Considering the mayhem they bring, wars are amazingly popular.
It's a long time, for example, since the US Government led Americans into a war against their will. Actually, I can't think of one. Vietnam, for sure, turned very unpopular once it became clear that a quick win was out of reach; but there was very little opposition to it while "advisors" were being sent there in the late 50's and early 60's. The principle of intervention didn't seem to bother people then any more than it does now; it's just that the architects of that one got the cost estimates wrong. Hey, it happens!
More recent wars have been masterpieces of PR. It's not of course to say for a millisecond that Marxism has any merit to its name, but remember that Marxist takeover in Grenada? - it provided a magnificent excuse for a live-round Navy exercise and a triumph for Ronnie and his merry band of Republican warriors - who watched it, of course, from a good safe distance.
Ditto, Panama; which had the awesome additional advantage of further trashing the Bill of Rights by proving that the Feds can get away with drug busts even a thousand miles from US territory and that not even a foreign Head of State is safe from their long arm's reach.
Iraq was a gem, a crown jewel, and it's one of history's great ironies that it did not hand the '92 election to Mr Bush on a plate, as planned. Its other intended result (cheap gas) did follow, and is with us still; every time we go to the pump, we can reflect that the 15 or 30 cents a gallon we're now saving were bought at the cost of a mere 150,000 or so Iraqi lives. Isn't war great?!
The Big Ones
Even more amazing is the fact that this century's really big slaughterfests - WW-I and WW-II - were no more unpopular than these remote-control games they play nowadays. The US Government was so determined to prove its manhood in 1915 that the debate in D.C. was not so much whether to enter WW-I, but on which side to do so! - a debate settled when a German U-boat sank the Lusitania , allegedly carrying armaments to the British.
The Second War was entered for no better reason than the First and, again, with a Democrat at the helm. Having prolonged the Depression for a decade FDR badly needed a distraction, so he sent the Navy to blockade Japanese oil ships in the Western Pacific in March 1941 and was rewarded, 9 months later, with its destruction in Pearl Harbor and an excuse for war so strong as to fool even the Nation's prime "America First"-er, Hamilton Fish, into putting down the Congressional Motion to declare war in response. Our tax dollars at work.
And of course there was the grand-daddy of them all, the Civil War, waged by the first Republican President; more of us were killed in that one than in all other US wars combined. As a proportion of the population, it was a catastrophe almost beyond compare. And yet, what for? Why did they all die?
Slavery was not the reason (though once the War had started it was a powerful excuse to keep it going) - rather, the cause was the same as for all the others: the maintenance or extension of government power. Lincoln led a fight to "preserve the Union" (read: keep power centralized in Washington) and won; the Southern growers were forced to sell their cotton to buyers in Manchester, NH instead of Manchester, England. Cost: half a million, dead.
It's one of the questions I'm at a loss to answer: seeing all this massive amount of blood on their hands, why do ordinary people keep on electing these thugs to public office? - why don't we take away from them the power (money, manpower, killing-toys) to wage non-defensive war? What on Earth do we suppose we gain, by continually renewing for them their worldwide licenses to kill?
We have gained nothing in the past, except death, injury and grief (okay, and sometimes cheap gas); why should we imagine we'll gain anything in the future? Even their domestic "Wars" on Poverty and Drugs have been abject failures.
Seeing no good answer, I can only suppose that We the People have swallowed whole the rubbish we are fed by politicans and media, both: that in some way, despite the 182-year absence of any credible, unpovoked foreign threat to the USA, we need them for "Defense", quote. And if that is true, we really do need our heads examined.
No, I'm not a Pacifist; if anyone is threatened, he or she has a total right to defend himself as he sees fit. And if the threat comes from abroad, we have a right to shoot back just as we do if it comes from down the street. In fact, it may well be that a fully decentralized defense policy like that, with each neighborhood defending itself, Swiss fashion, may be a whole lot stronger a deterrent than MAD or any of the other crazy acronyms coined in the Pentagon.
The latest "crisis", as I write, is between North and South Korea - where the US has, without a shred of authority in the Constitution, strung a trip wire of thousands of troops for forty years. By the time you read this, we could be at war. Or, we could still be on the brink of it. Or, the North may have backed down. Whatever the outcome, it's all providing the Clintons with a handy distraction from the embarassments of Whitewater. South Korea should of course defend itself, not depend on you and me; being broadly capitalist, it is far richer than its socialist neighbor and so very well able to afford to do so.
Warfare is not a game of tennis. It can be undertaken properly in defense, as it was here in 1776. But the descendents of the defenders at Lexington have, for most of this century, become worldwide bullies; power-junkies, in what the Libertarians call this "welfare-warfare State".
High time to ask again, "what if they gave a war, and nobody came?"
|© Copyright Jim Davies 1999|
Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.
The above is Edition # 44
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