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Peaceniks, militarism and idolatry

5 September 2007

Jonathan of Thicket and Thorp discusses a couple of pro-war articles in the US publication City Journal. His review of The peace racket is quite scary.

Over the last 15-20 years, electronic communication networks have made the thinking of people in distant parts of the world more accessible to others. First on bulletin board (BBS) networks like Fidonet, then on Usenet newsgroups, and now on web journals and blogs, it has become possible to get a clearer picture of what ordinary people in other countries are thinking. This is particularly so in the case of the USA, where there has been greater penetration of electronic networking, and so a bigger proportion of Americans’ views is accessible to people elsewhere.

So one becomes aware that publications like City Journal both reflect and shape the opinions of a very large number of Americans, and the kind of paranoia reflected in its pages is not regarded as unusual in the USA, but is rather seen by many as normal and normative. That is scary.

Jonathan’s review of the second article, Why study war? is excellent, and well worth reading. The article’s author, Victor Davis Hanson, urges the study of military history. Jonathan notes, correctly in my view, that Hanson’s problem is not so much that people are not studying military history, but that they are learning the “wrong” lessons from it. For example, Hanson says,

Military history is as often the story of appeasement as of warmongering. The destructive military careers of Alexander the Great, Caesar, Napoleon, and Hitler would all have ended early had any of their numerous enemies united when the odds favored them. Western air power stopped Slobodan Milošević’s reign of terror at little cost to NATO forces—but only after a near-decade of inaction and dialogue had made possible the slaughter of tens of thousands. Affluent Western societies have often proved reluctant to use force to prevent greater future violence. “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things,” observed the British philosopher John Stuart Mill. “The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.”

On the Internet the term “appeasement” was flung about a lot just before the US invasion of Iraq by Americans seeking to justify their Leader’s war of aggression against that country. Perhaps it was because their own ignorance of military (or political or diplomatic) history that they failed to realise that “appeasement” was an entirely inappropriate image to support their position. The appeasers were those of the “coalition of the willing” who sought to appease George Bush in his insatiable thirst for conquest of other countries. It is George Bush II who, like Caesar, Napoleon and Hitler, sought to conquer other countries on the flimsiest of pretexts. As Neville Chamberlain was accused of encouraging Hitler in his conquest of Austria and Poland, so his successor Tony Blair failed to stand up to George Bush, and he, John Howard and other members of the “coalition of the willing” were the real appeasers.

As for stopping “Slobodan Milosevic’s reign of terror”, that indicates another seriously flawed understanding of history, whether military, political or diplomatic. Nato propped up the reigns of terror of Tudjman and Izetbegovic in the Balkans, and the war of Nato aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999 took place because because Madeleine Albright was determined to have war at all costs. She it was who declared that she thought the price of half a million children’s lives was “worth it” to maintain US hegemony in the Middle East. Alexander the Great, Caesar, Napoleon and Hitler would have understood, though they would doubtless have preferred the the benefits to accrue to their own empires.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 6 September 2007 7:08 am

    So, let me get this straight: you compare Bush to Hitler, but not Saddam? Isn’t it strange? Look up Baath party, you’ll find that it is National-Socialist.
    On the other hand, I do agree with you in regard to Yugoslavia. Although, the Serbs I worked with did not particularly like Milosevic either.

  2. 6 September 2007 8:22 am

    Oh yes, I compare Bush to Saddam too. Saddam invaded Kuwait, Bush II invaded Iraq. So both were invaders.

    No, I didn’t much like Slobodan Milosevic either. He, Tudjman and Izetbegovic were unreconstructed communist warlords, but supporting one against the others, or two against the third, didn’t help to solve Yugoslavia’s problems, and the Nato invasion hasn’t stopped ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, which continues to this day.

    The point is that wars of aggression usually cause more problems than they solve, as Napoleon, Hitler and Saddam learned to their cost. George Bush hasn’t learned that yet, though it is costing other people plenty. Saddam made a mess of Iraq, but George Bush has made an even bigger mess of it, and seems determined to make sure that no one else will be able to fix it when he’s gone.

  3. 7 September 2007 8:56 pm

    Steve, while I agree completely with you that wars of aggression usually cause more problems than they solve, as witness not only the Iraq invasion but the NATO bombing of Kosovo, I differ with you that Madeleine Albright literally thought the price of half a million children’s lives was “worth it” to maintain US hegemony in the Middle East. She was tagged with this view about the half million children, which she later said was “stupid”, in answer to a question posed by Leslie Stahl on PBS about the sanctions on Iraq where Stahl was saying that the sanctions were causing these deaths and were they “worth it” to which Albright answered, Yes. The sanctions may not have been “worth it” especially since Saddam was siphoning off much of the goods, but at least Albright wasn’t in favor of launching the Iraq war in 2003. (See Spiegel Interview) As for the Kosovo bombing campaign in 1999, that was clearly a terrible mistake but I can’t believe her motives were to maintain hegemony in the Middle East, although you were probably thinking of Iraq there, because Kosovo was of no great strategic value to us. I think her motives were more personal, and it’s tragic the way it turned out, which could have been predicted.

  4. 8 September 2007 8:59 am


    No, I didn’t mean that Madeleine Albright wanted the bombing of Yugoslavia to maintain US hegemony in the Middle East. The point was that the was just as bent on war against Yugoslavia as George Bush was bent on war against Iraq — they did not see war as the last resort in solving a problem that could be solved inno other way. They saw was as an end in itself, something to be desired for its own sake, and saw peaceful solutions as dangerous obstacles that could impede the main goal — to have a war. That is why Bush and Albright are (rightly) called warmongers.

  5. I.M. Small permalink
    14 November 2007 6:04 pm


    O, man with your loud megaphone
    You can broadcast your spiel
    To every ear: when you are done
    That will not make it real.

    O, instrument of state–you, man–
    Blare words to beardless youth,
    Grizzled octogenarian–
    Yet it will not be truth.


  1. Study war no more — questioning assumptions « Notes from underground

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