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Every day brings new pro-war propaganda for our amusement and despair

1 August 2010

Summary:   One oddity of our time is the news.  Not the predominance of pro-war advocacy, or its increasingly desperate and specious nature, but how seldom anyone remarks upon these things.  Today Max Boot provides another example.  A ludicrous example.

Here we examine “Impact of past defense cuts should warn of risks“, op-ed in the Washington Post by Max Boot, 30 July 2010. Following Niall Ferguson, he uses counterfactual history as a neo-con propaganda tool.  Matthew Yglesias aptly summarizes Boot’s theory as “postwar demobilizations cause wars”.   That we do not greet these things with laughter shows the degeneration of the American mind.

Excerpts and rebuttals

“After the American Revolution, our armed forces shrank from 35,000 men in 1778 (plus tens of thousands of militiamen) to just 10,000 by 1800. The result was that we were ill-prepared to fight the Whiskey Rebellion, the quasi-war with France, the Barbary wars and the War of 1812 — all of which might have been averted if the new republic had had an army and a navy that commanded the respect of prospective enemies, foreign and domestic.”

This is almost all wrong.

  • The government reduced the size of the government because we could not pay for it.  Like modern conservatives, his awareness of fiscal prudence comes and goes and go with his political needs of the moment.
  • It’s nuts to say that the government was “ill-prepared to fight the Whiskey Rebellion.”  The rebellion of aprox 500 Pennsylvanians farmers collapsed before the Army arrived, resulting in 20 arrests.
  • The UK and France were the superpowers of the day.  No affordable military spending by the US (then an emerging nation) could have averted conflicts with those nations.

He continues with more fiction pretending to be fact.

“After the Civil War, our armed forces shrank from more than a million men in 1865 to just 50,000 in 1870. This made the failure of Reconstruction inevitable — there were simply too few federal troops left to enforce the rule of law in the South and to overcome the ruthless terrorist campaign waged by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups.”

This is grossly misleading.  Political support for the expense of reconstruction began to fade after 1870, the year in which William Woods Holden (Governor, R-NC) was impeached to his strong suppression of the KKK (Wikipedia).  By 1872 support crashed with the formation of the Liberal Republican Party (Wikipedia). 

“Likewise, Japanese leaders might have thought twice about attacking Pearl Harbor if their homeland had been in imminent danger of being pulverized by thousands of American bombers and their fleet sunk by dozens of American aircraft carriers.”

Update:  Comment by Matt McDougall posted at Matthew Yglesias article:  “Leaving aside the fact that that’s kind of WHY they attacked Pearl Harbor – to achieve surprise and knock us back before we could bring our industrial might to bear – this is just ridiculous. We didn’t have the capability to pulverize the home islands until 1945, and that was with B-29s {introducted May 1944} being flown from Tinian, which we didn’t have possession of in 1941. Even if we took what we had on hand in December 1941 and multiplied it by a factor of ten, we still wouldn’t have been able to strike the home islands with anything more than a scaled up version of the Doolittle Raid.”

The rest is counterfactual speculation, impossible to disprove, that US assumption of global hegemony after WWI — with massive standing armies — would have wonderfully improved the course of history, with no offsetting ill effects.  Fantasy as advocacy.

We’ll be on the road to a greater future when we laugh at these war-mongers.

Posts about military history

  1. How often do insurgents win? How much time does successful COIN require?, 28 May 2008
  2. Was 9/11 the most effective single military operation in the history of the world?, 11 June 2008
  3. Another note from our past, helping us see our future, 16 September 2009 — From the past or future, who can tell?
  4. A history lesson recommended for the top of your reading pile, 17 September 2009
  5. How the Soviet Menace was over-hyped – and what we can learn from this, 13 October 2009
  6. Are islamic extremists like the anarchists?, 14 December 2009
  7. We have endemic terrorism – but few wars and epidemics. That’s good news!, 15 December 2009
  8. France gives us tips for the Afghanistan War, from their successful role in the American Revolution, 11 March 2010
  9. Max Boot: history suggests we will win in Afghanistan, with better than 50-50 odds. Here’s the real story., discussing 7 alleged victories by foreign armies fighting insurgencies (Columbia, Iraq, the Malaysian Emergency, the Philippines-American War, Northern Ireland, the Dhofar Rebellion in Oman, and the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya).
  10. A major discovery! It could change the course of US geopolitical strategy, if we’d only see it, a review of the present and past analysis of  counter-insurgency.  This could change the course of American foreign policy, if we pay attention.
  11. A look at the history of victories over insurgents. How often do foreign armies win? – About a RAND study examining the victories of foreign armies over insurgents. It holds powerful lessons for us.

Afterword and contact info

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