I’m sick of war.
Officially the cost of the war on terror has been $1.3 trillion. And military spending — especially the interest on debt to pay for past wars — keeps growing year on year:
As General Eisenhower noted:
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.
This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
The cost in life was been ever steeper; over a million Iraqis died.
But it’s more than cost; this a problem of responsibility. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney live a comfortable life of wealth and leisure, four years after leaving office having started two destructive, costly and ineffective wars of choice. They didn’t fight. None of their children fought. But lots of American and British soldiers and innocent Arabs got their limbs and heads blown off.
Of course, military deterrence — and sometimes military action — is necessary.
As Eisenhower noted:
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.
The trouble is that war is a great excuse for weapons contractors to make lots of money, and weapons contractors happily fund war-mongering politicians into power. That’s the self-perpetuating military industrial complex.
So the problem then lies in differentiating the necessary actions from the unnecessary.
I propose a simple heuristic for this purpose, one that if introduced would also render the war-mongering politician — the Congressman who votes to authorise, or the President who signs the authorisation into law — personally responsible:
If you start a war, you have to fight. If you cannot fight, then your nearest fit relative has to fight.
This puts the skin back into the game. You want to risk blood and treasure to start a war? If it’s that important, you’ll put your body and blood on the line before you ask any soldier to fight, or any taxpayer to pay. If not, then it must not be necessary.
Would George W. Bush have started the Iraq war had he known his two daughters would be conscripted, and shipped off to Iraq to find Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction?
I doubt it.