I was staring at my book shelves trying to be inspired this morning and noticed something. There are a lot of books about war there. My Sci-Fi collection is a who’s who of daring do in camouflage, armor and space suits. For military reference, I have collected most of the major works. The sections on religion and psychology are to better understand the way groups think. Economics are a part of war and society. Even my favorites from the classics have conflict. All of that is understandable when you consider what I have done for most of my life.
What I don’t have are a lot of self-help books or feel good easy readers. I’ve tried a couple and even kept “Siddhartha” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance” because they are good stories in their own right. There are no magic pills or philosophies that can cure the world. Governments can’t give enough to lift everyone out of poverty. We cannot all embrace the one true god, simply because we can’t agree on how we are supposed to pray to him and what his rules are. I don’t believe there are any simple answers. People are to diverse and selfish to have easy answers.
This brings us back to war. War is not evil. The effects can be tragic. The loss of life seems pointless. Financial cost are ruinous to at least one of the parties. For all that they are fought by nations, states and religious or political entities only a fraction of the population actually gets involved in the fighting. Collateral damage means that those near the fighting suffer the same fate as the soldiers. Lives and homes are ripped away by buzzing clouds of fire and steel, by Generals trying to reduce to overall cost of war. The perverse logic of combat being the faster you destroy your enemies ability to fight, the less damage you inflict in the long run.
As a world spanning civilization are we slower to go to war than 100 years ago? Would the terrorist attacks of 9/11 have launched a devastating reprisal, holding Saudi Arabia responsible for the actions of it’s citizens? Probably not, another thing that has changed is our ability to project force around the world. The decision cycle is dramatically shorter, too. In the early 1900’s it still took information days to cross the continent. We didn’t have a standing Army large enough to confront another nation. Gathering and shipping supplies around the world would have taken, as it did, the mobilization of most of the countries population. Additionally, the 250,000 Soldiers, Sailors and Marines would have been required to stay there for the duration. No. I don’t believe our response would have been the same.
Something about war. It is cathartic, purging. The anger and outrage are washed away in the blood and bodies left on the battlefield. The ultimate punishment delivered to the faceless enemy by shattering a nation. Now, we even have national remorse and survivors guilt. PTSD on a massive social scale. We feel so overwhelmed that we help rebuild their shattered infrastructure. An extension of the Marshall Plan, to put the people back to work. What happens is that US contracting companies hire local unskilled labor and only introduce short lived fiscal stimulation that leaves worse behind later.
We want good intentions and self-restraint to be our hallmarks. Instead it’s like watching the little kids try to gang up on the big kid on the playground. When the big kid fights back, the protest is against the victim for defending themselves. Restraint is well and good if it produces results. In war it only draws out the conflict by allowing the little kids to think they are capable of beating the big kid. After the fight, the big kid helps the “poor victim” back to his house, only to be berated by Mom.
We should be who we are. We became a world power and super power by working harder than anyone else. We have limited friends, unless we pay for them. We are resented and despised on a global scale. Pretending anything else isn’t real politic, it is just stupid.