With an extra $54 billion for military in Trump's proposed budget, the White House is now scoping out people who must be killed, starting with Kim Jong-Un in North Korea. In the past, I've started by replying that that war can only be justified, and is never necessary. Hundreds of people have written me how obviously wrong I am, but are rarely able to think beyond the need to kill Hitler as an explanation. So I wrote this starting all the way from the very beginning again. First, I am required to state, I am an Oxford scholar, an American citizen, and have no affiliations with any political parties or special-interest groups at all.
Almost universally, Americans start by proving war is necessary with reference to Hitler. Sometimes there is a similar justification, but it is Hitler 99% of the time now.
First, one good point to raise in the Hitler argument is that he was attacking our ships with submarines, and we had to defend ourselves from that. Now I do not say 'defense' as a justification for war is always wrong. There are sadly times when self defense is necessary. Of course, we should not duplicate Hitler's own mistake of using proactive attack as a mechanism of self defense (Hitler called his U2 submarines 'his first line of defense'). A proactive attack, in guise of defense, is simply provocation for worse revenge in the future. There are several thousand years of proof of that (see "The Media, Lies, Leaks, War, Trade, and Cultural Values in the USA" on this site). Proactive attack as a means for self defense is the main reason why the USA became involved in the war against Hitler. It does remain true that defense against a proactive attack can be justified, even if a proactive attack as a form of defense is indisputably wrong.
On the other hand, almost none of the arguments actually stated for attacking Hitler were to do with his attacks on us. They became hopelessly confused with confrontations of ideology and somehow, a resulting necessity to eradicate all forms of ideology contrary to our own; a viewpoint which has made our own proactive wars inevitably fail, much to most's confusion. Really Hitler was no more than the most recent in a long line of marauding supremacists. There was nothing that unique about Nazism except that it was the first label that many Americans learned for it.
When people cite Hitler, I often point out Napoleon is the only other real example, and better example, of a marauder successfully beaten in recent history. I also point out, Waterloo made no difference either. The reply, if any, is almost invariably that I am a British commie, the USA also beat the British, so therefore I am a stupid idiot. So sadly, I am forced to add that the American Revolution was a civil war, not an attack against a marauder. Also, this is why I have to start by saying that I am an American citizen. Anyway, In light of the USA's insurrection being the most frequent and almost unanimous retort in defense of attacking Hitler, we as a nation overall still have much to consider on our naive conceptions on the realities of hostile conflict between nations.
Before the civil war started in Iraq three years ago, Americans were fond of citing Saddam Hussein as a justifiable reason to start a war. Since then, the civil war started, was ignored for a year, then called an 'insurgency,' then muddled up with the violence that Hussein was trying to suppress during his regime with Syria, to make it appear it had nothing to do with the chaos the USA caused. Since Mr. Trump is now gutting international aid to pay for another military buildup, the USA is still doing nothing at all about the chaos it caused. That will have later repercussions we are directed away from considering, until, in the inevitable revenge strike, another war is presented as the only option. On the other hand, Americans have stopped saying the Iraq invasion presents a good example of why war is necessary.
So Hitler is now just about the only example of an empire builder which Americans cite as a justification of war. But there have been strident marauders building massive empires via rapid military conquest in the West for thousands of years, perhaps starting with Alexander the Great, Xerxes, Darius, Hannibal, Julius Caesar, and Genghis Khan; and that just scratches the surface, there being many hundreds others, in the East too. In all cases, the overall story of such victorious conquerors is much the same:
- The leader is killed or dies at an early age.
- The deputies argue over the spoils of the empire.
- The whole empire collapses in the bickering.
- The conquered domains revert to how they would have been anyway, with a few extra battlefields.
That is the way it has always played out.
So then some people say, 'but Hitler was exterminating Jews.' That is true. Unfortunately, for this argument, the allies did not even find out about the extent of Jewish persecutions until after the war ended, but we already knew Stalin was doing far worse. Moreover, on ideological grounds, the corruptions which Stalin introduced into the Soviet Union were also far worse than the simple tyrannical ideal of the Nazis. Stalin destroyed one of the most amazing and beautiful ideologies ever conceived. Stalin ended up expanding the USSR's sphere of control far more than Hitler managed to conquer even at the peak of Nazism. But that somehow does not factor into anyone's thought at all when saying how necessary it was to defeat Hitler.
Or how about Mao? Why was it so necessary to go to war against Hitler, but not Mao?
One is forced to reach only one conclusion.
The only reason Americans so frequently cite Hitler proves war is necessary, and rarely have any other thought whatsoever on the topic, is because it was the only war that the USA has actually won. Yet despite the continuing chain of defeats, even with a military force larger than the next eight nations combined, Americans have still been unable to consider that the basic thought on war might be wrong. The banal battlecries continue unabated in the marble halls of our leaders, now claiming we are losing because our military is 'too depleted.' When will it be time for deeper thought?
Millions of people died in world wars, many for good causes on both sides, many for bad causes, and the leaders on each side always make an ideological argument that there was no other choice. That is always the battlecry preceding the unnecessary slaughters of innocents: "There is no other choice: we must kill."
One leader roars "There is no other choice, it is our destiny to rule!" The other leader roars back: "There is no other choice, we must destroy their evil!" The winners then teach their children, whichever side wins was right.
Then a few leaders are singled out by their first name: Saddam, Adolf, whatever. They become the Satan incarnate, or some such demon. Millions of people suffer and/or die who have no power over the situation. Then whichever side wins declares the other as proven vermin that deserved extermination.
A few years pass.
Things end up pretty much exactly as they would have been whether there is a war or not.
Overall, a figurehead can inspire a mighty and extensive conquest; but when the battlefields are cleared, and the grass over the graves is mown, and the rest pick up their lives as before, it is still the same problems of life as before, for each community differently. War only postpones the root problems. The society that had formed in response to those different problems of life which existed before simply emerges again, hopefully to be resolved via calmer reason.
In the case of Iraq, where Saddam Hussein was wiping out communities to prevent genocide, the same thing just happens again, and communities are wiped out to prevent genocide all over again, just as if there was no war at all. In between, estimates of casualties raise up to a million and more. Iraq is now struggling with new problems: typhoid, cholera, and even last year, polio outbreaks; which is only likely to inspire future retaliation. Usually when I point that out, Americans angrily reply that means we to oppress them militarily first. Well, I predicted exactly what would happen in Iraq, and almost no one listened. Further military oppression will only make it worse again. Iraq needs civic support to rebuild, not further war. So I spelled it out here. Hopefully some will listen now.
The blood of those impassioned to force their ways by violence pass on into their graves. The only people who actually win are a small handful in power. Everyone else loses. If unprovoked, the rest of us actually can find a few times of peaceful happiness in between. Oh eventually, no matter what, the warriors appear chomping at the bit, saying there is some new reason to kill yet again; but in between, we still can find a few spaces left, where they have not yet found a way to spill our own blood, at least, until one presses the nuclear button, whoever it is, it does not matter, then it will be over for us all.
An hour after I published this, it was announced that President Trump is considering military action against North Korea. Just as before, the real consequences are not considered. If we go to war with North Korea, we will make a far worse problem between South Korea and China. That is really why North Korea has survived up to now: because there is a reason why it is there.
One can learn from historical examples of this problem. I started by saying defense against a proactive attack (which Hitler called 'his first line of defense') can be justified. But defense against the Hitler defense is not always a good argument for war either. In Hitler's case, we could have actually done much better by allying with Germany against Stalin, who, as described above, was actually far worse. And this is not the first time such nearsightedness has occurred.
Just as with Hitler, there were alternatives in the Napoleonic war. The Western nations allied with the Prussian empire to defeat Napoleon. The Prussian empire was the base of later German aggression. If the West had been wise enough to counter Prussia, rather than the marauder Napoleon, then there might not have been any world wars at all in 20th century. But Napoleon was perhaps too easy a short-range target for political advancement for those who could benefit from war against him. This is because the few in power who actually benefit from war can sway the public as to its necessity most easily by demonizing an obvious figurehead, rather than by addressing any real problem. But we did not learn from such mistakes, and allied with Russia against Hitler. Then Russia became a far worse problem. Now the same is happening in North Korea, and the new person that must be killed will be Kim Jong-Un. What about the millions of innocent people who will starve, or die of horrible diseases as in Iraq? If the White House talked about saving North Koreans first, before demonizing Kim Jong-Un, we might actually have a chance of deposing him.
One cannot expect much more sensibility from the press either. A while ago a journalist snuck into North Korea and videotaped a mother and girl being ejected from a train from China to South Korea. The journalist continued to make many spiteful remarks on the wrongful deprivation of liberty. Strangely, the fact that the mother was obviously taking her 13-year-old girl to Seoul to sell into sex slavery did not factor in the reporter's mind. It quite obviously factored in the minds of the officers ejecting them back to China.
We need to think less what appears wrong to us, and more about how we appear wrong to them, on which I wrote a longer piece, here: "Make War, Drugs, Disease, and Disunity Great Again." Thank you for your attention.