Keeping War Between Iraq and a Hard Place
by Randall Amster
It has to be difficult these days being a purveyor of militarism and saber-rattling warmongering. Oh sure, the pay is still good and the work looks steady for the foreseeable future — plus the perquisites of power seem relatively intact. But the shine has definitely come off the enterprise, leaving one to wonder what will become of the true diehards who are too slow and stodgy to change with the coming global tide.
At least since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, there has been a notable diminution of the appetite for war, at least among “the people” if not yet those ostensibly in power to represent said people. From the tragic absurdity of WMD and “Mission Accomplished” to the calamitous realities of Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, the Iraq War has finally given the lie to the already-tattered mythos of the “good war.”
This doesn’t mean that war is ended once and for all, of course. We can still skip on over to Afghanistan and escalate things there for a while, even as that theater has become increasingly macabre and the public taste for the conflict gone sour. The chicken hawks took us to Libya for a while, but the blowback there was almost instantaneous and the political fallout still lingers. We’ve gone drone-happy over Pakistan, Yemen, and many other sovereign nations, but that doesn’t seem to sate the hawks’ bloodlust.
Next up is Iran. Or maybe Syria. Perhaps North Korea. Take your pick and place your bets. Either way, the public attention span is likely to be limited, after the opening salvos are fired and the war moves down the news queue. Poor war, barely even on the evening news anymore. The old-school realists no doubt long for the days when their exploits dominated dinner tables and water coolers everywhere.
Nowadays, the war machine churns along uninterrupted, but hardly anyone notices much. That’s not fair — after all, what good is obscene wealth and power if others aren’t enviously paying rapt attention? The only solution is to reclaim the glory and righteousness with another incontrovertible “just cause,” but you can’t go to that well too often in one generation. Even the hardliners can get patriotism fatigue.
There’s really only one obvious way out of this downward spiral to self-inflicted oblivion: give it up, and convert the entire operation over to green energy, human rights, conservation, and social welfare. This would still provide that sense of “higher moral purpose” and “call to duty” that so many have cut their teeth on over the decades. Indeed, William James suggested precisely as much over a century ago.
Do the world a favor, folks, and offer support to a local warmonger as the transition takes place. Like their cousins in the gun lobby, the militarists will simply have to adjust to a new world in which their old thinking is seen as quaint and obsolete. Let’s send them off with the appropriate level of pomp and circumstance, an engraved wristwatch, and a lifetime subscription to the Military Channel. Good times!
But seriously, we can do this. Abolishing war in our time is imperative and nothing to laugh about. As JFK said a half century ago, we must put an end to war or war will put an end to us. There’s nothing ambiguous here — just plain old good sense and the lessons of history to guide the way. Stop. It. Now.
Like many others, I’ve probably said all of this too many times to count. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth saying again, and again, and again until it’s finally “mission accomplished” for real. Here’s the upshot: war is passé, wasteful, morally and economically bankrupt, pragmatically unjustifiable, self-defeating, politically corrosive, sociopathic, genocidal, and most definitely not inevitable. It’s time to end it.
Some have argued that war is already on the way out, pointing out that recent decades have seen less of it around the world, and further that the rise of the globalized economy is a hedge against conflicts erupting into wars. But this is merely a deflection of the larger issues, since an unjust and unsustainable economic system often appears to be a form of warfare by other means. We can do better than this.
For starters, let’s memorialize the peacemakers, the ones who struggle against injustice every day in their communities, the ones who practice nonviolence in their lives and politics alike, the ones who promote right relations among ourselves and with the earth, the ones who never give up hope. At least, let’s remember the lessons from yesterday’s wars and make better decisions in the future…
Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D., is the Graduate Chair of Humanities at Prescott College. He serves as Executive Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Association, and is the publisher and editor of New Clear Vision. Among his recent books are Anarchism Today (Praeger, 2012) and Lost in Space: The Criminalization, Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness (LFB Scholarly, 2008).