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Why War Persists When War is Obsolete

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Only the backward, the ignorant, the fanatical, and the misled engage in war today, for military victory has become meaningless. The United States is spending a billion dollars a week on a war that we won militarily four years ago. War is obsolete because the major threats of violence come not from nations, but from individuals -- tanks and planes can't stop a single terrorist from blowing up a building. Furthermore, no nation today can successfully invade and occupy another without bankrupting itself. With the billion dollars a week wasted in Iraq the United States could have maintained its decaying infrastructure, preserved and updated its decayed and obsolete educational system, created a universal health care system like those of every other civilized nation, taken care of the wounded and emotionally shattered soldiers that Bush so callously dumped into Iraq without adequate preparation, and so on.

So why has nothing changed? Every literate American today is aware of the Goebbels-like lies and breathtaking deceptions that led the American people to accept the war. And four years later Bush and Petraeus are blandly claiming things are improving, though the Iraqi people themselves report that violence has gotten worse than ever since the s(pl)urge. Yet Congress and the American people seem paralyzed in the face of this blatant lying. Junior has gambled all our money away, but we have to give him even more now or it will have all been for nothing.

We can't seem to admit to ourselves that it was all a huge catastrophic blunder. We can't admit that we were played for fools, and we're willing to destroy our nation rather than face the fact that we were dead wrong, that our president is a pathological liar as well as a fool, and that we allowed ourselves to be duped by his self-deceptions.

Why? I'm sure my friend Elliot Aronson would attribute this paralysis to 'cognitive dissonance' -- the same phenomenon that works so well in fraternity hazings and basic training, where people say to themselves: "if I had to suffer this much humiliation and pain to become a (Phi Delt, Marine) it must be a wonderful group to belong to." In the case of Iraq, it's a willingness to believe more lies rather than admit we've been spectacularly and disastrously conned.

But I think something else -- something deeper and sicker -- is involved.

Little Georgie recently announced that we were "kicking ass" in Iraq. (This juvenile is our president?) A stupid remark but one that says a lot about why so many people feel we have to stay there. If we're not "kicking ass," they say, the world won't respect us any more -- they'll think we're "weak".

For it's all about being macho. Every presidential candidate has to prove to the public that he, or (especially) she, is 'tough' enough. Willing to push the nuclear button. Ready to go to war at the drop of a hat. JFK was called a "fag," a "coward," and a "weakling" because he refused to let leaders in the Pentagon and the CIA trick him into launching a nuclear holocaust. Lyndon Johnson plunged us into the Vietnam war, even though he knew it was hopeless, because he wanted to prove to media critics that he had "balls." How many stupid wars have been fought because of this fear of appearing "weak"? And why should our leaders have to cater to this infantile obsession of immature men?

Political machismo is at bottom hysterical fear. There was the Russian bogeyman, then the Vietnamese bogeyman, and now the Al Qaeda bogeyman. Terrorism is a genuine threat, but it's not a military threat. No armies are coming here. Only individual terrorists who are already here, and in fact, everywhere. Have we forgotten Timothy McVeigh? He blew up a building and killed a lot of people, and we didn't get hysterical about him (is it because the victims were mostly black children instead of adult white males?). Terrorists are not an army, and this obsolete thinking reveals the babyish panic behind the macho stance.

Bush recently said that we have to fight 'them' over there so we won't have to fight 'them' over here, "just like we had to in Vietnam." Although we lost in Vietnam, I don't recall our cities being overrun with Viet Cong soldiers. Europeans seem able to deal with terrorists without getting hysterical like this and invading irrelevant nations. They just find the terrorists and arrest them.

What is machismo, after all, but an abject terror of appearing weak to others? You'd think having enough nuclear warheads to kill ever person on the planet would calm this macho hysteria. Perhaps the reason Americans are such nervous nellies is because we are the world's only industrialized nation in the last century that has never been invaded, or suffered bombing raids. Compared to what most nations have gone through, having a couple of buildings blown up is small potatoes, yet the reaction here has been a level of panic reminiscent of the Red hysteria of the 1950s. Only people who are full of fear have to act tough all the time. Strong people don't need to.

Wars always end in making a deal. Leaders on both sides talk tough, slaughter a lot of women and children, wreak a lot of havoc and destruction, and then, when everyone's sick of it all, they sit down and make a deal. When will we learn to skip the preliminaries and cut to the chase?

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