Tuesday, December 11, 2007

War is a Government Program

by: Sheldon Richman, see original HERE..

June 1 is the 227th anniversary of the birth of Carl von Clausewitz, the influential Prussian military theorist and historian. Clausewitz is best known for writing in his book, On War, “War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means.”

These words come to mind whenever I hear conservative enthusiasts for the Iraq occupation complain about political interference with military operations. They don’t understand the most basic fact of war: it is a government program. So why aren’t people who claim to be suspicious of other government programs suspicious of war? I can see only two reasons, neither of them flattering: power lust or nationalistic zeal.

Many of us grow up believing that government reflects the will of the people. But skeptics know better. Government has assumed more and more control over private life not because the people demanded it, but because power-seekers and privilege-seekers sought outlets for their ambitions. They then propagandized the public until a sufficient number of people came to believe government control was good for them. (“Public” education has been remarkably effective in this regard.)

The story is similar with war. Politicians start wars for political reasons. They may seek to control resources or a foreign population. Or they may want to secure existing interests that could be at risk without war. The military is a means to political ends.

War always has a domestic side. Ruling classes hold power so that they may live off the toil of the domestic population. And because the ruled far outnumber the rulers, ideology and propaganda are necessary to maintain the allegiance of the subject population. War is useful in keeping the population in a state of fear and therefore trustful of their rulers. H.L. Mencken said it well: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

War is more dangerous than other government programs and not just for of the obvious reason — mass murder. Foreign affairs and war planning seem to justify secrecy, shutting the supposedly sovereign people out of the government’s scheming. Politicians would have a hard time justifying secrecy in domestic affairs. But it is routine in war-related matters. So much for government’s adventures mirroring the people’s wishes.

Most unappreciated of all is that war is the midwife of intrusive bureaucracy. James Madison understood this. “Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few…. No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

On their own, people do not go to war, and without compulsion they would never pay for it — they have better things to do with their money. Herman Goering, Hitler’s second in command, understood this: “Of course the people don’t want war…. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it’s a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”

Mencken knew this too: “Wars are seldom caused by spontaneous hatreds between people, for peoples in general are too ignorant of one another to have grievances and too indifferent to what goes on beyond their borders to plan conquests. They must be urged to the slaughter by politicians who know how to alarm them.”

War is politics. And that’s no compliment

Most Americans Ignorant of US Imperialism/Militarism

Editorial by: Dr. J. P. Hubert

Many authors and academics have written excellent works (Andrew Bacevich comes to mind) detailing how militaristic the United States has become; particularly since the end of WWII.

Subsequent to his two terms, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned that a growing military industrial complex (MIC) was beginning to endanger the American Republic through the increasing control it exerted over Congressional spending. The elite media can now be added (MMIC).

The existence of a permanent army, then the post-Vietnam war creation of an all-volunteer force and recently a mercenary army component (in the form of military "contractors") all have contributed to a growing US militarism in support of an increasingly more hegemonic foreign policy.

Post 9/11, the current administration promulgated what has become known as the "Bush Doctrine", simply put; a commitment to waging foreign wars of aggression under the rubric of "pre-emption" as a form of "defense." In so doing the Bush administration has engaged in the worst form of sophistry--in contemporary parlance--spin. To label offensive wars of aggression defensive is to engage in language deconstruction a blatant form of intellectual dishonesty.

When a nation attacks another on the basis of nothing more than a presumption, in essence a probability calculation that at some future date, the other nation might either attack or make WMD's available to terrorists, it is not engaging in legitimate defense--rather, it is acting preventively and offensively in an aggressive manner. The latter of course is illegal under international and US law.

It is also immoral, based on the well developed corpus of Just War Theory which holds that war must be waged only in response to an actual or imminent attack, after all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted i.e. as a last resort, with proportionate force (only as required to match the threat) and with reasonable chance of success. Moreover, it is never morally licit to intentionally/knowingly attack non-combatant civilians something which occurs routinely in the waging of modern wars of aggression--preventive wars under the Bush Doctrine.

Regrettably, the vast majority of Americans are completely ignorant of the applicable international humanitarian law, US law and the relevant Just War Doctrinal principles with respect to waging War. Equally unfortunate is our blind presumption that America's intent and actions abroad are benign and admirable. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1989/1990 (over successive administrations), it has been the foreign policy of the United States to prevent any nation from ever threatening our now solitary global super-power status.

We have for almost 2 decades engaged in increasingly more threatening and bellicose rhetoric and militaristic behavior. Yet, we wonder why so much of the world hates us. As Patrick J. Buchanan has reasoned, they (the terrorists) hate us not for our values but because of our foreign policy. They are over here because we are over there. They want us out of their region and off of their land. We must admit that under similar circumstances, we would not wish to be occupied or controlled, by an outside foreign power.

The question then is why do Americans not rise up and demand that their government stop behaving in an immoral fashion--as a militaristic Hegemon? Is it fear, ignorance or simply sloth? This writer suspects it is a combination of ignorance and sloth. Unfortunately, many of our citizens are simply too preoccupied attempting to eek out a living what with the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs over the past 15 years--NAFTA, WTO, etc to properly educate themselves or engage in the necessary social action. The "dumbing-down" of an increasingly illiterate populace doesn't help.

No nation can long survive while horrendously in debt, over-extended militarily and incapable of manufacturing anything but weapons. We are now almost completely dependent on China and others for our daily consumer products and the money with which to purchase them. If this is not quickly corrected, we are in for some extremely trying times. The diagnosis is clear, the prescription bitter --END THE EMPIRE before its too late.