During the Gulf War, Americans experienced war as entertainment. From the comfort of their living rooms, beer or soda pop in hand, they sat before their television sets and watched the nation's bombs and missiles rain down on Baghdad and other Iraqi locations, and CNN reporters ducking as they talked.
That aspect changed with our joint efforts with our allies to bring Serbian war-monger Slobodan Milosevic to heel. We had few opportunities to cheer. We were just glad when the task was done.
The sense of “being there” in Iraq and the fact that body bags were sparse accounted for the popularity of that military venture.
We will go a step further as the nation wages a campaign against terrorism. We will be asked to support multiple military efforts that we won't be told about in advance and may not learn about later. There will be no ringside seats.
This new venture to stamp out global terrorism in general and extremist Muslim terrorism in particular requires secrecy. Forays will be secret beforehand. They may have to be secret afterwards, the better to protect our soldiers, the better to protect our allies, and to keep our enemies, who watch the same televised news we do, in the dark.
And, unlike in the Gulf War, we're not looking to scare anyone into leaving us alone by parading our weaponry.
Military officials correctly observe that campaigning against terrorists across many continents - an aspect of globalization no one wants to see flourish - is a new kind of warfare. Its tactics are surprise and subterfuge and cover up. We may not even be able to brag about our scores, the better to control any negative reaction to them.
Our officials must exercise care, at the same time, lest overriding civil rights and keeping secrets become so commonplace that they pass for normal.