Submitted by Marvin Miller
As our country expands its involvement in various wars around the world, it becomes increasingly hard to think about other things. In the recent PBS series on the Roosevelts, FDR was shown saying, after Pearl Harbor, that the New Deal had to be put aside in favor of devoting all efforts to winning the war.
Instead of life, liberty, and happiness, wars generate death, repression, and suffering.
Wars have a momentum of their own which takes its participants where they did not intend or expect to go. No one in 1861 expected the Civil War to last four years killing over half a million people. In the years leading to the second world war, bombing civilians from airplanes, as in Ethiopia by the Italians and in Spain by the Germans (depicted in Picasso’s famous painting “Guernica”) was considered criminally barbaric (except perhaps by those who did it), but both sides in the second world war did it, culminating in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In some of today’s wars, noncombatant civilians are the intended targets, but even when they aren’t, some of them inevitably become victims war.
The consequences of military action can sometimes be the opposite of those intended. Attacks by Germany on the the Soviet Union and by Japan on the United States led to the defeat of Germany and Japan and suicides and executions of their leaders. After the airplane-hijackings/suicide bombings of 9/11/01, the United States, instead of treating these acts as international crimes committed by individuals, chose to treat them as acts of war and responded to them with military action in Afghanistan and Iraq. The result: Al Qaeda, then a small group of violent fanatics, has, along with its offshoots and imitators, expanded over a large area where it had never previously existed.
Wars divert attention and resources from everything else.
We now hear predictions from our government leaders that the current war against the violent fanatics responsible for intentionally publicized killings of American and British civilians will last for years. Given the past record of predictions about the duration of wars when they start, years may stretch into decades. How will this war affect the people who will be living in the world in which it is a dominant factor? How will it affect the ability of their society to meet their needs, such as housing, food, healthcare, education, etc.? Military action is highly wasteful and destructive of resources, a strong polluter of the environment. Will everything the people need be postponed to the indefinite future “when the war ends”? Given the vague and decentralized nature of the enemy, how will anyone know when this desired outcome has been achieved?
We are told that those who attack us hate us because of what we are. We like to believe it–we’re most concerned about ourselves, so everyone else must also be most concerned about us, right? Wrong. They’re most concerned about themselves. What a surprise! It’s what we do to them that bothers them. When the Ottoman empire was defeated in World War I, Britain and France became the world’s dominant powers. After World War II they were replaced by the U.S. Some people in the former British and French empires don’t support the idea of hosting governments subservient to U.S. interests. Some of them justify their attitude in terms of their religious ideology. If we stopped making war in those places and treated the inhabitants with respect and kindness, anti-U.S. sentiment among them would most probably evaporate. But: We may be #41 in infant mortality, but we’re #1 in military power. So that’s what we use, with unforeseeable results.