29 October 2006

Clarifications, assorted:

1) Lest anyone be confused, when I say that war is normal, I am not in any way saying that this is a good thing. Seriously, it freakin' sucks. And it sucks a lot worse for those of us who fight it. But it's necessary.

Let me argue by analogy.

Changing diapers is an utterly necessary part of parenthood. That doesn't make 'em smell like rosebushes. If you don't, however, the whole house ends up smelling like crap, the kid gets a henious rash on his butt, and the environment is created for a lot of crazy parasitic infections and/or diseases. That doesn't mean changing diapers is the end-all and be-all of parenthood, however.

If you want kids (or end up with them in spite of your wishes), you deal with diapers. If you want to live on Planet Earth with a couple billion greedy assholes, you deal with the reality of violence.

2) As a further development of this point, war creates nothing good. Nothing positive comes from killing folks. Stuff gets blown up, people get hurt and die, and that's as much a definition of 'war' as exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen is a definition of breathing.

What war does is prevent people from either stealing or destroying things of value that your society has. It creates nothing good, but secures the liberty to create everything of value.

3) Korea was not a loss. It was our most misunderstood war.

Korea was not a declared war because of the new understanding of war created by the idealistic bullshit spun around WWI. Back in 1898 we fought a couple wars like Korea, but backwards. We didn't like what someone was doing with their colonial empire, so we took part of it away. Korea was a case of an imperial power (Soviet Union) using a proxy state to try to take away one of our proxy states. The great game of states, as it has been played for millenia. We stopped them cold, then tried to take away the Soviet Union's proxy state. Another imperial power decided they liked having DPRK as a buffer zone against our proxy state, and committed troops to restore the situation. So all parties settled for status quo ante bellum, more or less.

Here's where the disconnect is. Americans don't like/understand wars fought for reasons of policy. WWI was supposed to be the war to end all wars, instituting an era of international peace and brotherhood where we would all be reasonable and sing kumbaya while holding hands around the damned campfire. Because to tell the truth--that the United States was fighting to preserve French and British colonial empires from a competitor that was not substantially different in any way, in a war that the French and Russians provoked deliberately with British cheerleading--would not have played in Peoria.

So 20 years later, when the Germans finally decide that the irrational and punitive "peace" conditions are not something they are interested in tolerating any longer and restart the war, FDR and Winnie Churchill, in order to bring a reluctant US population in to preserve the British Empire AGAIN, sell WWII as a great moral crusade. After the war it turns out that sure enough the Germans and Japanese were genocidal lunatics this time around. Hooray, the "moral crusade" propaganda and the reality actually line up. It's shocking, I know. First time in history since the baby-sacrificing Carthaginians went out of business.

Along comes Korea. Classic limited war for limited goals, not a grand crusade against evil to crush it once and for all, blahblahblah.

But America doesn't want to hear that. They don't want to hear that it has more to do with power politics as they are played in the Real World than grand ideas. So Truman soft-pedals the war. This scheme is taken to an even more irrational extreme in Vietnam, which is why the American public did finally abandon that war when we were not losing by any rational definition of the word.

4) The above is not intended as a slam on the actual goals of American foreign policy. On a whole, they are far more decent than they are given credit for--and if decency is good business then it is good business. American foreign policy is driven by the fact that people who aren't killing each other make far better customers for McDonalds and Hollywood movies than people who are worried about the savage the next bush over knocking them in the head with a machete. Might be a selfish motivation, but the end result is that we keep trying to keep savages from knocking each other in the head with machetes. Contrast with European colonial empires which tended to pick one particular group of savages, make sure they had all the machetes, and put them in charge of knocking the other groups of savages over the head if they didn't behave.

This is why Iraq's small Sunni minority has run the damn place for decades. They were the British's favorite savages.


Blogger Zero Ponsdorf said...

re: Korea. Reckon I'm looking at it from a MacArthur sort of perspective. If we exclude that, then yeah it was a sort of win. It did re-establish the Status Quo as you say. With all that said and the wonder of hindsight it was no better than a tie in my mind. The term Pyrrhic victory comes to mind.

2:44 AM  
Anonymous cMAD said...

"War creates nothing good" is an incomplete way of looking at things.

War creates lots of business opportunities for defense contractors ... and possibly lifelong job security for soldiers.

7:51 PM  
Blogger A Soldier's Girl said...

cmad- You're splitting rabbits.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Consul-At-Arms said...

"War creates lots of business opportunities for defense contractors ... and possibly lifelong job security for soldiers."

Perhaps for some very narrow values of "good" these might qualify, but that sort of weasel-wording is worthy only of politicians, lawyers and other lower lifeforms.

2:10 AM  
Blogger sophia said...

So, to clarify: You're saying that Americans, in general, want wars to be moral crusades, but many times they have not actually moral crusades.
Are you saying that the goal of some wars is to bring peace to an area so that they can be our customers?
I really like your diaper analogy, but to me, it only works if there is some component to wars which result in order to protect a greater number of people from greater harm/atrocities. It doesn't work for me if the war is just to set up govts that encourage a culture which will buy our products.

Please forgive my ignorance, I'm trying to understand.

Also, a friend of mine has a nephew who is just arriving to Iraq as a gunner from Ft Hood. Is there any way you might run across him if I gave you his name?

11:49 AM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

I think American economic interests are our primary national interests, and that we go to war to protect those interests, but that this is more or less a good thing, because our naive idealism about the way the world works tends to get in the way of the rawest deals and requires out government to work with our ideals.

OK, that was crayfishing. Ummm. . . basically, the kind of governments that are best at creating economic success stories are those which respect the rule of law, have high responsiveness to the wishes of their people, low levels of corruption, and protect human rights, civil rights, and economic/property rights.

In other words, a government that meets with the moral approval of most Americans is also a government that is most likely to produce customers that can afford American products.

Given that this is true, does it really matter whether the leadership of the country is more interested in the commercial or the moral side?

Unfortunately, the folks from Hood are going to Baghdad, which is about 8 hours convoy time. I'm unlikely to run into him.

9:44 PM  

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