasn’t resisting arrest — he repeatedly told the officers not to touch him and did not submit to arrest. That constitutes resistance in my part of the world.

    As for the rest, no question the US Government and its minions (not necessarily all the citizenry) is cowardly. After all, the bigwigs and the public cheerleaders don’t fight — they insist that others be hired to fight.

    And our military, now that it is hired guns (what some call mercenaries), avoids danger. This has always been the way with mercenary forces — they try to stay alive to collect their pay. Conscripts, on the other hand, are cannon fodder — they can be replaced at discount rates. Thus, Vietnam took more lives than Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

    And wimpish though the US Government (I have to break the habit of calling this “our” Government — it does not represent me in any way), it has become an ever-greater aggressor. Not able to govern the territory of the USA, it takes upon itself to replace the governments of other countries . . . and with a stunning lack of success.

    • marxmarv

      And the police should be resisted, as professional police forces were created precisely to protect resource and railroad interests from the people whom they were exploiting. That the police exist to protect and serve “us” is an example of the great American fallacy of composition: “We are all middle class” is not a statement of fact, but an imposition of duty to consume beyond one’s means and stay poor so the real middle class can exploit you.

      • Steve J

        What a “leftist” pinhead, (of course that’s redundant), you worship the economic theories of a fool who could never even able to support his own self or family.

        He was a clueless parasite so I guess that you have at least that in common with him jill off.

  • Jorge Vasquez

    Pretty accurate summary, I would say, as shown by some of the comments.

  • Steve J

    Ted Rall is a foul America hating coward.

    This miserable coward has no honor, in any way.

    He wouldn’t say any of his garbage to any actual American’s face. Especially to any of the brave men and women serving in the US military, or face to face with any of the 99.99% good police officers serving in America.

    What he is crying about is how the American justice system refuses to swear charges against police officers who are just doing their DUTY. Just because of the RACE of the so called “victims”.

    When you attack a police officer and you try to take a police officer’s weapon what do you think will happen to you? What do you think is going to happen to you when you physically attack the police or resist arrest?

    The Japanese that I knew wouldn’t ever even consider such stupid ill advised actions.

    Yet this dishonorable fraud calls ALL Americans cowards?

    I’m VERY surprised that any Japanese person would pay any attention to him or his racist nonsense.

    Of course I haven’t been in Japan since about 1979, so what do I know anymore about the current state of Japanese culture and people?

    I just remember that truth and HONOR were once important to the Japanese people.

    • marxmarv

      Grow up.

      That’s all that needs to be said to Americans: shut up and grow up, you self-entitled rapists.

      • Steve J

        What an awesome display of “grown up” behavior and argument you gibbering hypocrite wannabe marxist beeeeyach!

        HYPOCRITE thy name is “liberal”.

        Eat chit and DIE mouth breather.

        And don’t forget to have a NICE day!

  • Spud

    because they USA has cowardly and incompedant leadership

  • ummm…. I can’t believe you get paid for this. Your whole thought process is flawed. Your lack of understanding of combat is just so childish that I can’t believe your an adult.
    Let us put it in perspective. The United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. The war was over. Why drop the bombs.
    We could have sent soldiers over to fight for every inch of ground.
    So were soldiers cowards in WWII.
    No that was just being smart. We cut off their resources. Then when they could not afford the gas to fly up and shoot at our bombers we dropped a bomb on them. Game over.

    Now to expose soldiers to unnecessary attacks is what the US military was trying to do with putting them behind concrete walls and wearing body armor. The British had a different tactic but the British did not have the reputation the US did and killing Brits was secondary to the terrorist. The US soldiers had the bigger target on them.

    US soldiers don’t go out to die. They go out to kill the guys their elected leaders tell them to. They don’t play fair because the goal is to win not to get killed trying impress people like you.

  • betterthanu

    It is just a libitard write doing the usual libitard ” journalism ” never let facts get in the way of a good crusade.

  • betterthanu

    Iran was no war crime puss. It was a search warrant. They should have been out of there as soon as the search was complete though.
    The French are scumbag punks who were afraid to fight. This is beginning get to change though as lately the French have been showing some nads

  • Rose Rights

    One problem with America are the twisted thinking liberals sitting at their computers writing cowardly opinions because they have no clue what bravery is, as they’ve never been in harms way. The other problem would be liberals in any shape or form.

    • marxmarv

      I agree. Liberals are the problem because they keep pretending to be socialists so that the Red Team has something to hate and the Blue Team has something to fantasize about.

      Now, you being American and all, I do understand if you’re a) incapable of taking joy in life unless someone else is suffering greatly and preferably in a way from which you can profit and b) denying facts on the ground in favor of a gripping, self-aggrandizing narrative. No, I get it, this is what psychopaths *do*. If anything, America needs to STFU, STFD and check itself in to a sanatorium as a danger to self and others.

      • Steve J

        “Jibber jabber jibber jabber belch fart burp .
        Jibber jabber jibber jabber belch fart burp .
        Jibber jabber jibber jabber belch fart burp .”

        Did I manage to get the core of your “grown up” argument jillOFF?

        HYPOCRITE thy name is “liberal”/commie.

        Have a NICE commie day!

  • Nobody

    “If the United States military had any honor, they say, it would come and face our warriors man to man, on the battlefield, rather than pushing a button thousands of miles away.”

    Oh you mean the guys that use IEDs and like to fire at our soldiers outside of weapons range. Yeah those warriors are brave….

  • Matt (82)

    Why don’t we just go into battle naked like real men? Why don’t we use swords, or better yet our fists?

    • Steve J

      What is stopping you? You lead from the front cupcake.

      Guess you never learned what happened to the CELTS?

      Never learned about a guy named Julius Caesar?

      REALITY what a concept eh?

    • Steve J

      Without a /S it is actually impossible to know if you are being sarcastic in this world filled with insane lying “liberals”.

      IF I misunderstood you and your post was really sarcasm, I truly apologize.

      If not …

      • Matt (82)

        It’s OK, don’t worry about it :) I just thought it was a bit silly the way the author was going after the supposed wimpiness of our soldiers… he seemed to be suggesting they should use worse technology against the enemies, since it was only “fair”… so… it made me think of the movie “300” or ancient Romans or something..

      • Steve J

        Then I was wrong, and I sincerely do apologize to you.

        Thank you for being so adult about it.

  • Tony Silva

    This article should never have gotten the green light for print/distribution. Troll bait. Reprimand/educate/fire the supervising editor.

  • Steve J

    Please never quote “wiki” anything to me. It’s just not credible.

    FYI it’s logically impossible to know what is and what is not mere sarcasm when you are dealing with the modern “leftist”.

    They “believe” whatever their masters tell them to believe.

  • Steve J

    I believe that I also owe you an apology.

    You were correct and I was wrong.

    Please accept my apology.

  • brendanmorrison

    I had to laugh at this…

    You see it in the faces of the Afghans and Pakistanis I have interviewed: If the United States military had any honor, they say, it would come and face our warriors man to man, on the battlefield…

    So leaving IED’s, improvised explosive devices around and running away is not cowardice? Or stealing the uniforms of afghan or Iraqi police or military forces and walking into crowded areas and shooting people is not a cowardly act? Or beheading captured people while other cronies stand around with guns is not cowardice?

    well I just accepted your article as jibberish, made up of BS intended to do something other than actually be worthy of a retrospective objective opinion based on factual events. P.S. even the comments below make your story even more outlandish hogwash

  • adolph putler

    the coward is the cartoonist writing from his bubble bath about experiences he cant fathom

  • JaneV

    “In the U.S. in recent years, however, bravery has been in short supply — even in the face of very little danger at all.” So says the cartoonist. Your comment on 911 is both unneeded and senseless. There was real fear and courage displayed that day versus this fax paux of journalistic bravery. Because you consider your front line twitter and you have the right to free speech does not make you intelligent or courageous. This article must be gimmic as its not worthy of tabloids. Your comment on the Brits versus Americans is invalid, There were far more Americans than other coalition hence the casualty numbers. Didn’t you lose some cartoonist comrades recently Ted? You are pathetic. Spare your profession the shame – shut up and color.

  • JaneV

    “A nation of wusses. That’s us.” Speak for yourself, you and probably most of your close aquaintences.

  • JaneV

    “Those “Wounded Warrior” TV ads asking for donations to support
    Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans — excuse me, but why am I spending 54
    percent of my federal tax dollars on defense if I also have to donate to
    a sketchy charity?” NO you don’t HAVE to donate. That is the point of donations – charity. Like that sketchy donation link on your website which is hot garbage by the way. You rant of whiny wusses in your commentary – now go look in the mirror.

  • JaneV

    Well stated!

  • Gary Sellars

    Truth hurts, judging by the butt-hurt complaints of so many flag-waving idiots…

  • Gary Sellars

    What a pointless rant. The article (and the truth within) got under your skin did it?