I remember there was a time where a lot of people who had fought wars hated war. Dwight Eisenhower said as much often, but then again, he actually seemed to mean it. He could have escalated with the USSR over the Hungary crackdown and over China over Quemoy and Matsu, but he didn’t. He didn’t try to implement the “rollback” doctrine that he promised, thankfully betraying the wingnuts. And he even cut defense spending to lower the deficit. Which is not to say more of him than he deserves–the farewell speech he gave that precedes every antiwar documentary strikes me as a monument to hypocrisy more than anything–but the basic fact is that if he had wanted war, he could have had it. He didn’t want it. And while it’s very far from the truth that anybody who lived through WWII was turned into a dove by the experience–this is a group that includes Curtis LeMay as well as the architects of Vietnam, of course, and mostly the same people decided to fight another war five years after WWII ended–but quite a lot of people who had fought it came to the conclusion that war was not at all a good thing. Many of them served in office in both parties afterward, and are probably why we’re all alive.

I think about this when Jim Mattis rattles Kim Jong Un’s cage. I don’t know if Mattis really wants to go to war with North Korea. But he doesn’t act like somebody who doesn’t want war. Perhaps he does, most likely he thinks what he’s doing will make it less likely, though I’m not really sure if that makes it better. As someone who’s read a dozen books on WWI I’m not at all confident in that approach (also not for nothing his nickname is “Mad Dog”). But aside from him, I’m hard pressed to think of a top well-known military officer who seems to hate the whole idea of war, even if admitting that it times it may be necessary. All the ones I read basically think we need to stay in Afghanistan forever and many hate that we got out of Iraq in the first place. Probably a lot of reasons for that. But I think it is something to bear in mind.

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  1. Metavirus says:

    Perhaps it has to do with the redefinition of “war” after Vietnam.  What “real” “wars” do we really have?  The war on drugs and the war on terrorism.  Even the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The new “wars” are removed from good, everyday folk, except for the ethnic Poors and the hypnotized white nationalist enclaves.  WAR Wars, REAL wars, in most people’s minds, mean a broad military draft and millions of Americans killed.  A few thousand a year?  Meh.  Civilian casualties?  Double meh.  If meh is the general attitude, without a broad constituency of (white, upper/middle class) war widows marching in the streets, politicians gonna politic.  Besides which, the new wars are great for scaremongering, fundraising and deflecting attention from society’s real ills.  When do you think you’ll ever see a credible politician call for rationalizing our terrorism policy back into a form of law enforcement, like we had for most of our history as a country? “Support our troops” means getting off easy with a flag pin and occasionally thanking a person in uniform for their service — instead of, you know, pulling them out of harms way when they don’t need to be there.

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