What is a warmonger? Who are the warmongers?

Summary:  A consequence and contributor to the militarization of US foreign policy is a vast pro-war establishment outside the government.  Often funded by government contractors, a horde of advocacy groups, think tanks, and academics exists to explain why the answer to most foreign policy challenges is a large military — or actual military action.  These are warmongers, in the most literal sense of war + trader.  One who seeks to start wars.


Warmongers are not, by tradition, warriors.  The first known use is in Edmund Spencer’s The Fairy Queen (1758), Book III, Canto 10.  The warmonger is the opposite of a true knight.  Following this passage are examples of modern warmongering.  It’s time to call these things as they are.

Malbecco is the husband of Hellenore.  Braggadocchio is a knight; Paridell is a false knight.  This is a complex and subtle work.

That bold he {Malbecco} said; O most redoubled Peer,
Vouchsafe with mild Regard a Wretch’s Case to hear.

Then sighing sore, It is not long, said he,
Since I enjoy’d the gentlest Dame alive;
Of whom a Knight {Paridell}, no Knight at all perdy {truly},
But shame of all that do for Honour strive,
By treacherous Deceit did me deprive:
Thru open Outrage he her bore away,
And with foul Force unto his Will did drive;
Which all good Knights, that Arms do bear this day,
Are bound for to revenge, and punish if they may.

And you most noble Lord that can and dare
Redress the Wrong of miserable Wight,
Cannot employ your most victorious Spear
In better Quarrel, than Defence of Right,
And for a Lady, against a faithless Knight:
So shall your Glory be advanced much,
And all fair Ladies magnify your Might,
And eke my self (albe I simple such)
Your worthy Pain shall well reward with Guerdon {reward} rich.

With that, out of his Bouget {bucket} forth he drew
Great store of Treasure, there-with him to tempt;
But he {Braggadocchio} on it look’d scornfully askew,
As much disdaining to be so misdempt {misjudged},
Or a War-monger to be basely nempt {named}:
And said, Thy Offers base I greatly loath,
And eke thy Words uncourteous and unkempt;
I tread in Dust thee and thy Money both,
That, were it not for shame: So turned from him wroth.

Unlike Braggadocchio, our warmongers are paid to involve America in foreign wars.  The Libya crisis has brought forth some fine examples.  Whatever the author’s past recommendations and experience, these article show the modern art of warmongering at its highest level.

(1)  Act now, think later

The time for a no-fly zone is now“, Dov Zakheim (DoD official in the Reagan and Bush Jr administrations, now VP of Booz Allen Hamilton; see Wikipedia), Foreign Policy, 8 March 2011 — He mocks the objections of DoD and military officials.  He says some of the Libyan rebels plead for US intervention, but gives no names or links.  No description of vital US interests, past results of no-fly zones, or risks.  Some of this seems illogical or even hysterical, such as the penultimate paragraph:

Ultimately, if Libya’s bloodbath continues, as no doubt it will, pressure will mount for military action that goes well beyond a no-fly zone. And if Qaddafi then falls, no matter who succeeds him the United States will once again be blamed for bring about “regime change.” The Arabs will resent U.S. intervention and they will find a way to blame Israel for it all. In due course, American flags will once again be burned on the Arab “street” throughout the region.

(2)  A more sophisticated example

Apply the Reagan Doctrine in Libya“, Marc A. Thiessen, op-ed in the Washington Post, 8 March 2011 — Do the Libyans want US aid?  Thiessen doesn’t ask; it doesn’t matter to him.  Much of this is cartoon-like imperialism (red emphasis added).

But our intelligence won’t improve unless we get advisers on the ground to start linking up with anti-Gaddafi forces.  And if we can figure out who the good guys are, American support could help determine who leads the rebel column that takes Tripoli.

Plus the ritual invocation of worst-case outcomes.  No description of other possibilities; no mention of odds.

And a long-term stalemate could produce the worst of both worlds – Gaddafi’s continued rule in Tripoli, with a Somalia-like ungoverned region emerging in the east that becomes a new haven for al-Qaeda. Our best hope of preventing such an outcome is to match the president’s words with action, and to help the Libyan people liberate their country.

Why we should involve our over-extended military in Libya.

The downfall of Gaddafi is now official U.S. policy. America’s prestige has been engaged, and our credibility is on the line. … Dictators from Iran to North Korea are watching and assessing the resolve of this president. It would do damage to America’s credibility if Gaddafi survived while Obama stood helplessly on the sidelines.

“Prestige and credibility” are expensive.  How many American servicemen will die for it?  What tangible benefits does it bring?   Michael Cohen (American Security Project; bio here) describes another way to conduct our grand strategy (Democracy Arsenal, 8 March 2011):

But imagine having a political debate around foreign policy where restraint and modesty in the use of military force are traits not to be disparaged, but admired. Imagine a foreign policy where the first consideration of US policymakers is protecting US interests rather than signalling “strength” in our foreign policy decision-making. Imagine a foreign policy where we exhaust all diplomatic and political solutions to security issues before even contemplating the use of force.

(3) A modern warmonger

There’s no other accurate description other than warmongering for this foaming-at-the-mouth editorial in the Wall Street Journal, 6 March 2011:  “Obama’s Libyan Abdication“.  William Randolph Hearst would have been proud to write this.

Some examples of better analysis

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Libya, and especially these about our warmongers…

1 thought on “What is a warmonger? Who are the warmongers?”

  1. New article: "Libya and the New Warmongering"

    A rare use of the term “warmongering”: “Libya and the New Warmongering“, David Gibbs (Prof History, U AZ Tucson), Foreign Policy in Focus, 12 January 2012 — Opening:

    The NATO intervention in Libya is likely to produce a more militarized and insecure world, and this will be its most enduring legacy. The military “success”in Libya has increased the possibility of new wars. There is a widespread perception that NATO has achieved an easy victory against Gaddafi, and the resulting sense of hubris augments the risk of future military actions against Iran, Syria, and other possible targets. Politicians in NATO countries surely welcome the public distraction that war provides, especially in the context of the world-wide economic slump, and this may prove an additional motivation for new military action.

    And the Libyan success will generate heightened levels of military expenditure. The British military has already been using the intervention as an argument for more funding; the same situation will no doubt occur in France and the United States as well, where the intervention will bring political benefits to the military-industrial complexes of each country. Given limited funds, the relatively higher military budgets that result from this situation will probably reduce funds for education, health, environmental protection, and disease eradication, and also for aid to developing countries, which include Libya.

    Another consequence of intervention is the erosion of international law, as indicated by NATO’s disregard of the UN Charter and also the U.S. War Powers Resolution, which were openly flouted in the course of the bombing campaign and the efforts at regime change. In previous eras, U.S. liberals might have criticized the unchecked use of executive power shown by the Obama administration. But such concerns are a thing of the past. With Libya, liberals have shown themselves to be perfectly comfortable with an “imperial presidency.”

    In addition, the intervention constitutes a setback for international cooperation aimed at curbing nuclear proliferation: NATO’s decision to overthrow Gaddafi after he had agreed to give up his nuclear weapons development program will surely dissuade other countries such as North Korea from repeating Gaddafi’s mistake. The significance of the intervention will thus extend far beyond Libya itself, and it is this larger class of implications that constitutes the most dangerous implication of the intervention. No one likes to think about the long-term consequences of policy actions, especially where “victory” is involved; but these long-term consequences will remain, all the same, and international security will be compromised as a result.

    Libya on the Ground

    Let us now turn to the implications of NATO’s victory for Libya and its people. …

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top