Wednesday, January 12, 2005

War, Pacifism, and Ideology

In the 20th century and even before that there were three major ideologies-
-Liberal Democracy

These still exist today to a greater or lesser extent depending on the country. In Europe they all exist within a democratic and largely capitalist system. Although both Communism and Conservatism have the possibility off falling into a dictatorship as witnessed by the USSR and Nazi era Germany where nearly all conservatives backed Hitler. Now on to my point none of these ideologies are openly pro-war. This is very interesting and I think it shows how the architects of these systems realized for a broad appeal they could not endorse war. Fascism certainly does endorse war but it happened to be a synthesis of all three political systems. Lets look at all three of these ideologies reasons for being anti-war because they are all different.

First Communism: The main rationale is that all war is essentially class war. The workers of Germany and England are no different and it is the elites that are pushing for war which will further their strategic standing and ultimately their own benefit. Perhaps the best expression of this is found in four time presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs who speaking at a June 16, 1918 socialist rally said the following:

Years ago I declared that there was only one war in which I would enlist and that was the war of the workers of the world against the exploiters of the world. I declared moreover that the working class had no interest in the wars declared and waged by the ruling classes of the various countries upon one another for conquest and spoils.
Second Liberal Democracy: The main rationale is that war in the long term is bad for business. Sending money into warfare will eventually bankrupt a nation as all European governments found out after the first year of WWI. And having hostile governments on your trade routes is not the best for free trade which neo-liberalism economics is all about. The best expression of this can be found in American President Woodrow Wilson's Fourthteen Points that he intended to be the blueprint for peace in Europe. His 2nd, 3rd and 12th points deal directly with the need for free trade:

II. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in
part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.

III. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the
establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.

XII. The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles shouldbe permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.

To guarantee free trade Wilson envisioned that there must be no more secret pacts i.e. Triple Entente, Triple Alliance, arms reduction and self determination (only in Europe though not Africa, Asia, Middle East etc..) This can be seen in points 1 and 4 while specific cases of self-determination can be seen points 6-11 and 13. While the last point urges the creation of an international body ( League of Nations predecessor of the UN).

I. Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.

IV. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with
domestic safety.

XIV. A general association of nations must be formed under
specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

And of course Wilson did not want Germany saddled with a reparations bill because would not be good for trade.

We have no jealousy of German greatness, and there is nothing in this program that impairs it. We grudge her no achievement or distinction of learning or of pacific enterprise such as have made her record very bright and very enviable. We do not wish to injure her or to block in any way her legitimate influence or power. We do not wish to fight her either with arms or with hostile arrangements of trade if she is willing to associate herself with us and the other peace-loving nations of the world in covenants of justice and law and fair dealing. We wish her only to accept a place of equality among the peoples of the world, --the new world in which we now live, -- instead of a place of mastery.
Clearly Woodrow Wilson did not get his wish and in hindsight he certainly had the best plan for a lasting European peace as his documents sounds very similar as to what happened after WW2 i.e. Marshall Plan and infusion of aid to simulate economic growth. Perhaps the most successful piece of American foreign policy ever as it certainly peacefully contained Communism behind the Iron Curtain. Ultimately America's involvement in WWI made the world safe for British and French imperialism and not democracy as Wilson would claim. American involvement prevented any hope of a just end to the war as the British and French saw this entry as decisive and were eager for vengeance. Prolonging the war also allowed Russia to fall to Communism although this most likely would have happened anyway.

Third Conservatism: Interestingly the above critique is draw largely from arch-conservative Pat Buchanan's writings on the subject. His can be seen as a typical America Firster/ isolationist viewpoint. Basically who gives a crap about what happens overseas as long as they don’t mess with us it will be fine. Now not all isolationists abhor war many see it as necessary in cases of Cold War as a matter of defense against perceived Soviet aggression and in the most recent invasion of Afghanistan. But not in GWI or GWII. These antiwar types are perhaps the most honest- they often don’t give a toot about democracy or idealism- they are simply unwilling to put the nation's treasure and blood into a overseas war in which their opponent does not directly threaten America. A more extreme isolationist view point can be seen in the 1930s era speeches and writings of Maj. Gen. Semdley Butler USMC:

Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the
benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses. I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

This can be seen as almost similar to Debs' reasoning against war where he condemned war as it was the elite's quest for spoils. Butler went further and compared his deployments as a marine to being a gangster for capitalism:

There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy
enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super Nationalistic-Capitalism.It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism....During thoseyears, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Lookingback on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

This does come from a man who knew what he was talking about as since he has a very impressive record. He is one of only two marines in history who received two Medals of Honor for two separate acts of outstanding heroism. Another one of my favorite general turned pacifist was President Dwight David Eisenhower who remarked:

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."
He later warned against the "military industrial complex" in his Farewell speech.

Conclusion: Obviously these viewpoints are dated and have been regulated to the minority voices in all of these ideologies. Why? Perhaps because of our very nature as human beings. Our aggression and continual history of warfare. War in WWI could not have happened without the overwhelming support of the common people. All these ideologies to a greater or lesser extent have used war to further the interest of the elites and particularly the business elites. Now you would certainly hear difference from the well-indoctrinated paratrooper of the Soviet Motherland who would claim he was 'liberating' the people of Afghanistan. He would point to woman being able walk the streets of Kabul without the chadors, woman becoming doctors, modern construction happening and he would shake off the consistent attacks of 'terrorist' bands as proof of them being fearful of change. Similar is the well-indoctrinated marine of the American Homeland. He would forget that woman are worst off under American occupation and that the CPA reacted an 1984 Saddam law that banned trade unions (it may be secular with women participation but I will be damned if they start demanding decent money and work that might hindered us making money off the reconstruction); the marine would point to upcoming elections as proof of democracy and that surly is worth 'liberation' from Saddam. Ah the parallels of history. Now I personally admire Debs', Butler's and Eisenhower's antiwar/pacifist stances the best however unrealistic they might be in today's political climate. I do hold out hope that the institution of War can be stopped like slavery and continuing fight for female equality. Which is to say only with great effort and trouble along the way and impossible without global cooperation. Note: Last two sentences inspired by my continuing read of Gwynne Dyer's WAR.


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