Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize while we are fighting two wars (plus all the pseudo-wars on various things) got me thinking about war and peace.
Establishing a lasting peace is obviously a rather difficult thing. After all, humans seem to have been in a constant state of war since the get go. Even the young United States has been almost constantly at war: Revolutionary Way, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, The Gulf war, the Second Gulf War, and so on. This, of course, does not include all the smaller wars and internal conflicts. Given the history of our species one might suspect that the following describes our fate: a new threat, a new ambition…war without end.
Interestingly, while people often claim that war is intolerable, they are clearly mistaken. We tolerate it quite well. Well enough to, as noted above, keep it going. One reason for this is that we are a highly adaptable species.
On the positive side, this quality allows us to survive terrible things as individuals and as a species. We can become accustomed to harsh conditions, terrible challenges, violence and all manner of things. While some individuals do break and perish, the species as a whole has adapted quite well to war. So well that although we profess to dislike it, we keep it going and going. The irony is, of course, that this survival trait might spell our end. As the saying goes, if we do not end war, then war will one day end us.
Then again, perhaps not. Perhaps we can constantly adapt to new ways of killing and waging war and we will go on, but will go on fighting. Perhaps peace is an impossibility and our natural state is, as Hobbes argued, a state of war.
War is obsolete for the market state, except to defend itself from those states or factions that have not yet fully joined the market economy. Market states no longer can gain anything from initiating wars; they can only try to prevent injuries from enemies.
I know this: To be in denial about what war is, even as it rages around us, only prolongs the pain. And may even result in losing the war.
It is difficult to have this discussion with anyone, as they start erecting so many strawmen that I spend most of my time having to chop those down, instead of actually making my point. To talk about fighting and killing always brings the tired old labels of fascism and scorched earth policy. Kill the enemy, is the simple formula. Rome got it. Cooperate, stop fighting, and you will be treated well and given the benefit of our empire. Continue your rebellion and you’ll find your cities leveled.
And though I don’t believe in scorched earth, it actually has a much better track record than anything we’re doing now.
Even as we sit here, we are losing a war to a rag-tag, undisciplined, smaller, poorly equipped, underfed army. Does anyone ask why this is? Our focus is brought to bear on the Taliban, as our troops withdraw from Iraq. We deny what war is. We want, beyond all rational study, to make war painless. So we lose. Our foes are more in touch with their primordial instincts than us; we only know television. We perceive the Taliban as a static opponent, instead on one that understands counterinsurgency and reads our manuals. Do you think they don’t know we’re trying to get the people to our side? Do you think they’ll give up? No. They don’t care about the philosophy of war. They only care that it works when properly applied. In the last year, the Taliban’s fighting forces have grown to 25,000 men, even as our troops walk around and shake hands. Tell me of one other war that we’ve won, where we waited around and hoped an uneducated populace would win the war for us if we could only make them like us more than they do the bad guys.
You better tell your man in office about Hobbes. You better show him a history book and tell him that while it is admirable to long and work for peace, you’d better be ready to kill those who see it otherwise. That means killing the men who take up arms against our troops. Hunting them ruthlessly. We can even spare the poor baby-skinned politicians the gruesome details if they’d like. We can tell them we handed out baby formula and coloring books and the Taliban threw down their weapons. They’d get plenty of votes from detatched voters if they could tell that story.
The philisophical debate about war’s place in human nature is simple. The playground is as good as any war college or university when it comes to studying conflict.
Obama is too busy being concerned about Fox News Channel to worry about some silly war.
Look at the delay…