Warriors = Anti-warriors (Is war a means or an end?)

Many anti-(Iraq)-war folks are actually truly anti-war (pacificsts). They believe war (and the killing/responsibility associated with it) is inherently bad and must be avoided at all costs. These folks are the mirror image of the classical warrior who believes that war/courage/victory/glory is inherently good. They are both irrationally obsessed with war, both fetishizing kiling and death. They are both, fundamentally warriors, just handling that fetish in different ways.

Both these views are ancient and basically religious. They contrast with the modern (secular humanist view), propounded by Clausewitz, that “war is the continuation of policy/politics by other means.” The purpose of war/politics/policy is to achieve ends we consider desirable. The correct assesment of whether the Iraq/Afghan wars are good/bad for the US is in terms of goals such as strenghtening/weakening the US vis-a-vis likely enemies, increasing/decreasing the risk of WMD terrorism, increasing/decreasing the risk of oil supply shocks (to the economy), impoving/degrading the quality of life for the Iraqi people, etc.

The question is whether you are mature enough to take responsibility for the choices you make. The fetishizing of war is about whether the gods reward/punish killing. The modern view is that people will die/be-killed no matter what choice you make, so you have to take care to choose well.

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3 Responses to Warriors = Anti-warriors (Is war a means or an end?)

  1. Tom Bevan says:

    I disagree with your characterization that many opponents of the war are fetishists. It is difficult to see how American interests are served at all by this war.
    A Clausewitzian realist ought to be shocked by the intermingling of personal greed and ideology represented by the current US Irak policy.

  2. Note, I don’t have any proof about war opponents. It is just my interpretation of the knee-jerk pacifism of many with whom I’ve spoken. When I see protesters carrying signs saying “Forall X, US out of X” or objecting to ANY prospective action, the choices are either that they are simply anti-US or that they are anti-war. There is a stark absence of e.g. Osama out of Afghanistan. Iraq out of Kuwait. Saddam out of Iraq, etc. There is a stark absence of advocacy of ANY positive action. Just a NO NO NO NO.

    I thought this piece did a good job covering the realist position in favor of the war. You can disagree with the realist position, but it definitely exists.

    Personally, I have yet to see good evidence of personal greed being served by this action.

    Re ideology, the neo-con bet is that the only long term solution to terrorism is assimilation into the liberal democratic world (where people don’t engage in terrorism). Unlike traditional non-clausewitzian realism (that ignores the people), the neo-cons recognize the full clausewitzian trinity: (1) primordial violence, hatred, and enmity; (2) the play of chance and probability; and (3) war’s element of subordination to rational policy. They believe that history shows only two ways of dealing w/ #1, liberal democracy or scapegoating/conquest/terrorism/genocide. By exporting the former, they think we can supress the later.

  3. Tom Bevan says:

    Re Greed:
    Over $10b US was released for reconstruction and many contracts were awarded without competitive tender to companies closely associated with those in the administration. It may not be evidence but it certainly smells.

    Re Terrorism:
    I don’t think Irak was ever linked with terrorism. In fact, Irak was a secular state extremely hostile to exactly the same sort of extremist Islamic groups that are the target of the war on terror.

    I am wary of your use of the term ‘realist’ as it seems to imply that opponents of the war are somehow idealists; and idealism seems a poor basis for state policy.

    No doubt the administration has a position, but the next few years will show how pragmatic it has been.

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