The title of today’s post comes from the Edwin Starr song of 1970 titled War. And the title of that song says it all. Except there is one entity that profits from war — one entity for which war is good — and that is the State. It has often been said that war is a “necessary evil,” and that a true and lasting peace can only come as a result of war. I want to challenge both notions as false. War is evil, but it is not a necessary evil. Quite the contrary, war is an unnecessary evil. Since at least as far back as WWI (and perhaps even further back than that), wars have been fought to the detriment of society and for reasons that could have been avoided had nation-states not been as powerful as they were (are).
When people say that war is a “necessary evil,” what they are trying to say is that war sometimes becomes inevitable when peaceful solutions to disputes cannot be found. However, what gets left unsaid in this analysis is why are there disputes in the first place? What are these disputes that pop up to which war sometimes becomes inevitable? These disputes are almost invariably between rival states or governments, and the dispute is usually over which of these two rival states has monopoly control over some geographical region or natural resource. When these disputes reach a ‘critical mass,’ the two states gird up for war. The next thing that happens is that thousands of hapless young men and women who have volunteered for (or worse yet, been conscripted into) military service find themselves killing one another for a cause that has absolutely nothing to do with them, but will greatly enrich the ruling class of whichever of the two rival states wins.
Consider, for example, all the wars that the United States has fought in since WWI. Which of these wars was fought to protect the United States and its citizens from imminent attack? Not a single one of them! Presidents Wilson and Roosevelt maneuvered the United States into WWI and WWII respectively; neither war was popular with the American people, many of whom thought why should the US involve itself in a European war? The Korean War and the Vietnam War were both fought to halt the spread of worldwide communism, and both were ended without positive resolutions afters tens of thousands of deaths when popular support waned. Gulf War I was fought, purportedly, to protect the Kuwaitis from the Iraqi aggressors. The Afghan War was the first prong of the so-called “war on terror” and Gulf War II was a subsequent prong of that same war. Of course the war on terror was in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. If any war the US has fought, surely this war is justified? Not when one takes into account the indisputable fact that the 9/11 attacks were in direct response to American foreign policy in the Middle East for the past 50 years.
The sad truth about American military adventurism in the 20th and 21st centuries is that all of these wars were not about “making the world safe for democracy,” or “defending the American way.” Rather they were about one thing and one thing only: Expanding American influence across the globe. If anything, our military adventurism has made individual Americans less safe rather than more safe. Consider the fact that we have hundreds of military bases across the world manned by thousands of our military personnel. We have American military personnel guarding the borders between Iraq and Iran, or Afghanistan and Pakistan, rather than guarding our borders. How does this make us safer? Moreover, our overt (and covert) military operations serve more to annoy and agitate our adversaries, which in turn only prompts them to retaliate.
All of this serves to illustrate that militarism in general does absolutely nothing to promote peace, liberty and prosperity for all. Instead militarism only serves the state and its interests, which is the perpetuation and expansion of its own power and authority. In America, most people could care less about people half way around the globe. They’ve done nothing to us directly, but because our government says they’re evil, we’re supposed to agree with that assessment and send our sons and daughters overseas to kill their sons and daughters. This is, in a word, insane!!!
This is just another in a long list of examples of how government makes life worse for all. Despite the platitudes of the politicians, we were safer as a nation prior to the advent of the 20th century than we have been after it. During the first 150 years of American history, the United States were not very involved at all in any of the skirmishes around the globe. For the most part, the United States stayed away from “entangling alliances.” At the tail end of the 19th century and on into the 20th, the United States grew more imperial and wished to assert itself upon the world stage; to the point that since the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the United States is the lone ‘superpower’ and a de facto empire across the globe.
Some of the justification for this aggressive military expansion of the US is to help spread democracy across the world and serve as the world’s policeman. However, even a cursory glance at our ‘policing’ efforts yields the sad fact that we, as a nation, are very selective when and where we police. We engage in some situations and avoid others. This inconsistency in foreign policy just illustrates the immorality of this practice. Could it be that the United States intervenes militarily in situations that benefit our government’s ambitions rather than some vacuous ideal of spreading freedom and democracy across the world? If one buys into this idea that we are to be the world’s policeman, then shouldn’t we intervene everywhere we see injustice? Yet I haven’t heard of plans to invade China anytime soon. Consider also the fact that wherever we intervene to spread democracy, the political situation typically becomes worse than before. For example, Iraq was (in a sense) better off with Saddam in charge than they are now. Saddam, while being a cruel dictator, didn’t necessarily engage in religious persecution. However, thanks to the US ‘spreading democracy’ to Iraq, they have now elected a radical Islamic government who has begun persecuting the minority. Instead of one tyrant, they now have many tyrants; a perfect example of democracy being the tyranny of the majority.
All of the wars that the United States has been involved in during my lifetime have been completely unnecessary and have done nothing to make us safer. Therefore, in the final analysis, our government has acted unethically and immorally. We have literally wasted tens of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of American lives (not to mention the countless innocent civilians who have died as a direct result of our military adventurism) in the reckless ambitions of our elected leaders. Moreover, those of us who have supported our aggressive foreign policy are complicit in this evil. I sincerely regret ever voting for a candidate at any level of elected office who has openly been supportive of our militarism; I can assure you all that I will never do so again. The government has shown itself to be morally bankrupt and therefore illegitimate. It’s time for the people to rise up and not be passive about this any longer. Withdraw your consent to be governed by these band of thieves and murderers and live as free men and women. We can start this year by not falling for the establishment lie that our choices for president are between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney; both of whom would do absolutely nothing to halt our aggressive imperial military. I truly believe we’re near a tipping point. With our current economic mess, a major war seems inevitable; it’s what governments do when the economy gets too bad. Hopefully enough of us can wake up and do something before it’s too late.