Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Rethinking War

Lew Rockwell posted a link to an article by Howard Zinn, a leftist historian, on rethinking war. I'm only loosely familiar with Zinn, and don't endorse everything he says in the article, but it does make one reconsider the morality of war.

I'm currently reading the third volume of John Dos Passos' masterpiece The U.S.A Trilogy. The first volume, The 42nd Parallel, involves the leadup to the first World War, and the second volume, 1919, deals with the war itself. The third volume, The Big Money, is the aftermath of the war and the roaring '20s. (By the way, I highly recommend this trilogy.)

I bring this up because Dos Passos exposes America's involvement in World War I as a boondoggle for large corporations and banks and launched the Military-Industrial complex mindset in America which has led to massive indebtedness, nationalism, death, destruction, and oligarchy. America had no place in World War I, and likely did more harm than good in giving the Allies the victory over the Axis powers which ultimately set the stage for German nationalism and the rise of Hitler.

As Zinn writes in the article:

We've got to rethink this question of war and come to the conclusion that war cannot be accepted, no matter what the reasons given, or the excuse: liberty, democracy; this, that. War is by definition the indiscriminate killing of huge numbers of people for ends that are uncertain. Think about means and ends, and apply it to war. The means are horrible, certainly. The ends, uncertain. That alone should make you hesitate."

Zinn has an excellent point, that the consequences of war are entirely uncertain. Just think about the consequences of the most popularly known wars in history. The Civil War destroyed Federalism and legitimzed nationalism in America, World War I laid the foundation for World War II, and World War II increased the Soviet's power and influence and launched the Cold War. The Iraq War may be America's undoing by over reaching and massive indebtedness that may lead to the destruction of America's military and political might.

These are things we need to reflect upon more than we have. We (certainly I) have too readily accepted the conventional dogma that war actually serves a moral purpose when in reality the unintended causes, or unspoken motivations of war are wholly immoral.

I am not a pacifist, but I am becoming increasingly convinced that war is something that is almost never useful and should be avoided at almost all costs. To quote Zinn again, "Who gets what?" Who does war benefit? Does it benefit the banks loaning the government funds for war? Does it benefit corporations who supply materials for war? Does it benefit corporations who win contracts for post war reconstruction? Does it benefit you and I?

I don't like how Zinn frames this question in terms of class, as the term is loaded with socialism, but he does make a good point, that war is championed by those that benefit the most from war at the expense of those set to lose the most.


Pilgrim said...

Augustine's "Just War" thinking has helped me evaluate my nation's military actions in the past 150 years.

I'll look into Dos Passos. Thanks.

A. B. Caneday said...

Zinn is not only a leftist historian. He is a leftist revisionist historian.

War is like spanking children. Both inflict injury, but both are sometimes necessary. We ought to abhor both, but both are necessary. We need, however, to know when both are just. As with most ethical decisions, many will disagree concerning when both are just. Many, in fact growing multitudes of Westerners gone soft and mushy with Leftist ideology, have no stomach for either war or for spankings. Zinn is one of them.

The one who truly has the mind of Christ best discerns when justice demands a spanking for a child or war upon another nation.

A. B. Caneday said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A. B. Caneday said...

Until Bush 41 and Bush 43 each turned to warfare against Saddam Hussein, who within the past century led the U.S.A. into wars that were sustained?

Wilson (WWI), Roosevelt (WWII), Truman (Korea), Kennedy & Johnson (Viet Nam).

To which political party did all of these Presidents belong?

It is a myth that Conservatives are warmongers. The Conservative worldview concerning war is epitomized by President Reagan's doctrine, simply expressed as "Peace through strength." This is not a warmongering slogan but a peace loving slogan.

The father who minimizes the number of times he has to spank his children to correct their misbehavior is the father who is properly feared because of his strength of character. Likewise, the nation that minimizes the number of times it has to engage war against another nation to correct its misbehavior is the nation that is properly feared because of its strength of character.

Expect attacks upon the U.S.A. Expect international conflict against us now that Barack Obama is our President. Expect fresh assaults upon U.S. interests worldwide and at home as there were under President Clinton. Democrat Presidents are weak--weak in character, weak in worldview, weak in leading the nation--thus inviting conflict, even war, as a father of weak character invites conflict, even war, from his children.

Peace through strength born out of character defeats bullies and nations and avoids rebellion from his children.

John said...

This particular post was not meant as an assault on Republicans or Conservatives. The record is clear that it is the Democratic Party that is the more hawkish party of the two.

Bush 41 and Bush 43 are most certainly not Conservatives, though Conservatives were staunch supporters of the war.

My purpose in this post was to alert others to the uncertain consequences of war, to bring to light the fact that there are people that benefit greatly by war, without paying the costs.

War is an horrific thing that does have its place, but we are no longer considering the great costs of war, believing only that it can be a benefit to our nation.

I have no fear of an attack by another nation, not that it won't or can't happen, but my fear is that we will provoke another nation, such as Iran or North Korea into war, as we did with Iraq.

Wars are crippling to economies, yet a great benefit to those near in the inner circle of governmental power.

Wars do provide much good--this is almost always what is publicized, yet too often wars have a hideous underbelly that is rarely ever discussed and is soon forgotten. It is these unintended consequences that make war even more unpalatable than it already is.