World War I, was declared “the war to end all wars.” Unfortunately, wars just kept happening and we have to inquire why.
Once upon a time wars were fought for strength, fun and profit where that is still prevalent. We saw that with the Germans in WWII and was the best predictor of civil war in poor countries with the availability of lootable resources like diamonds. War in the preindustrial world was and still is more like a competition among crime families over who gets to control the rackets than a fight over principles.
You can rationalize that war simply does not pay if victorious even for the modern, wealthier nation(s). In this regard, military power is socially and economically futile. War would necessarily inflict severe economic harm even on the victor and that modern war is very, very expensive. For example, the Iraq war cost us over $1 trillion, many times Iraq’s entire G.D.P.
With that in mind, modern nations can’t enrich themselves by waging war. Yet wars keep happening. Why?
Is it a delusion that Putin thought that he could easily overthrow Ukraine’s government or enough of a chunk of it to land it in his lap on the cheap side? And for that matter, remember when the Bush administration predicted that overthrowing Saddam and installing a new government would cost only $50 billion or $60 billion?
War is always about money or a faltering economy that needs a distraction with hopes to gain politically from war. Leaders hope to distract its public from this debacle and history has shown like the present that sheep favors its ruler that invokes war.
The fact is that nations almost always rally around their leaders in times of war, no matter how foolish the war or how awful the leaders. Argentina’s junta briefly became extremely popular during the Falklands war. For a time, the “war on terror” took President George W. Bush’s approval to dizzying heights, and Iraq probably won him the 2004 election. True to form, Mr. Putin’s approval ratings have soared since the Ukraine crisis began.
Starting a war going back 100 years when Britain entered the first World War was very bad but that is not valid as it is today. Times has changed with the proliferation of modern day Islamic Extremists. In the past, most cases wars are initiated by governments, not by populations. And, most of the time, they are the result of disputes over resources and land, or of a government’s desire to increase its influence and power. However, looking back over the history of warfare, what is most striking is how willing most people have been to fight in wars, or at least to support them.
It creates a sense of unity in the face of a collective threat. It binds people together – not just the army engaged in battle, but the whole community. It brings a sense of cohesion, with communal goals, and inspires individual citizens (not just soldiers) to behave honourably and unselfishly, in the service of a greater good. It supplies meaning and purpose, transcending the monotony of everyday life. Warfare also enables the expression of higher human qualities that often lie dormant in ordinary life, such as courage and self-sacrifice.
There is a moral and ethical purpose that drives men to war that gives us that sense of feeling alive, of belonging and purpose but more importantly to me and not speaking to the masses of the American people but of right and wrong but our philosophies of life, freedom, liberty, and oppression. Americans do not commit acts of genocide in the endeavor of world domination.
This isn’t to say that a warring party may not have a just cause, and this argument doesn’t explore other important social and psychological factors involved in war, such as social identity and moral exclusion. However, it does show that any stable, lasting peace depends on creating societies with a richness of opportunity and variety that can meet human needs. The fact that so many societies throughout the world fail to do this makes our future prospects of peace look very bleak.
Teddy Roosevelt was probably the last U.S. president who seemed to view war as an activity to be welcomed (he once remarked that “A just war is in the long run far better for a man’s soul than the most prosperous peace”), and subsequent presidents always portray themselves as going to war with great reluctance, and only as a last resort.
In 2008, Americans elected Barack Obama in part because they thought he would be different from his predecessor on a host of issues, but especially in his approach to the use of armed force. It was clear to nearly everyone that George W. Bush had launched a foolish and unnecessary war in Iraq, and then compounded the error by mismanaging it (and the war in Afghanistan too). So Americans chose a candidate who had opposed Bush’s war in Iraq and could bring U.S. commitments back in line with our resources.
Above all, Americans thought Obama would be a lot more thoughtful about where and how to use force, and that he understood the limits of this crudest of policy tools. The Norwegian Nobel Committee seems to have thought so too, when they awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize not for anything he had done, but for what it hoped he might do henceforth.
Yet a mere two years later, we find ourselves back in the fray once again. Since taking office, Obama has escalated U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and launched a new war against Libya. As in Iraq, the real purpose of our intervention is regime change at the point of a gun. At first we hoped that most of the guns would be in the hands of the Europeans, or the hands of the rebel forces arrayed against Muammar al-Qaddafi, but it’s increasingly clear that U.S. military forces, CIA operatives and foreign weapons supplies are going to be necessary to finish the job.
I believe America’s biggest problem is that we never learned from our mistake in our prior engagements. The most obvious reason that the United States keeps doing these things is the fact that it has a remarkably powerful military but not using it to its full potential. We have the resources; hundreds of planes, smart bombs, cruise missiles and even WMD.
With reconciling our differences with other countries and rebuilding the infrastructure as our government defines it, we have put millions of arms and other weaponry into the very hands of the Terrorists who kill the very valor or our brave and honorable Military personnel.
The platform and foundation of our country is that we never negotiate with terrorists. It appears that this platform has shifted in an ominous dishonorable manner one would fashion to determine to be treasonous. This has directly led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of our own American lives.
If one was to look at who fuels the ideology of war between warring parties is the media and government. Both fuel each other. If not for the media, there is no vessel for propaganda and one’s justification.
Obama justifies his resort to force by invoking America’s special place in the world is his usual . rhetoric and couched terms of U.S. values, commitment to freedom, etc. Back in the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama said that his favorite movie was The Godfather. And if I recall correctly, he said his second favorite movie was The Godfather, Part II. But his presidency is starting to play out like Part III of that famed trilogy, where Michael Corleone rails against the fates that have foiled his attempt to make the Corleone family legit.
I can just hear Obama saying it: “Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in.”