The View From The Recliner

I’m always pleased when a reader makes an effort to respond. We always hope that those who do take time to write have actually read, and ideally, have understood the article that piqued their interest. Unfortunately this doesn’t always happen.

Last week a reader objected to the assertion that the root causes of war are fundamentally economic. We don’t have the space here, or the desire, to present a detailed rebuttal. Suffice it to say that the horrors wrought by Hitler are often mentioned as an example of a war fought in a just cause, and I agree that US involvement was both just and inevitable for that generation. But Hitler was a mutation, an outgrowth of the economic devastation and punishment of Germany after WWI.

As for Japan, in the 1930’s the Japanese desperately needed to acquire resources they lacked to supply a population consuming far more than they produced at home. This expansion threatened American and European economic interests ( i.e. colonies and protectorates).

To suggest that the US spent the better part of the decade before WWII trying to contain Japan because of atrocities committed in China ignores the prevailing racism towards Asians at that time. The average American in 1937 had little concern for the fate of Nanking, but American industrialists were very concerned that the US could lose the Philippines to Japanese expansion. The Philippines, lest we forget, were “acquired” from Spain after the Spanish American War.

Fast forward to today when we are confronted by “madmen of extreme religious intolerance.” I agree, and those who wish do do us harm must be dealt with. But any attempt to frame this conflict in “justice and morality” requires a very narrow read of history.

We’re 19 years out from the attacks on September 11th, attacks which certainly justified a response. But we didn’t respond by officially investigating and prosecuting the Saudi connection, although 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens. Instead, we destroyed Afghanistan. Then we destroyed Iraq and justified it with Bush Administration lies about weapons of mass destruction.

In 2011, President Obama and Secretary Clinton spearheaded UN Resolution 1973 to save the lives of “peaceful pro-democracy protesters.” That sounds very much like a just and moral cause, and the intervention ended in abject failure, the destruction of another nation and another Pandora’s Box of warring factions, refugees and jihadists. We’ll mention Syria in passing, because that Obama legacy is still unfolding on President Trump’s watch.

A few weeks ago I suggested an abundance of caution in choosing to sacrifice American blood and treasure confronting Iran. It would be difficult to find a more extreme theocracy or more intense hatred of the US and Israel than that which is found among the leadership of Iran. How do you suppose these “monsters” were created?

The story picks up near the end of WWII when the British approached President Truman for help in recovering the “British” oil recently nationalized by the democratically elected government of Iran at that time. Truman refused, but Eisenhower later authorized the covert activities which led to the overthrow of that government and the installation of Mohammad Reza, the “Shah of Iran.” Americans have forgotten this history. The Ayatollahs have not.

The building of empires, colonies and protectorates; the destruction of economies and infrastructures in the pursuit of just and moral “nation building;” the orchestration of coups and the application of military power to protect corporate interests, have always created and will always create enemies: “mad men,” religious fundamentalism, rebels, revolutionaries and martyrs. Welcome to the history of the world.

Justice and morality will always be found in people of good character, no matter what cause they champion, but the genesis of war happens in back rooms and board rooms. The origins of war are messy and ugly and immoral, and they usually involve people in a position to privatize the benefits of war while socializing the costs.

In order to socialize the costs in blood and treasure of war, people like us must be convinced that we are paying for a cause that is just and moral. To make our sacrifice palatable, governments must control the narrative around war, and this often means that true origins and motivations are concealed or misunderstood. A sure sign that the narrative is working is when those who question it are themselves called into question. Not their arguments, but their integrity.

This is where we cry foul. A reluctance for war and a skeptical attitude toward the need for sacrifice should be a uniting concern, an apolitical concern, not a “gotcha” moment for sticking a tired old label on someone of a different political persuasion.

How many irreplaceable young men and women will be sacrificed by our permanent political class of the corrupt and the corpulent before we object? Are we really that self absorbed, that safe, in the comfort of our recliners?

It’s difficult to express how weary I am of the dramas of the left right divide that are blinding us to the workings of the world. If you believe the climate is changing you must be a liberal. Wrong. If you support the Second Amendment, you have to be a conservative. Wrong. Are we so thoroughly manipulated that the left wants a powerful government to force adherence to a social agenda, and the right wants a powerful government to bomb evil regimes into rubble, but neither side notices that the one thing they agree on is more powerful government?

Today let’s again lay claim to that middle ground where there are many people I know who agree: Liberals and Conservatives, and veterans of both perspectives who agree that war is a great evil, and if it becomes a necessary evil, it must always be a last resort.

I agree with the reader that wearing a wool sweater won’t do much to stop the wheels of history from turning, just like a single gas rationing ticket or metal drive during WWII had much of an effect, but the cumulative effect was significant. Most of the “wool” I’ve worn was found in the scratchy and uncomfortable Service A’s issued by the Marine Corps, and that minimal contribution is negligible compared to those who sacrificed their health or their life, or a son or a daughter or friend’s life for whatever was in their heart when it stopped beating. And be advised, if left unchecked, the sacrifices made on the battlefield do eventually reach the recliner.

We’ll leave you now with a tribute to war which was apparently lacking in our previous discussion. In war, there is much honor to be found at a personal level, in a family who sends a son or daughter to fight, in a team or a squad or a platoon. These are all places where honor can be highly concentrated. But in Washington, DC and in every other capital of the world where war is hatched, honor is often so highly diluted as to be impossible to detect.

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