previous post next post  

Why There Will Be No Department of Peace

[Denizen Kat responds to the Department of Peace post from yesterday.]

HI-Jacking the blog since no one did H&I Fires and it seems late in the day...

Sometime ago the Armorer and I discussed a book on the militarization of America. The authors point was that, as we advance technologically, economically and even politically, instead of moving towards more diplomacy as peaceful means of settling international disputes, we have become more open to and accustom to using military means.

He referenced the number of wars and how it seems like there is less and less time between military action or wars in the 20th century than the previous century post establishment of the United States.

Frankly, I thought that the author was well off reality. We are not becoming militarized, we always were and always will be. The only difference between today and the past is that we have imbibed certain philosophies that seem to contradict the very idea of military as a way of defense or international power. We want to believe that there is a better way. We are compelled by what we see as advancements economically and politically in peace time to retreat from war. Yet, we were born in war as a nation and have fought for our existence from that moment on. Even before then, the most popular tales of history are those of the struggling frontiersman, fighting the elements, the natives and "civilization" that was always trying to pull him back.

What is the contradictory nature of our conscience? Abhor war, yet do it all the time?

I ran across this article and thought about that long ago discussion: War and the Military in American History

A third theme is simply that ambivalence about war which is displayed by American citizens. As philosopher George Santayana put it, “To delight in war is meritorious in the soldier, dangerous in the captain, and criminal in the statesman.” Throughout most of our history Americans honored their veterans and boasted—until Vietnam—of never having lost a war. Moreover, most Americans liked to believe that their nation’s record in war was Providential, a sign of divine favor, and proof that our causes were just. And yet, on the other hand, few Americans wanted to believe their country was eager to fight or was responsible for the outbreak of war. On the contrary, Americans imagined themselves a peace-loving people. Were they just fooling themselves, as Patton would have it? Let’s do a quick survey with those popular self-images in mind, and see what it suggests.

Read the rest here

So, are we militant or are we peaceful? Can we hold both concepts in our minds without imploding?

In the end, is it always necessary to have a "war" camp and an "anti-war" camp to balance out the potential for "continuous war"?


1 Trackbacks

TrackBack this entry at

"We are not becoming militarized, we always were and always will be." (Kat @ Argghhh!)... Read More


In answer to your question, no, I don't think we *have* to have both camps. I think war supporters naturally become less bellicose over time, as costs of that war drag on. War produces its own desire for peace. I also find it interesting that the opposite of pro-war is not anti-war. People who support war rarely, if ever, do so in all circumstances and without question. There is rarely absolute support for a war even amongst those who support war in general. The absolute opposition to war is not hard to find, however, in the anti-war crowd. I don't think that you need both camps to balance each other out, because I don't really think they are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Comrades, There is a phrase that I subscribe to, and I cannot list an attribution because I cannot remember the author. It goes however: "Peace is a theoretical state of affairs whose existence we deduce because there have been intervals between wars". Respects,
AW1 Tim - best I can find, it would appear to be Jerry Pournelle who coined the phrase. Any reference I found *with* an attribution (it was usually listed as "unknown" comes with Dr. Pournelle's name attached.
John, Thanks. Sounds like him. I was just too lazy this morning to google the quote. It's about to get testy up here with a Nor'Easter inbound and the kids at home for school vacation. The local power company is predicting wide-spread outages, and the forecast shows rain and gusting winds through this coming thursday. Just ducky. If I don't post for a few days, it's cause the power is out. sigh.... One of the hazards of life in Maine. Respects,
Kat got us mentioned on Pajamas Media! Way to go, girl!
I also find it interesting that the opposite of pro-war is not anti-war. People who support war rarely, if ever, do so in all circumstances and without question. Of course not. The whole pro-war/anti-war dichotomy is a crock. Nobody likes war for its own sake. The true dichotomy is pro-victory versus pro-surrender. Pro-victory folks believe that if an enemy wages war against you (as the radical Muslims have been doing against the U.S. since 1979), you should fight back with all the resources available to you. You should hit the enemy as hard as you can, defeat them decisively, and force them to surrender unconditionally. Pro-surrender people believe that war is so horrible that you should do anything to avoid fighting it, up to and including appeasement and outright capitulation.
Heh...and I was gone all day and did not get to enjoy the fame. Thanks for putting it up there John since I know I saved it and forgot to go and publish it this morning.
"Pro-surrender people believe that war is so horrible that you should do anything to avoid fighting it, up to and including appeasement and outright capitulation." That reminds me of another statement that I can't attribute, and will have to paraphrase: "When civilized men can no longer stand the horrors of war they will quickly be butchered by men who can."
I think when I said "anti-war", I did mean "not want war". However, I suppose it does include the "peace at all cost" folks. I think this author hit on several points that resonated. ONe he termed "American Civil Religion". Another Author at the same site talked about Herodotus and the 300, what they could teach America. I think that we have learned many things as a nation. We believe with religious fervor in this thing called "freedom" and we tend to defend it as a collective in all ways we can. We may not always agree on the appropriate method, but we will defend it. I think I also wrote something about how we struggle continuously to balance individual rights against the rights of the collective. I don't mean that in the way of the utopian Russian collective, but referring to our many citizens bound together, not by religion or ethnicity, but by a creed. I sometimes think that this binding by creed is why we are able to absorb so many immigrants of all nations, all races, all faiths so much better than our European brethern who were first "British" or "French" in a way that generally denoted "White", "Christian" and originally born from monarchal/fuedal societies. Our ancestors deliberately shed those ties and ideas. We even fought a civil war that basically put paid to the last lingering ideas of fuedalism that had transferred itself to our society: slavery. We revel in our creation as "free" and our history is based on that total concept, while the British, French and even Germans have a long history of "fuedal" where they remember the great kings and emperors, while simultaneously trying to put those historical figures and time periods into some context of their current republicanism or democratic monarchies. When your pride is the pride of kings and race as opposed to the pride of an idea, you can subconciously be chauvinistic towards those "others", even while espousing such ideas of democracy and tolerance. Worse, it can make them tolerant of things that they should not be because they are still working on the idea of cultures and race, as opposed to ideas of the philosophy of freedom. In terms of militancy, ideas are very strong. As the author on Herodotus noted, freedom as an idea and the need to defend it can make men do things and endure things that he would not do for a piece of land, a chest of gold or a throne of power. I truly believe that it is that idea that makes us militant. Technology or economic power does not increase "militancy" in and of itself, so much as it makes us more connected to the outside world and thus what we believe we must defend to insure freedom's continuity is expanded and thus falls under the realm of what we would be "militant" about.
We already have a "Department of Peace" It's call the Department of State. People apparently forget solving things diplomatically is different than solving things using military force. Would creating an entirely new US Gov't agency with the same task as the DoS (without the CIA) really solve anything?
Scott - that was the thrust of my post on the subject (top link in this post, but here's another to save scrolling) that Kat was responding to. And if you go into the details of the proposal, virtually everything they want the DoP to do is covered by other agencies.
ARe we talking Bacevich here? 'The New American Militarism'? Saw a keynote speech a couple weeks ago that tackled this directly, but can't remember where. Basically, we're a peacful country. America's business is Business. But when we get worked up to it, we're savage. We like our wars short and bloody, heavy on the short, but decisive. I think the guys nuts. The number of conflicts the world over is decreasing over time. It's even in US policy since the 50s(ask Barnett, he's got the data). This is cracked thinking. Time may be shortened, but the full number is less. Who wants to do the 2nd derivative on that? ACtually, looking at the link Kat provided, that's the keynote speech I was talking about(BlSp, that's the one I was talking about a couple weeks ago).
Yes, that is Bacevich. I did disagree with him on the speech which I caught on C-Span. His error, I believe, was in first starting his thesis from Vietnam. I don't know why because the time between that "war" and Korea might have been a decade or so, but between WWII and Korea it was a few years. There are these little "bumps" of peace, but, as I noted, going back since creation of nation and prior, we have certainly had a very long history of military action to both expand the nation, expand the economy, expand international power and, of course, determine or defend freedom. I think, as a matter of fact, that his whole speech put me off because it DID start with Vietnam and I have a very visceral reaction to people trying to make this THE marker for all things "modern" in politics and global economy. Totally false dichotomy (heh, I get to use that word). Particularly, if you look at the details of the American Revolution, you can hardly dismiss the incidents leading up to it and the players involved. Most of which centered around, not just lack of representation, but, in fact, economics. "No taxation without representation" was essentially a complaint about tariffs and taxes damaging international (dare I say "global") economics. Everything going over and everything coming in was being taxed into "luxury" status, damaging and depressing internal economics. Another tell is the Declaration of Independence itself wherein one of the chief complaints was the limitation of immigration and how it damaged the colonies' ability to expand and grow economically. The war of 1812 was similar in context. While we talk about "press ganging" American citizens from interdicted ships, the truth is, it was about interrupting trade. I mean, to ignore that aspect of those "founding" wars and the fact that we HAVE used military forces since the inception to enforce our economic and political rights GLOBALLY is like pretending that the sun orbits the earth. It makes a wonderful, idealistic tale to believe that every joe schmo who leveraged himself into debt to support a regiment and every farmer saw himself strictly defending an idea. They were, but these folks understood that economic freedom (dare I say "power") and defense thereof was part and parcel of the defense of this grand political idea. If you do not have strong economics, you cannot support nor defend a political idea, regardless of your borders or number of people inside it. Without strong economics and the defense thereof, required to pay for the defense of the idea, the idea of freedom would have died still born. Thus his premise that "militarization" is a 20th century phenomena and that it has really started growing with the pace of economics and technology, is false, in my opinion.