VERIFIED: Where Wars Do — and Don’t Come From

Where wars DO come from:

It is not civilizations that promote clashes. They occur when old-fashioned leaders look for old-fashioned ways to solve problems by rousing their people to armed confrontation.–Kenichi Ohmae, The End Of The Nation State, (New York: The Free Press 1995), p. 11.

Why of course the people don’t want war. … That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along –Head Nazi Hermann Goering

Mr. Bertie Felstead: “A German began singing All Through The Night, then more voices joined in and the British troops responded with Good King Wencelas… the next morning, all the soldiers were shouting to one another, “Hello Tommy, Hello Fritz” … The Germans started it, coming out of their trenches and walking over to us. Nobody decided for us – we just climbed over our parapet and went over to them, we thought nobody would shoot at us if we all mingled together… There wouldn’t have been a war if it had been left to the public. We didn’t want to fight but we thought we were defending England. England’s Oldest Man Remembers The 1915 Christmas Truce

People do not make wars; governments do. –U.S. President Ronald Reagan

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration’s top officials… made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. …an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that …led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses. –Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith, False Pretenses: Iraq THE WAR CARD Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War,

Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. …The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another’s throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose–especially their lives. …the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace. Yours not to reason why; Yours but to do and die. That is their motto The Anti-war Speech That Earned Eugene Debs 10 Years in Prison, Socialist Party convention in Canton, Ohio, 16 June 1918

By contrast, where wars DON’T come from:

…we preferred hunting to a life of idleness on our reservations. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to hunt. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers came and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair (Custer) came…They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape but we were so hemmed in we had to fight. Crazy Horse/Tashunkewitko

The Aztec strategy of war was based on the capture of prisoners by individual warriors, not on working as a group to kill the enemy in battle. By the time the Aztecs came to recognize what warfare meant in European terms, it was too late. Aztec

New England’s first Indian war, the Pequot War of 1636-37, provides a case study of the intensified warfare Europeans brought to America. Allied with the Narragansetts, traditional enemies of the Pequots, the colonists attacked at dawn. … The slaughter shocked the Narragansetts, who had wanted merely to subjugate the Pequots, not exterminate them. The Narragansetts reproached the English for their style of warfare, crying, “It is naught, it is naught, because it is too furious, and slays too many men.” In turn, Capt. John Underhill scoffed, saying that the Narragansett style of fighting was “more for pastime, than to conquer and subdue enemies.” Underhill’s analysis of the role of warfare in Narragansett society was correct, and might accurately be applied to other tribes as well. Through the centuries, whites frequently accused their Native allies of not fighting hard enough. -James W. Loewen, LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME, (New York, NY: Touchstone 1996), p. 118

Prospect of Putin Presidency Gives Pundit the Vapors

I read a lot of opinion pieces so that you don’t have to. Some are good enough to make our Viewpoints section. Some are… special:

[P]olitical events in Russia will become more important in the coming years, and Americans should prepare for the leverage Russia will begin to exercise.

Photo-illustration; Painting of Peter the Great: Getty; Putin: Sergei Guneyev / RIA-Novosti for TIME
Photo-illustration; Painting of Peter the Great: Getty; Putin: Sergei Guneyev / RIA-Novosti for TIME
Putin as Peter the Great (click image for irritating commentary)

OK, I have fresh batteries in the flashlight, a week’s supply of nonperishables in the pantry, and jumper cables in the car. What other preparations should I make?

In foreign affairs Russia will continue to block interventions into countries like Syria with their permanent veto in the UN Security Council. Whatever one’s opinions might be on humanitarian intervention it is clear what an absurdity it is for a country like Russia, whose actions in Chechnya are not far removed from Assad’s in Syria, to be able to influence international humanitarian work.

Actually, your opinions on humanitarian intervention may determine whether you find Russia’s obstructionism offensive at all. If you consider humanitarian intervention a blood sport played by cynical opportunists, then you won’t be outraged when one cynical opportunist takes his ball and goes home. Furthermore, many on the receiving end of Western interventions would have difficulty distinguishing “international humanitarian work” from what Putin and his predecessors have done in Chechnya and what Assad is doing in Syria.

Russia will continue to wield its influence over Eastern Europe, a part of the world where liberal values are struggling.

Photo by Matt Barganier, Cluj, Romania
Photo by Matt Barganier, Cluj, Romania
The only Vlad for me

Now we’ve entered the heart of Op-Edistan, where “liberal values” are always “struggling.” Would it help if we built more torture chambers in Eastern Europe?

It should worry Americans that Russia, straddling both Europe and Asia, will be able to dictate the pace of the twenty first century more and more.

Even if dictating the pace of a century were a real possibility instead of pundit claptrap, Putin could no more do it than Peter the Great or Josef Stalin could. This sort of threat inflation makes me appreciate the relative sobriety of China panic. The Russians are not even conceivably coming.

It looks like Russia’s influence will continue to be exerted under corrupt and illegitimate governments with a demonstrable disregard for civil liberties and expansionist mindset. Whoever is the President this time next year (probably Obama) should make more of an effort to establish good economic and diplomatic relations with countries still under Russia’s shadow, especially countries in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, in order to limit the amount of damage an presidency like Putin’s can inflict.

And to which head of state can we turn to limit the amount of damage a presidency like Obama’s (or Romney’s, or Santorum’s) can inflict? Who will save Americans and others from the demonstrable disregard for civil liberties and the expansionist mindset of the Kremlin on the Potomac? Is there an extraterrestrial force for good to which we can appeal?

Why Are People Grudgeful?

Timothy P. Carney weighs in on the “Cato purge”:

[Brink] Lindsey will be portrayed as a martyr, excommunicated for his heresies from the Right’s dogma. In this role, he joins neoconservative writer David Frum, who was driven from the American Enterprise Institute after praising Obamacare.

Lindsey and Frum followed parallel paths. In 2002 and 2003, Lindsey – contra most libertarians – prominently beat the drums for invading Iraq. Meanwhile, Frum played the conservatives’ Robespierre, trying to purge from the Right those who opposed the invasion, whom he slurred as “unpatriotic conservatives.”

Lindsey, when he admitted in 2006 that invading Iraq was a mistake, still billed himself as “extremely controversial” and open-minded in the face of dogma. Frum, today, basks in the Left’s praise as an independent thinker. But Lindsey and Frum, in backing Bush’s invasion then and supporting Obama now, were the opposite of dissidents: They consistently supported those in power who were fighting for more power.

This pattern doesn’t make Lindsey or Frum sycophants, but it undermines their claim to be dissidents.


The reason I keep banging on about Iraq War supporters – including the “born-again doves” – is simple: The road out of militarism and empire runs through the ruins of the Washington establishment that got us here.

First, there must be some penalty for supporting wars of aggression, even in a non-governmental role. I don’t mean a legal penalty, obviously, but shaming, shunning, boycotting, and the like. But everywhere you look, the very people who sold the Iraq War have not only not paid for their bloodthirsty idiocy, they’ve often been promoted. Second, as long as even “reformed” warmongers hold positions of influence, there’s always the danger of relapse. Clearly, the personality defects that contribute to the endorsement of monstrosities don’t go away quickly, if ever. For example, here’s one ex-Bushbot-turned-Obamaton sticking it to the White House’s critics:

Personally, I’m not satisfied with the job they [Obama & co.] are doing (unemployment is horrible, they’ve spent too much time negotiating with Republicans, the drone wars, the civil liberties issues, Lloyd Blankfein is still a free man, etc.), and think there have been some real failings and some real let-downs. But I will belly crawl over broken glass while someone pours lemon juice and rubbing alcohol on me to vote for the Democrats in November.

Note how drone wars and civil liberties fall behind “negotiating with Republicans” on this list of sins. To paraphrase Mick Jagger, could you use a lemon-squeezer, dude? I volunteer.

I could go on – there are so many targets – but instead, I’ll leave you with a thought experiment. Imagine that the invasion of Iraq had succeeded on the war supporters’ own terms, and the U.S. had crushed all armed resistance within a few months and set up some plausibly “pro-American” Potemkin democracy that didn’t need a foreign army to defend it from the citizenry (this requires a lot of imagination, I know). Let’s assume that the U.S. military had accomplished this by really taking the gloves off, as many war supporters urged in the days when the occupation began to implode. Thus, in our counterfactual, the Iraqi civilian casualty count is roughly the same as the actual count today, anti-American sentiment is inflamed throughout the Muslim world, and Iran is the unquestioned dominant regional power, all for a preventive war against a fabricated threat. Do you think that our born-again doves – much less the dead-enders who still think the war was a good idea – would have had any moral or even practical second thoughts? Or do you think they’d be doing a sack dance in the peaceniks’ faces and demanding the destruction of the next country on their list?

UPDATE: I think this sort of amends-making is a wonderful idea, but I suggest it for people who have abetted acts of mass destruction. How many prosthetic limbs could the Brinkster buy with his disposable income? Shoot, Andrew Sullivan could probably fund half a dozen orphanages across Iraq if he cut his personal expenditures back to bare subsistence levels. Let’s make this happen!


Binge and Purge

In another one of those Washington insider stories every Serious Person is required to care about, Brink Lindsey and Will Wilkinson, two noted “liberaltarians,” have allegedly been “purged” from the Cato Institute (that’s Dave Weigel’s theory, anyway, so take it for what it’s worth). Wilkinson is good on matters of war and peace (see “Bradley Manning’s Guilt — and Ours,” which we highlighted last week), so too bad about him.

Brink Lindsey, on the other hand… ugh. He should have been sacked back when he was using his trade policy position to agitate for dropping freedom bombs on Iraqis. In his response to the purge story, Daniel McCarthy links to this 2002 Joseph Stromberg piece. As you read Stromberg’s take on Lindsey, keep in mind which one of the two was marginal at the time and which one is walking into yet another cozy think-tank sinecure today.

YouTube of Iran Debate

Below is the 2 1/2 hour entirety of that Iran debate at UCR on April 1, 2010. Featured speaker was Reese Erlich. Panelists were Erlich, Larry Greenfield, Christopher Records and myself. The host was Louis Vandenberg. Thanks to Joe Briggs for putting this on his YouTube account.

One correction: After this conference, I learned from Syed Saleem Shahzad that the Jundallah that the CIA and JSOC use against Iran is different from the Jundallah that KSM used to be the leader of. However, they are both radical Salafi civilian-bombing terrorists, so same difference.

All the Wrong Reasons

There’s a lot to ponder in this open letter to Barack Obama from Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, et al., but I’ll stick to this part:

We have to cherish and protect the multitude of educational, professional, and other networks and friendships that underpin our friendship and alliance. The U.S. visa regime remains an obstacle in this regard. It is absurd that Poland and Romania — arguably the two biggest and most pro-American states in the CEE region, which are making substantial contributions in Iraq and Afghanistan — have not yet been brought into the visa waiver program.

I’ve seen variations on this theme many times over the years: the U.S. government should do something for such and such country because that country’s government contributed troops to some U.S.-led war. I sometimes agree with the policy change suggested, as in this instance. It’s absolutely ridiculous that my Romanian mother-in-law was recently denied a non-immigrant visa on a whim from a sour embassy employee. (An immigration official here in the U.S. even told my sister-in-law that the visa should have been granted.)

But of all the reasons this or any other policy should change, the fact that Romania’s handout-hungry leaders assisted in a war of aggression (when less than half of Romanians supported it) should not count for much – to libertarians, at least.