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.