Is any war just?
President Obama's chief
antiterrorism advisor confidently claimed in a speech April 30, 2012 at the Woodrow Wilson International
Center that the
president's drone strikes were ethical, wise, and efficacious.  I think
anyone with any conscience could easily refute him point by point, so I did in
an article I wrote as soon as I read the transcript of his speech.
But to refute the claim made by
many authorities that war can be just (their wars in particular) requires not
only my bone-deep conviction that no war can be just but also in my summarizing
what I think are irrefutable arguments for it. I will not summarize the
arguments for a just war. They are rooted in philosophical and theological
thinking and all amount to moral rationalizations. Throughout history religion
has been an instigator, accessory, or silent accomplice of one war or other
cruelty after another. If I had to align my thinking with any religious figure
it would be with Erasmus, an early sixteenth century monk. War, he said, was
"repugnant to nature," and noted that no one had "ever heard of a hundred
thousand animals rushing together to butcher each other, as men do
Howard Zinn wrote that the
supreme test for whether any war can be just is the U.S. military involvement in WWII.
He then went on to raise several questions about it. Was the U.S. involvement for the rights of
nations to independence and self-determination? To save the Jews? Against
racism? For democracy? No, not at all according to his review of the evidence;
involvement in WWII had no such high-minded purposes, and he concluded that
"Looking at World War II in perspective, looking at the world it created and
the terror that grips our century, should we not bury for all time the idea of
just war?" 
Two more touchstone wars need to
be tested. One is America's
first, the American Revolution. It was fought for the partial right of
independence and self-determination. It was a clash between two privileged
classes 3,500 miles apart. It did not save the Indians. It led to their
decimation and subjugation. It certainly wasn't against racism. And it
certainly was not for a democracy of, for, and by all the people. Had
the war not been fought there might have been a negotiated settlement
eventually or British control would have eventually dissipated, just as the
"Mother Country" eventually lost all of its other colonies, and an America of a
less militant nature might have eventually emerged.
The second touchstone is the
Civil War, the most deadly for Americans of any military interventions launched
by a U.S.
president. Zinn makes it clear in his book that President Lincoln provoked the
attack on Fort Sumter that launched the Civil War not
with the primary purpose of freeing the slaves but "to retain the enormous
national territory and markets and resources."  Lincoln, in other words, was an early
practitioner of imperialism by deadly military means.
After reading Zinn I did not
remove the image of the Washington
statute of our 16th President that is displayed on my website, www.uschamberofdemocracy.com. I
like the looks of it. Before reading Zinn I had written an iconoclastic piece
about President Lincoln in my book on which the site is partly based. It was in
reference to the rash of states around 2002 rushing to pass laws declaring
states' rights in defiance of federal regulations. Here are some extracts of
what I wrote: "What if they left the Union and formed their own---There might
be two Americas
and two smaller corpocracies instead of one monstrous one. ---President Lincoln
may have made a colossal mistake in entering the Civil War. Slavery probably
would have ended peacefully without [it] ---because plantation owners were
beginning to realize that share croppers were economically a better option than
slave holding and thus emancipation would not have been forced by the Union on slave holders. Concomitantly, racial hatred and
prejudice might not persist to this day---With two Americas so divided each
would not have been strong enough to do much warring around the globe. And with
so divided, the corpocracy as it exists today might not exist today." 
President Lincoln, in my opinion, should have adopted the sentiment of
President Thomas Jefferson who exclaimed "If any state in the Union
will declare that it prefers separation ... to a continuance in the union ....
I have no hesitation in saying, Let us separate." Most political leaders up to
the Civil War agreed with that view. They thought states had the right to
secede. But so much for reverse history; we can all make of it what we will.
Two final questions need to be
raised about war. First, wouldn't a war of self defense unravel a pacifist's
argument that no war is just? The best defense against modern warfare initiated
against the U.S. is
prevention through the U.S.
having the right kind of foreign policies in place over time. Unfortunately,
the question is less hypothetical than it may seem. As it stands today, the
administrator of our foreign policy, the Department of State is a subsidiary of
the Department of Defense. Our foreign policies are in reality militant
Second, what about military
interventions for humanitarian reasons? Are they not just? "As Einstein once
said, "War cannot be humanized. War can only be abolished." There should never
be inhumane means to a humane end. Witness the case of Amnesty International-USA
urging NATO's military intervention in Afghanistan to protect human rights
for women and girls. Rationalizing military interventions as humanitarian
interventions "is a sign of progress," David Swanson, author of War is a Lie
says, adding, "That we fall for it is a sign of embarrassing weakness. The war
propagandist is the world's second oldest profession, and the humanitarian lie
is not entirely new. But it works in concert with other common war lies."
 Finding and using a genuinely humane intervention requires ingenuity and a
moral conscience, not military might.
endless wars be ended for good?
War is not inevitable. There have
been peaceful periods throughout history here and there in the world. And war
can be ended, possibly forever. Doing so will require changing the personal
characteristics and circumstances of our future U.S. presidents.
As for the four character flaws,
they won't change in a sitting president. They have been crystallized and
hardened during his formative years. We must elect an entirely different kind
of president, one whose characteristics are the mirror image of the four. We
know when the four positive sides exist by looking at the candidate's personal
history. We give ourselves a better chance of electing a candidate having no
character flaws by changing how we elect the candidates and, in the long run by
grooming them early. The way we elect presidents needs to be changed from
winner-take all to an approval voting or an alternative, scored voting. Either
approach leaves the Constitutional requirement of an Electoral College intact.
Besides possessing the four positive character traits, the person ought to be a
female. Not just any female though. Rule out Hillary Clinton, she of the "we
came, we saw, we killed" morality and wife of a man who some argue is an
international war criminal. And rule out Elizabeth Warren, the brand new U.S.
Senator from Massachusetts.
She apparently believes Iran
is a significant threat to the U.S.
and is too closely allied with AIPAC, the American/Israeli lobby group
reportedly just itching to get the U.S.
into a war with Iran.
Future candidates need to be groomed through training, mentoring, and being
down-ballot candidates and office holders for progressive, non-imperialistic
As for getting rid of the
"badvantagious" circumstances I devoted much of my book about the corpocracy on
that very goal.  In the book are numerous proposals for legislative,
political, judicial and economic reforms. In one of the chapters I propose
"waging war on war" with more than 20 major reform initiatives such as
nationalizing and reorienting the defense industry, joining the International
Criminal Court, and creating a dual community versus military service draft.
We cannot afford to leave
President Barack Obama out of the equation notwithstanding what I said about
intractable personal characteristics. He needs to be pressured daily by antiwar
and peace groups to stop his drone strikes, and these same groups need to stop
acting as if their existence depends more on war than on peace and to start
uniting and orchestrating corporate and government reform strike forces against
all members of the industrial/military/political complex.
I started this article with some
doggerel. I will end it with some more: "America was born in the womb of
war. Will she die in her arms?" Whether you do or do not agree with any of this
article, my guess is that at least some wars and military interventions have
been over the top for you and that you do not want anymore than I do the risk
of the transgressions of our history continuing unabated and descending some
day on our descendants in a climatic and irreversible finale.
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