One does tire of the simplistic rhetoric of self-proclaimed “peace advocates,” the ones who often use the Christmas season as opportunity to point out mankind’s flawed and violent nature, which they contend far too often trends toward war.
Take Barbara Kelly, writing in the Savannah News. She begins a recent column by stating that “we are a young and evolving species, and seem to have much trouble being at, or staying at, peace.”
She then takes aim at the United States when writes: “Many think of our nation as a peaceful one, but this is not the case. Our country is 235 years old, and for 209 of those years we have been at war. Some declared and some not – but the dead don’t care about the distinction.”
Kelly, as many do, make the mistake of assigning equal guilt to all combatants when she writes that most wars are about money.
While she may be correct that most wars today are indeed about money in one form or another – whether it be territory, citizens who can boost industrial output and gross domestic product, or simple wealth acquisition through plunder – the inference that all combatants is both wrong and simplistic.
The most obvious example of this is World War II. Allied forces such as Poland, France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union fought against Nazi Germany out of self-preservation.
The United States entered the fray after being attacked by Germany’s partner, Japan. Even before this, though, the Americans had began assisting the Allies by through such programs as Lend-Lease, essentially throwing their lot in with the side they believed to be right.
Did US manufacturers benefit from production of war materiel? Certainly, but they were also heavily taxed on profits. And no matter what, no country comes out ahead by creating goods which are then sent to be destroyed in war. The opportunity costs are huge, not to mention the toll in lives.
Kelly lists several of the conflicts the US has been involved since its inception: The Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican American War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, Indian American War, World War I, World War II, Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Invasion of Grenada, Invasion of Panama, Operation Desert Storm, Operation United Shield, Operation Determined Falcon, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom.
First, lumping them all together as though they were all cut from the same cloth is inane. The American Revolution has as much in common with the Indian wars of the late 19th century as a McRib has in common with actual ribs. One was a war for American freedom, the other of American subjugation.
Other wars were of varying necessity: For those that argue that the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, to name just a few, were unnecessary, try asking the people who lived under the tyrants who ruled those areas either before the Americans arrived or after they left.
That’s not to say the US hasn’t overstepped on occasion; no country is perfect, and America is no exception.
But to simply attribute the United State’s military efforts over the past 235 years, as Kelly appears to do, to little more than a concerted effort to line the pockets of industrialists is one-dimensional and misleading.
Kelly ends her piece with the following:
In closing, I think of a quote by a great man who was very familiar with war, and later worked for peace. He knew the atrocities of war, and didn’t glorify it.
‘Every gun that is fired, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signified, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.’
These are the words of a great General, and president from 1953 to 1961 – Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Republicans would never nominate such a man now. Too bad.
The point of this blog is not to carry the standard for the Republican Party, but I’d counter Kelly’s statement with a quote by a great man who was also very familiar with war, and later worked for peace. He knew the atrocities of war, and didn’t glorify it.
“In my generation, this was not the first occasion when the strong had attacked the weak … Communism was acting in Korea just as Hitler, Mussolini, and the Japanese had acted ten, fifteen, and twenty years earlier.”
These are the words of a man who saw action in World War I, authorized the atomic bombing of Japan and served as president from 1945 to 1953 – Harry S Truman. The Democrats would never nominate such a man now. Too bad.
While it would be wonderful if we lived in a world where everyone was willing to settle their differences peacefully, to stand by and refuse to act while harm befalls a neighbor – whether it be an individual or a nation – is not a virtue but a vice.