Why we fight

Summary:  Today we look at one of the great mysteries of the 21st century, seeking explanations for America’s mad pursuit of foreign wars despite their repeated failure, despite their irrelevance to preventing another 9-11 (many intel experts believe we’re making another attack more likely). In their 13th years even the reasons for our wars remain unclear. Here are some guesses, which can warn even if they don’t enlighten.

War is Peace

Contents

  1. Our 4GWs are not wars
  2. Why do warmongers support them?
  3. Why do warriors support them?
  4. Why do our elites support them?
  5. Why do we support them?
  6. For More About Chet’s Perspective
  7. For More Information

(1)  Our 4GWs are not wars

Some experts on modern war, such as Chet Richards, describe the 4th generation conflicts of the post-WW2 era as something other than war. Despite the length of these conflicts (US troops are in their 13th year of fighting in Afghanistan), their cost in money and blood — they’re not war. How can this be? I have long pondered this, a question high on the long list of things I don’t understand.

Our latest failed wars give us new data, adding to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq (even the Cold War was waged with mad intensity). Here are a few articles describing some examples of our mad foreign policy.

  1. Libya: In Search of a Strongman“, Nicolas Pelham, New York Review of Books, 26 September 2013 — “It is perhaps a measure of how close Libya is to breaking apart that two years after ousting one dictator, many Libyans are craving another.”
  2. Iraq-Syria“, Adam Shatz, London Review of Books, 29 December 2013 — “The Iraq war is not over; it never really ended. It just spilled into a new war, the war in Syria. We may one day speak of Iraq-Syria the way that we speak now of ‘Af-Pak’.”
  3. How al-Qaeda Changed the Syrian War“, Sarah Birke, New York Review of Books, 27 December 2013 — Looking at our almost-allies in Syria (before Russia saved us from our stupidity)

After writing about these wars for ten years, I believe there is no one reason for our wars. I see layers of reasons.  The last is the most important.

(2)  Why do warmongers support these wars?

We have been a militarized nation since 1940, now spending almost half the world’s total on military and intel spending. Creation of a massive warmonger lobby was an inevitable side-effect. Unfortunately, a side-effect that we’ve embraced — not fought. For details see:

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The War on Peace

  1. What is a warmonger? Who are the warmongers?,
    …..10 March 2011.
  2. A warmonger review, looking at the articles advocating a US war with Libya, 22 March 2011

But why do warmongers continue to support a series of failed wars?

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.”
— Upton Sinclair, from his 1935 book

(3)  Why do warriors support these wars?

“Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.”
— George Santayana’s The Life of Reason (1906)

We value authentic violence not just on the big film screen and the little game screen — but also when setting public policy. So our warriors of course share this belief.  As one well-known geopolitical commentator told me in March 2011 — dismissing my objections to his advocacy of intervention in Libya

“You just have not seen enough people bleed to death.”

This emotionally claims the moral high ground, seeking to preserve life and end tyranny.  It claims authority through the speaker’s military experience, since we disagree with Yoda and believe that wars do make us great.  If said loudly and firmly to a crowd it evokes applause (to American audiences; probably not so much in Europe or Asia), further boosting the confidence of the warriors.

Why do our warriors continue to advocate these wars despite their history of repeated failure? Especially when they pay for these failures in blood. Perhaps because their orientations remain locked, unable to see the pointlessness of what they do.

“To doubt one’s own first principles is the mark of a civilized man. Don’t defend past actions; what is right today may be wrong tomorrow. Don’t be consistent; consistency is the refuge of fools.”
— Speech by Admiral Hyman Rickover at the US Naval Post Graduate School Address (1954)

(4)  Why do our elites pursue these wars?

Why do our cool and unsympathetic elites wage these wars, an almost continual series of follies since WW2?  Wars that do not benefit the nation? To understand their actions in this — as in so many things these days — we turn to The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, attributed to Emmanuel Goldstein but actually a description of the system written by a committee of the Inner Party (in George Orwell’s 1984). From Chapter Three (hat tip on this to Tom Engelhardt, March 2009) :

The war, therefore if we judge it by the standards of previous wars, is merely an imposture. It is like the battles between certain ruminant animals whose horns are incapable of hurting one another. But though it is unreal it is not meaningless. It eats up the surplus of consumable goods, and it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that the hierarchical society needs. War, it will be seen, is now a purely internal affair.

In the past, the ruling groups of all countries, although they might recognize their common interest and therefore limit the destructiveness of war, did fight against one another, and the victor always plundered the vanquished.

In our own day they are not fighting against one another at all. The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact. The very word “war,” therefore, has become misleading.

It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist. The peculiar pressure that is exerted on human beings between the Neolithic Age and the early 20th century has disappeared and has been replaced by something quite different.

The effect would be much the same if the 3 superstates, instead of fighting one another, should agree to live in perpetual peace, each inviolate within its own boundaries. For in that case each would still be a self-contained universe, freed forever from the sobering influence of external danger. A peace that was truly permanent would be the same as a permanent war.

This — although the vast majority of Party members understand it only in a shallower sense — is the inner meaning of the Party slogan: WAR IS PEACE.

Sheep watching TV

(5)  Why do we support these wars?

Who can see into the hearts of men?  Not I.

My guess (emphasis on guess): Sheep follow their leaders. That what makes them sheep.

When we no longer choose to be sheep, then America will have taken the first step to reform.

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(6) For More About Chet’s Perspective

  1. Is 4th generation warfare dead?, 21 December 2012
  2. Is 4GW dead?“, 19 April 2013
  3. Rebuttal: “4GW is Alive and Well“, William S. Lind, 25 May 2013

(7)  For More Information

(a)  Lessons about America from 1984:

  1. The oddity of reports about the Iraq War, 13 March 2008 — CRIMESTOP limits our vision
  2. Tom Engelhard asks “Is America is hooked on War?”, 19 September 2009 — War is Peace describes US foreign policy
  3. The long-term consequences to America of torturing Bradley Manning, 15 March 2011 — About the goals of our ruling elites

(b)  Posts attempting to find reasons for our wars:

  1. Stratfor’s analysis of US reasons for invading and occupying Iraq, 4 March 2008
  2. Stratfor again attempts to explain why we invaded Iraq, 24 March 2008
  3. Why are we fighting in Afghanistan?, 9 April 2008
  4. Why are we fighting in Pakistan?, 14 May 2009
  5. An expert explains why we must fight in Afghanistan, 11 June 2009

(c)  Posts about Syria:

(d)  Posts about the Libyan War:

  1. Libya’s people need uninvited infidel foreigners to save them!, 1 March 2011
  2. “You just have not seen enough people bleed to death”, 8 March 2011
  3. About attacking Libya – let’s give this more thought than we did Afghanistan and Iraq, 6 March 2009
  4. Our geopolitical experts see the world with the innocent eyes of children (that’s a bad thing), 14 March 2011
  5. A war monger review, looking at the articles advocating a US war with Libya, 22 March 2011
  6. Who are we helping in Libya? Here are some answers., 27 March 2011
  7. In America, both Left and Right love the long war, 30 March 2011
  8. Why the Libyan War is important to us – and to our children, 9 April 2011
  9. A status report on our intervention in Libya. Historians will find this farce fascinating., 17 April 2011
  10. A child-like credulity is required to be a US geopolitical expert, 25 April 2011
  11. Important information about Libya hidden behind the veil of the US news media, 1 September 2011

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Obama - Warmonger

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17 thoughts on “Why we fight

  1. The USA is a “War Nation” (actually a ‘criminal nation’ which seems now to be occupied by a majority of criminal inhabitants — but another story for another time) even their National Anthem is a “War Song” with “bombs bursting in air, and the Rockets red glare” and with only TWO exceptions, their “War of Independence” and WWII, the USA HAS NOT WON ANY OTHER WARS — especially and including their illegal wars of aggression against the Native American People (my own people) who it is now known (with/by DNA evidence) were present in the USA at least 15,300 years ago.

    The “Jews” or better yet the “Jewish State if Israel” (another illegal war mongering nation) cannot claim any antiquity that is proven to be any earlier than the ‘late Hellenistic era’ while the illegal states of America — send the Jews of Israel 8 Billion Dollars annually that they ‘borrow from China’ — whom they lost one of their bloodiest Wars to — in South Korea when I WAS AN INFANT. This is a definition for/of INSANITY; and history will treat the USA as a terrible warning for humanity; and a negative example.

    The USA reveals with each passing day ALL of the classic signs of collapse, and they already have begun to turn upon themselves; and from my own perspective — that of a Native American — they deserve everything they are getting.

    “If the USA were any other criminal nation the ‘Americans’ would invade the USA to keep the world safe; and they would be justified.”

    1. Husband of moon,

      Anger by a Native American is easily understandable by anyone with a shred of empathy.

      On the other, might makes right was the the rule almost everywhere until the League of Nations, and later the UN, began the long struggle to forge a new rule for humanity. Look to the many wars waged among Native American tribes.

      As for US wars:
      * the Mexican-American was a clear win (despite its purely expansionistic basis).
      * Ditto the Spanish-America War.
      * WW1 was a win, even if conceptually misguided, with the peace botched.
      * Korea was a partial win, and fully justified — as seen by anybody touring both North and South Korea.

      As any look at history shows, victory and morality are seldomly found together.

      Unfortunately your assessment of the US looks more accurate about us of today, as we rain down death by drones and Special Ops on people having no quarrel with us — and many civilians caught in our carelessly unleashed weapons.

  2. Very often I’ve seen individuals, mostly members of the military and their loved ones, claim that we should all appreciate the sacrifice made by soldiers, who are fighting to preserve our freedom. I imagine that just about anyone who puts a yellow ‘Support our Troops’ ribbon on their bumper feels this way.
    Me, I can appreciate the sacrifice certainly, and of course I acknowledge that soldiers are fighting for a cause they each believe in, but does this fight actually preserve our freedom?

    Maybe if the soldiers were fighting to defend our borders from foreign invasion and occupation, or fighting to win independence from the oppressive rule of King George III, then I could easily say they are fighting for freedom, but that’s not even close to what is happening. Soldiers today are fighting on the other side of the world in an endless ideological crusade, which arguably has created more enemies than it has killed, taken more freedoms than it has saved.

    I don’t want to be the one to tell someone who has made a huge, perhaps even ultimate sacrifice, that it was all for nothing, but deluding ourselves that these personal hardships and tragedies are somehow necessary just creates more excuses to continue.

    1. Todd,

      “claim that we should all appreciate the sacrifice made by soldiers”

      Count me among them.

      The rightness of the cause is our responsibility, not theirs. We honor their willingness to answer the nation’s call. Under our system, it is the citizens’ responsibility to determine the wisdom of that call.

      It is IMO extremely wrong to shift the responsibility for our wars to those who obey our call to arms. The logical end of that thinking is a military dictatorship. Which, as I have warned, is not an impossible outcome of current trends.

  3. ‘Why we fight? ‘ Because a glut of money is made.

    Has anybody investigated the labyrinth of the gargantuan profit made by the war machines manufacturers and the milliard of private contractors? I wonder how much of the public fund has been already transferred into their opaque pockets. They will gut the nation eventually, if allowed to continue with no restraint. This is the first of a ‘commercial war’ a nation is waging. Just as the fossil fuel industry will keep destroying the planet for profit, a war industry will keep killing people for profit. Parasites within can kill the host nation, and they will survive somewhere else.

  4. The purpose of America’s endless unwinnable cabinet wars was explained clearly in George Orwell’s book 1984:

    The primary aim of modern warfare is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living. Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society. From the moment when the machine first made its appearance it was clear to all thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great extent for human inequality, had disappeared. If the machine were used deliberately for that end, hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy, and disease could be eliminated within a few generations. And in fact, without being used for any such purpose, but by a sort of automatic process — by producing wealth which it was sometimes impossible not to distribute — the machine did raise the living standards of the average humand being very greatly over a period of about fifty years at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction — indeed, in some sense was the destruction — of a hierarchical society. In a world in which everyone worked short hours, had enough to eat, lived in a house with a bathroom and a refrigerator, and possessed a motor-car or even an aeroplane, the most obvious and perhaps the most important form of inequality would already have disappeared. If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction. It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in which wealth, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be evenly distributed, while power remained in the hands of a small privileged caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance. (..)

    In principle the war effort is always so planned as to eat up any surplus that might exist after meeting the bare needs of the population.(..) The social atmosphere is that of a besieged city, where the possession of a lump of horseflesh makes the difference between wealth and poverty. And at the same time the consciousness of being at war, and therefore in danger, makes the handing-over of all power to a small caste seem the natural, unavoidable condition of survival.

    Source: “1984,” George Orwell (nee Eric Blair), 1948.

  5. We could get fancy and try to deconstruct this summary dismissal of you – “You just have not seen enough people bleed to death.” – but we don’t need to. Explanation from the street: the guy’s a jerk-off.

    1. Marc,

      I don’t know him personally, and dislike such personal devaluations.

      Operationally he is a well-known figure, widely quoted on the Internet as an authority due to his military background, and runs an influential website.

      The bottom line is that Americans today follow these kinds of guys. Unfortunately, IMO.

  6. The rest of the world views the United States differently from how it views itself:

    “…as 2013 ends a global poll finds that the country seen as representing the greatest threat to peace today is … the United States.

    Not only did the U.S. top the list with an aggregate of 24 percent, but the runner-up threat country, Pakistan, was way behind at eight percent. China was third at six percent, followed by North Korea, Iran and Israel at five percent each.”

    http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/and-country-posing-greatest-threat-peace-2013-ends

    To the extent that the United States has a technological supremacy at least with respect to military items, it perhaps can disregard this opinion. ( Of course, other tools, such as economic, could be deployed against the Untied States, but for present purposes, I am collapsing all such items under the umbrella term, “military.”)

    Otherwise, we may predict that – should this viewpoint persist – then steps will be taken to remove those supporting the Unites States’ war efforts from the decision making loop.

    1. Duncan,

      Thanks for raising this issue. It is something I have often mentioned, but never fully grappled with.

      We have become quite belligerent. I wonder if someday we might step over a line, so that the other major nations see us as a threat to be contained.

      This has happened in fiction. In “Sum of All a Fears” Tom Clancy describes a President who attempts to nuke a city in Iran to get one guy, stopped only by the heroic Jack Ryan.

      In the backstory to David Gerrold’s “Chtorr” series the USA does something similar, not described, so that long-term crippling sanctions are levied by the world’s nations.

  7. I do not agree that 4gw wars are “not wars” – that’s a thin fig-leaf attempting to hide the very real fact that they are wars and that the most expensive military in history lost them, anyway.

    Were they politics by means of violence? Were they geopolitical? Were there winners and losers and dead people and loss of treasure and life? They were wars. Stop downplaying it: the US lost them. These are defeats of the magnitude of Darius going against Greece, or Cannae. Horrible defeats. Expensive defeats. Calling it “4gw” is a cheap attempt to minimize them. Yes, there are new aspects to this form of warfare… But what is germane is not those details, but the strategic impact of those defeats.

  8. George Orwell, eh?

    I’m surprised you didn’t link President Eisenhower’s famous speech on the subject: the Military-Industrial Complex speech (at the end of his 2nd Term).

    This blog has undergone an editorial change over the years, and I haven’t kept current, so pardon me if I’m somewhat out of date.

    Chet Richards definition of Fourth Generation Warfare, to the best of my recollection, was never as a zero sum substitute for the engagement of conventional, or 3GW military forces. As the debate on 4GW on this blog a decade ago DID include a number of threads relating to the ‘institutionalization’ of 4GW ‘units’ or ‘forces’, it shouldn’t be necessary to revisit well worn arguments/positions. In fact, current readers and contributors would probably find those old debates quite informative, in as much as a very large number of the supporting propositions and/or criticisms have been exposed or borne out over time.

    Personally, I think a distinction should be made between the conflict/war in Afghanistan versus Iraq. The former was a case of the United States invoking Article 5 of the NATO Treaty.

    The latter was undertaken beginning in the first Bush Admin as a United Nations action, which was organized around a political/diplomatic goal of opposing aggression, but not the removal from political power of baathist regime responsible. (I’m sure there are some people around to this day who believe in the soundness of that weird concept, but I’m not among them). As a result the US (and others), was roped into a UN negotiated ‘containment’, a policy that was especially favored by the Clinton Admin. and US Dept of State (for their own respective reasons)…

    So let us, for clarity’s sake, call a horse a horse. Those of us who objected to the first Gulf War as a New World Order folly, and UN scam, were regularly mocked as “isolationist reactionaries” and such, yet I believe it’s now a matter of record that our substantive objections were overwhelmingly proven justified. Likewise regarding the end of the Cold War, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and objections to the retention (and expansion) of the NATO Treaty, unaltered or amended with regards to Article 5 in particular, and other dubious (and expensive) commitments on the part of the US, generally. Can any reader identify three US Senators, period, who’re openly in favor of gutting/rewriting the NATO Treaty? How about sitting US Generals? Admirals? (Retired guys chiming in from the golf links don’t count!).

    A solution to this problem springs right to mind, but that’s a post for a non game day!

    A. Scott Crawford

  9. It’s not a country, it’s multinational corporations, private banks and the military/financial mafia that have economies larger than most countries. People are being bled dry of theirr national wealth by these corporations who constitute a much greater threat to their way of life than any other nation state.
    The question should be answered with a ‘what’ — Liberalism is America’s worst enemy and folks have allowed it to happen.

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