What is War?
by Harry Browne

The politiciansí stirring phrases are meant to keep our eyes averted from the reality of war  – to make us imagine heroic young men marching in parades, winning glorious battles, and bringing peace and democracy to the world.

But war is something quite different from that.

It is your children or your grandchildren dying before theyíre even fully adults, or being maimed or mentally scarred for life. It is your brothers and sisters being taught to kill other people  – and to hate people who are just like themselves and who donít want to kill anyone either. It is your children seeing their buddiesí limbs blown off their bodies.

It is hundreds of thousands of human beings dying years before their time. It is millions of people separated forever from the ones they loved.

It is the destruction of homes for which people worked for decades. It is the end of careers that meant as much to others as your career means to you.

It is the imposition of heavy taxes on you and on other Americans and on people in other countries  – taxes that remain long after the war is over. It is the suppression of free speech and the jailing of people who criticize the government.

It is the imposition of slavery by forcing young men to serve in the military.

It is goading the public to hate foreign people and races  – whether Arabs or Japanese or Cubans. It is numbing our sensibilities to cruelties inflicted on foreigners.

It is cheering at the news of foreign pilots killed in their planes, of young men blown to bits while trapped inside tanks, of sailors drowned at sea.

Other tragedies inevitably trail in the wake of war. Politicians lie even more than usual. Secrecy and cover-ups become the rule rather than the exception. The press becomes even less reliable.

War is genocide, torture, cruelty, propaganda, dishonesty, and slavery.

War is the worst obscenity government can inflict upon its subjects. It makes every other political crime  – corruption, bribery, favoritism, vote-buying, graft, dishonesty  – seem petty.

Governmentís Role

If government has a role to play in foreign affairs, it isnít to win wars, to assure that the right people run foreign countries, to protect innocent foreigners from guilty aggressors, or to make the world safe for democracy  – or even a safer place at all.

If government has a role, it can be only to keep us out of wars  – to make sure no one will ever attack us, to make certain you can live your life in peace, to assure you the freedom to ignore who is right and who is wrong in foreign conflicts.

The only reason for military power is to discourage attackers, and  – if they come anyway  – to repel them at our borders. Such things as stationing troops in far-off lands, meddling in foreign disputes, and sending our children to foreign countries as "peacekeepers" only encourage war.

To make America safer and to assure that we stay at peace, we donít need to put more weapons in the hands of government employees, or to reform military purchasing methods, or to make more treaties with other governments, or to increase the military budget.

In fact, we need just the opposite of these things. We need to create a defense system that relies as little as possible on the normal workings of government.

And we need to make it as hard as possible for politicians to involve us in war. We must find a way to keep them away from loaded weapons forever. Thatís the one kind of gun control that really will save lives.

Harry Browne is the 2000 Libertarian presidential candidate. This article was adapted from his book Why Government Doesnít Work. More of his articles can be found at www.HarryBrowne2000.org.

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