What’s the Best Way to End a War?

Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

U.S. foreign policy is a place where logic goes to die.

Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, said yesterday that the quickest way to end the Russia-Ukraine War is "to give Ukraine a strong hand on the battlefield," by which he meant more and more weaponry, including Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles and Patriot missile systems together with Challenger II tanks from Great Britain. Not surprisingly, then, the White House also hinted at yet another aid package for Ukraine, which may be announced "as soon as the end of this week."

Logic suggests the quickest way to end a war is to stop fighting. Announce a cease fire, negotiate, and find acceptable terms for an armistice or peace treaty. Stop the killing – stop the war.

Of course, the US State Department is really a tiny branch of the Pentagon. It’s been that way for decades. The Pentagon budget, $858 billion for this year, is 14 times greater than the State Department’s at $60 billion. It often seems that a primary mission of the State Department is to market and sell US weaponry overseas. Small wonder that Blinken sees more deadly weaponry in Ukraine as the answer to ending a catastrophic war.

In a way, Blinken’s blinkered thinking is typically American. What’s the quickest way to end a war on crime? A drug war? Or almost any other problem in America? Obviously, more guns, more security cameras, more metal detectors, more body armor, and so on. Think about our “solutions” to gun violence in schools, which include armored backpacks for eight-year-olds and semi-automatic pistols for teachers. Too many Americans look to guns as a “solution” to life’s problems; count Blinken among the gun-lovers, at least when it’s in the form of US arms exports.

While it’s true US arms exports and aid may keep Ukraine from losing quickly, it’s highly unlikely these same weapons will help Ukraine to win quickly and decisively. Russia can and likely will match any escalation to this war, and at a cheaper price than the US taxpayer is currently paying (now over $100 billion and rising).

Blinken’s bloodless language about war is also revealing. It’s all about giving Ukraine “a strong hand on the battlefield,” as if Ukraine and Russia are playing a polite game of poker. More weapons to Ukraine means more bloody death and destruction; attrition or even escalation is far more likely than a quick end in Ukraine’s favor.

Blinken probably knows this, but a large part of his intellectual training was spent at Harvard and Columbia Law, just as Jake Sullivan, his younger counterpart at the National Security Council, trained at Yale and Yale Law. These men aren’t stupid, they’re just narrowly trained and partisan functionaries willing to spout whatever the empire needs them to say in the cause of imperial hegemony.

And so US lawyers continue to send guns and money to Ukraine, especially guns, while saying this is the best and quickest way for Ukraine to beat Putin and end the war with Russia. Logic, however, suggests more fighting and dying and a lack of decision for either side.

Best not confuse a "strong hand” with a dead man’s one.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools. He writes at Bracing Views.

36 thoughts on “What’s the Best Way to End a War?”

  1. That is a great way to stop any particular war, but how do you stop war in general? Maybe if it becomes viewed as a bad idea by the rich and powerful.

    1. War is a result of civilization. When humans overpopulated to the point where they started living densely in urban areas (aka “civilization”), they couldn’t survive on the local resources, so they made war on neighboring communities in order to get those resources. Derrick Jensen has done very good work on this if you want more details.

      We need a great lowering of human population in order to end all war. It’s not that hunter-gatherers never fought, but there’s a huge difference between warring armies and a small number of people fighting. See my response to RR Schoettker below for more details on this.

  2. All well and good, but is there a way to get this reality across to Americans? They seem not to have noticed Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, etc., and soon they’ll be forgetting the debacle in Ukraine, assuming they’re not killed in a nuclear war that spirals from it. Maybe forced history lessons? Put something in their water?

  3. What’s the Best Way to End a War?

    End the entity that starts and implements and promotes them; the State.

    1. Which requires a great lowering of human population. See my response to john above. Educate and empower all girls and women, make birth control and abortion free to everyone and totally unrestricted, and implement a one-child-family policy. If you’re not willing to do those things, you concede that we will always have these damn states. I’m anti-statist also, because people should be living tribally in much smaller numbers.

      1. Your (and I assume Mr. Jensen’s) presumption that war is an inevitable consequence of larger populations is one that I do not see or share. Your admission that the inability to live solely on local resources as the fundamental real cause of such conflicts would also seem to ignore the ability of a market economy and a division of labor in that larger population to be able to solve successfully and peacefully the mechanics of resource provision in a way not apparent or agreeable to an unthinking and unimaginative click of thuggish elites who believe that only aggression against their neighbors can rectify. This short sighted error is the real cause of difficulties, in the past and the present. And so I repeat that the elimination of the State, by society avoiding its incipient forms in the past and in particular in its full blown and developed conditions in the present, remain the most parsimonious way to end war at its real source.

        1. You can say war is not inevitable with overpopulation and civilization, but all the evidence points to the opposite conclusion. I understand your point, bu that’s not how humans have ever conducted themselves since civilization.

          As to statism: With anywhere near this many people, eliminating governments would make things much worse. I totally advocate for the basic concept of anarchy, which is that humans act 100% responsibly so that government can be eliminated. But the responsibility part has never panned out.

          Finally, you’re willing to continue the great harms that humans are causing by transporting stuff all over? Sorry, not me. Everything should be made and bought locally, period. I totally and unequivocally oppose long-distance trade for environmental reasons alone, and the longer the distance, the more I oppose it.

          1. “…that’s not how humans have ever conducted themselves since civilization.”

            It is how the majority of them act now, excluding the ruling minority, which is why the largest human population in the planets history is also the one where most are better fed than ever before. You seem to equate ‘civilization’ with ‘rulership’ but there is no necessary correlation between these entirely different concepts.

            ‘…that humans act 100% responsibly so that government can be eliminated.”

            I believe that you might be the only person who defines anarchy with this proviso, everyone else defines it as the absence of the ruling minority. Perfection is an unattainable condition in the real world and in a real anarchy the pathologically irresponsible would not be dictating and coercing the actions of others along with themselves.

            Your final paragraph is essential a repudiation in practice of the concept of civilization. It is essentially a description of autarky which even in a world of minimal population and virgin resources would condemn the practitioners to a hand-to-mouth primitive and tentative mere existence.

          2. No. Civilization means living densely (substantially more so than as hunter-gatherers) and living in urban areas. Civilization has almost always had some sort of authoritarian and hierarchical rulership, but that’s not what it means, nor do I equate it with anything except for its meaning.

            Anarchy means exactly what I wrote. Anyone who thinks it just means elimination of government without the responsibility portion has no idea what they’re talking about, but also has a totally childish idea toward this. No one should have any rights without the attendant responsibilities, and anarchy is the ultimate end of that spectrum. Of course anarchy is a utopian idea, and only fools think it could ever be attainable without a huge mental and spiritual evolution by all humans.

            What you describe is some sort of leftist ideal, which would be far preferable to what we have now, but it’s not anarchy, not even close. One aspect of anarchy is no government, and that’s not debatable.

            “Your final paragraph is essential a repudiation in practice of the concept of civilization.”

            Utterly ridiculous, despite the fact that I totally oppose civilization. Long-distance trade, which has been going on for hundreds if not thousands of years, but as it’s now practiced, is only possible because of industrial society, which I even more strongly oppose. Of course things could be shipped by horse or sailing ships, but how much long-distance trade do you think that would allow? And yes, I also oppose even that, because of the greats harms it causes due to non-native species being transported, both purposely and accidentally.

            I advocate for the natural world and the life there. I have no sympathy for a species that insists on destroying the Earth, its ecosystems & habitats, and killing of just about everything that’s not itself (the latter making humans the Nazis of the species). Humans should be strictly focused on expanding our consciousness, not on artificially and very harmfully manipulating the physical/natural world in order to benefit themselves, which BTW will only be in the short term, geologically speaking.

            It will take hundreds of years to get the human population back down to the ecologically-balanced level, and thousands of years to get back to living as hunter-gatherers, but that should be our goal. Obsessing on material things and unnatural comfort levels as you obviously do is not the way to go. You need to have empathy for all life, not just humans.

          3. I try as much as possible to be a “locavore”. Sure, people here in my northern state like such items as bananas and oranges, but we don’t REQUIRE bananas and oranges, which must be transported great distances to us. There are plenty of delicious fruits ( and veggies) grown right here that can be preserved one’s self, or kept in winter storage.
            I am fortunate, though, to live on a farm where we are able to grow large amounts of vegetables and additionally have about fifty fruit trees. I’m able to can or freeze much of what we don’t eat fresh or give away. Not everyone however is lucky enough to have acreage.
            I could never live in the concrete jungle of a large city; it would be spiritual death for me.

          4. I find the attitude that humans can just live wherever they want, regardless of how much ecological destruction and wildlife killing doing so requires, to be totally disgusting, repugnant, and immoral. If the area in which you live (obviously not you personally) doesn’t produce the food you need, move! Humans are tropical animals, and there’s a very strong argument that we should never be outside the tropics for ecological reasons alone.

          5. I disagree with all humans living in the tropics, Jeff. Many Native Americans lived in cold areas and remained in tune with nature.

          6. Having to create artificial heat and far more insulating shelters are enough reasons for me that humans belong in the tropics. Of course the traditional indigenous people didn’t do a fraction of the ecological harm that the colonizers did, but that doesn’t mean that the former were harmless.

          7. Well Jeff you’re welcome to the tropics. I personally don’t believe I’d relish crocodiles, poisonous snakes, killer bees and fire ants.

          8. It’s not about what you or I like. First, it’s about what’s in proper ecological balance. Second, it would be probably thousands of years before human population is low enough to limit people to the tropics.

            Again, this idea that humans can just go anywhere regardless of all the harm they do is totally immoral and self-centered.

          9. That statement only makes sense if we genocide all the white people first.

            Sure, if we got rid of all the people who are genetically adapted to drink cow’s milk in winter and absorb more vitamin D in the sun and see better in the dark (i.e. people adapted to live in northern areas), and only leave the people who are less likely to get skin cancer and sun burns, then the entire human race is meant to live in tropical areas.

          10. Your chronology is backward. Humans evolved in the tropics, and we have to do artificial things in order to live at higher latitudes. The adaptations you mentioned of course happened, but that doesn’t negate my point.

            I never advocated killing anyone. Fixing the problems that humans have caused and are still causing will take thousands of years to complete. It’s all about birth control and abortion to lower human population, and humans moving toward living as simply & naturally as possible, while focusing on expanding our consciousness, the latter being the only legitimate role of humans on this planet.

          11. I didn’t claim any chronology. I just said some races are adapted to living in the north, and others are adapted to living in the tropics. If “older” adaptations are “more important”, then perhaps we should all go back to living in the ocean, or perhaps in some volcanic sludge.

            Nor did I claim you wanted to kill all the people who don’t fit in the tropics. I simply recommended it as a way to make your vision of the future a reality.

            Also, the irony of “I never advocated killing anyone, it’s just all about abortion”.

            Frankly, evolution can’t make a moral system. If Humans are “immoral” because we’ve somehow “thrown off” the balance of evolution, what of all the other species who have out competed and driven to extinction other animals? What of for example, our own cause of the mammoth’s extinction which we caused when we were living “in harmony” with nature?

            It is the goal of every species to propagate as much as they possibly can. If evolution or biology is the basis of your moral system, then really we ought not care at all about other species we cause to go extinct, because that is the law of the jungle.

          12. I’m familiar with your view of the world, but I totally reject it. Humans are much more powerful than other species (not physical power, but the power to manipulate the physical world) and thus have much more responsibility than other species. And it’s not about evolution or biology, though natural evolution should be allowed to run its course without human interference. It’s about living in proper ecological balance with the Earth, its ecosystems & habitats, and other species. Our goal physically should be to live as lightly on the Earth as possible, which is pretty much the opposite of what we do.

            And BTW, your example of humans causing extinctions is just an argument against the human race. Those people were clearly not living in proper ecological balance or they wouldn’t have caused any extinctions. Our difference is that I think that humans can be exponentially better, while you take the cynical view that it’s kill or be killed.

          13. It is a fact that our world is kill or be killed. We eat organic matter. Unless you want us to start photosynthesizing, it will always be we kill or get killed. If your idea of “ecological balance” precludes the style of living going on for millions of years in our own species, and shortly after life began on earth in other species, you’re describing something that has never and will never exist.

            Tell me, was the allosaurus an “immoral” species because they out competed and drove to extinction other previous apex predators?

          14. That’s not at all a fact; that’s merely your perception and characterization of life. I agree that kill or be killed is one aspect of life, but ecological balance/cooperation is an equal and counter aspect. Your point of view is cold-hearted.

            There’s a huge difference between a species naturally out-competing another one, and humans unnaturally destroying entire habitats and even ecosystems, killing species they don’t eat, polluting everything, etc. Totally false analogy, and in fact reality is the exact opposite. Humans are not capable of physically out-competing anyone, and instead must rely on at least minimal technology just to survive.

          15. I don’t care much if you think my view point is cold hearted. My question is whether it is true or not. Nor have I been sharing “my view point”. Rather, I’m trying to demonstrate that you’re drawing a distinction between humans and other species that is not born out in science. Unless you bring in some other metaphysical reality, there isn’t a justification to your claims. We’re discussing your view point and whether it’s self consistent, not mine.

            There is no difference between other species out competing and humans out competing. You can complain that our competition is “unnatural”, and yet here we are, a product of nature. Unless you think our ability to compete is not of a natural origin? We weren’t evolved, but perhaps created by the demon moloch? Of course, this isn’t what you mean. But I don’t think you know what you mean. What makes humans “unnatural”? The only argument I’ve ever heard for how and why we are unnatural is circular. I.E. something is “unnatural” if it involves humans, and therefore everything we do is “unnatural”.

            Whenever one species outcompetes another, entire ecosystems change. If bears were to outcompete wolves in yellowstone national park, everything all the way down to the windiness of the rivers would be affected.

            There are many animals that survive in many different ways. Most of them aren’t physically outcompeting others. Wolves can’t physically outcompete bears, bears are stronger and faster and more aggressive. Wolves compete by using pack tactics. Snakes don’t physically outcompete nearly anything. They have poison. There are ants that can’t compete for food and so they developed agriculture. There are monkeys that have developed tools, and language and even lying. The fact that we rely on tools to survive is nothing new to life. True, we’ve done it to a much greater extant than other animals, but this is a difference of degree and not kind. There is no scientific distinction between humans and other species. Now, if you want to invoke the supernatural, perhaps your position would be consistent, but still wrong. But that would be a step in the right direction.

          16. So now you elevate yourself to some god-like status: you don’t have a viewpoint, just everything you say is the truth. On top of that, the things you state are facts in fact are not; they’re merely your opinion. We’re done here.

          17. That’s fine. I never claim everything I said was the definitive truth. But you’ve failed to make a convincing argument otherwise. Nor did I say I “don’t have a viewpoint”. I said, we aren’t discussing my viewpoint, which I certainly have. We’re discussing your viewpoint and how terribly self contradictory it either is or isn’t.

            But it’s much easier to throw around some insults and then refuse to defend your position than it is to talk rationally, so… Good day to you as well.

          18. Are humans not a species? What makes human activity “unnatural” and the activity of, say, marmosets “natural?”

            If human activity is “unnatural,” that “unnaturality” would extend to pronouncements about “ecological balance.”

          19. Your anti-environmental definition of “natural” is common, but it’s also wrong. “Natural” means of humans as opposed to of nature. There’s a huge difference between unnatural and ecologically harmful human activities, and activities from natural evolution. For example, climate change is natural, but human-caused climate change is happening about 1,000 times faster than natural change, which makes it unnaturally harmful.

          20. Humans are part of nature. I understand the need to make a distinction between humans and other natural species, but unless you’ve got evidence that aliens engineered us in a lab, we and all we do are just a different kind of “natural” development.

            The big difference between us and 1) other natural creatures and 2) nature itself is that we have an ability to think long-term. I wish we’d use it.

  4. Russia and Ukraine had a peace agreement in spring 2022, but it was sabotaged by the U.S. via its British lackey Boris Johnson. This column assumes that the U.S. wants peace, which is a totally false assumption.

    1. A number of Yankee Empire functionaries have said that they want to use this war to weaken Russia, and overthrow Putin. There is no doubt that the Yankee Empire wants to slowly strangle Russia as it drains the purses of the US public in order to enrich the Merchants of Death.

  5. The best way to end a war and never start more wars is for every country to have WMD’s to keep its enemies out of its territory.

  6. Think about our “solutions” to gun violence in schools, which include armored backpacks for eight-year-olds and semi-automatic pistols for teachers.

    What leftist looney bin did this author come from? This was never the suggested solution anywhere in america. Even the real proposal (that teachers should be allowed weapons if they already have a CCP, not issued them), even this is vastly unpopular, with the exception of a few counties in Texas.

    The problem with war isn’t that american culture idolizes violence. It’s the government. There is no “peaceful government”. We can’t vote our way out of this. The problem is there is a government, and it can give itself money if it stokes some sort of panic. It has nothing to do with Texas teachers using their concealed carry permits. What an irrational jump that is.

  7. Edward O. Wilson: “If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed 10,000 years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”

    I remember telling ‘friends’ about the absurdity of Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ fantasies. They thought this delusion might work. I told them the Sun might not come up tomorrow morning too. They were stunned to hear that the safest, easiest, and most reliable method of destroying nuclear weapons has always been the negotiating table. Peace is the answer, and always will be the best answer.

    Franklin D. Roosevelt (Fairbanks Alaska WWII memorial): “The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation… it must be a peace which rests on the cooperative efforts of the whole world.”

    1. When he was president, Trump talked about making peace with North Korea, and about removing U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan. He did none of those things. He only cares about money and his ego, and everything else is secondary to him. In order to stand up to the military/intelligence/industrial complex you have to really believe in what you’re doing, and Trump doesn’t.

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