War Hawks Aren’t Honest About What They Want

Daniel DreznerI read an interesting article by Daniel Drezner at The Washington Post, The One Question That Hawks Need to Answer About Syria. The point he made was that war hawks always talk about all the great things they are going to accomplish. But they can never explain how it is that more arms shipments, more bomb dropping, more invasions are going to accomplish those goals. Drezner went through the list: Iraq, Libya, Yemen. In each case, we just made things worse. Why would this time be any different? That’s an important question that we never get an answer to.

The more fundamental question is why these kinds of people are constantly pushing for yet another invasion. I don’t buy what Drezner says, “There is a strong and bipartisan 21st-century record of US administrations applying military force in the Middle East with the most noble of intentions and then making the extant situation much, much worse.” I italicized the significant part. We go to war for the most noble of intentions?! This is the crap I was taught growing up — it wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now. This is what a “professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University” thinks?! No wonder we are so screwed up.

What we do is to claim the “most noble of intentions.” This is just like American presidents always claim that war is the last thing they want. This is discussed in good depth in, War Made Easy (pdf). You could not pick a more premeditated war than the Iraq War. Yet George W Bush said, “Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly.” He also said, “We seek peace. We strive for peace.” And most telling of all, “American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger.” Yeah, that was just what the Iraq War was about!

But what do people like Dick Cheney get out of calling for war as the solution to every international conflict? I think it is tribalism. People like that see the world as a struggle between good and evil. In this case, the Iraq War wasn’t a disaster at all. They went in to deal with Saddam Hussein and now he’s dead. Everything else was just a necessary sacrifice. And if a despot rises from the ashes of that damage, well, there’s always another war to fix that.

So the problem is not that going to war to solve these problems is a bad idea — although of course it is. The problem is that those who drag us into war are doing it for different reasons than they say. And it is a real problem that an academic buys the official line and doesn’t dig any deeper. I doubt very seriously that Daniel Drezner thinks that we went into Iraq for the “most noble of intentions.” Indeed, we know that the Bush administration came into the White House looking for any way it could to go to war with Iraq.

Increasingly, I see our country’s political problems not as the result of a Republican Party gone mad, but of a media infrastructure that just accepts the myths of the country and never calls out nonsense for what it is. I’m glad that Drezner is against intervention because it doesn’t work. But that just provides the intellectual groundwork for support of the next conflict that a president says is really, really important — the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a blah blah blah.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

32 thoughts on “War Hawks Aren’t Honest About What They Want

  1. Back in 2003, there were huge protests that were barely covered by the media all over the US. The reporting was so weird-a seemingly endless stream of support for the war while most people were either ambivalent or actively opposed.

    Without a media willing to call politicians on their crap, I suppose we may be as you keep pointing out.

    • I saw how 6 months of propaganda moved public opinion on it. It’s pathetic. Our “free press” hard at work! As for the protests, it’s the other side of all the attention that the Tea Party got. When liberals protest, it is dog bites man: no story. When conservatives protest — even when it is clearly astroturf — it is big news.

      • I was not much for poll watching back then so all I can go off of is my friends and they were all vehemently anti-war. But I live in a college town so it is probably not a surprise.

        I believe there is an additional factor-the media loves covering conservatives more than liberals and has for a very long time (basing this on Eric Alterman’s What Liberal Media?.) Why I don’t know.

        • In general, people don’t want wars. The default position is no. So all wars need to be sold. You get people scared, they become willing to go to war.

          I read that book every few years. It’s not hard to understand why it is. What’s hard to understand is why people think the media is liberal.

          • What was the old saying “a lie goes around the world before the truth has a chance to put its boots on?”

            People keep being told the same thing, eventually they believe it even if it is a lie. And then when someone tells them the truth they just double down. You have to actively fight your instinct on it.

            • It’s especially true when you have a group dedicated to putting out lies. I’m not supposed to compare the modern conservative movement to the Nazis, but both excel at this kind of thing.

                • They do it in different ways. Have you heard about the push to publish the names of welfare recipients in the newspapers? There’s a lot of fascism in modern conservatism.

                  • Yes I have. The old canard of “if you shame them, they won’t take the money.” Well the thing is that the alternative and mainstream press has long been publishing the names of the giant companies that get lots of money from the government and it never stopped them.

                    • I was just reading about this new economic paper that looked at 7 different countries, and it finds no evidence that giving money to the poor makes them lazy. Actually, it is the opposite. Giving money to the poor makes them more likely to get a job and so on.

                    • You mean…people like to work?! *faints in shock*

                      It is not a surprise-even at the height of of the welfare use, people on it worked. They want to feel like contributing members of society as they are taught by our surrounding culture. You are nothing if you do not work so everyone wants to work. The only reason this eludes the powerful is because they have no interest in accepting that this is the case since that makes them haz a sad at throwing people off of welfare.

                    • I was just reading about Lillie Harden. What I find interesting about welfare is that Bill Clinton really did change welfare as we know it. Yet conservatives still think that people are on welfare for their whole lives. It doesn’t matter how much liberals pander to conservatives, the conservatives don’t even notice.

                    • I based part of my response on that book cited in the article. American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids and a Nation’s Drive to End Welfare was mostly sad but it was pretty obvious that people like to work. They just sometimes have trouble doing so for one reason or another (mostly kid related.)

                      I am wondering if there needs to be a radical shift in thinking by liberals-at this point conservatives only want to hurt the country so why should we even ask them for their input? I started thinking that when I heard the insane claim that “no Republicans were consulted” during the run up to the ACA’s passage. It was completely false (over two hundred amendments alone in the Senate) but since most of their input just made the bill worse for Americans, why did we care if they said anything?

                    • I wonder about the thinking too. If someone doesn’t want to work, maybe the problem was a mistake our society made early on. Is the problem really going to be fixed with more shaming today? With more poverty today? With having the next generation raised without intellectual stimulation or even adequate food?!

                    • Yes! I told a friend of mine that I prefer to pay someone who doesn’t want to work to stay away from workplaces because they poison the atmosphere and make things difficult for customers and employees.

                      Shaming them does not work and if they have children, those kids are going to be even more worse off so why are we visiting the sins of the parent upon the child?

                    • I think it is just about making it hard on the poor. The main thing that Clinton did was make TANF a block grant. Since it was created, Congress has never raised funding for it, so it is worse one-third less even while it supports a bigger population. This, of course, is why Republicans want to turn Medicare and Medicaid into block grants.

  2. “Increasingly, I see our country’s political problems not as the result of a Republican Party gone mad, but of a media infrastructure that just accepts the myths of the country and never calls out nonsense for what it is.”
    But is it a dysfunction of laziness or incompetence, or is it a deliberate choice not to state the obvious?

    • I think it is both. Reporters, like all of us, will let their work slide. But the media owners would never allow this if that laziness resulted in an installed bias against the power elite. So, reporters are lazy; owners are evil — just like we all thought!

  3. You did not point out that Cheney’s friends made a mint in Iraq. He and his friends take home lots of money when the less well-off shoot each other on their behalf.

    • I told one of the Senatorial candidates here in Arizona when the scandal broke about the lack of decent equipment in Iraq that he should promise to investigate war profiteers. It always plays well in the press to want to help our boys and all that. He didn’t listen and lost.

      As did the soldiers and American taxpayers.

    • That’s what I have you for! I tend to shy away from talking about that stuff because I don’t think it is primary. Of course they are all going to make a mint off war. But there is something far more basic about their love of killing.

      • Are you sure? You have been one of many Internet writers that have helped me see that the appearance of reasoning and moral deliberation is usually a gloss on what is desired on a deeper level. Listen to yourself! Smart guy to be listening to.

      • But in fairness to your initial thesis, there are lots of hawks that don’t personally benefit. Not directly anyway.

        • Yeah, I’m pretty far removed from the article now. (And I don’t want to read it again!) But even with Cheney, I don’t think his “war is always the answer” philosophy is based on direct benefit. Of course, he may well be a psychopath. So it’s hard to say.

  4. Elizabeth — yup, we all know the “I wish they weren’t working” type. Somehow found a job where they managed to become unfireable (maybe know too much dirt on supervisors) and now sit there like a lump bringing everyone’s morale down, infecting impressionable new hires with their attitude. If you can get rid of them they’ll just repeat the pattern somewhere else. Society is better off paying them to stay home.

    Come to think of it, this also probably goes for most company owners and CEOs . . .

    • Businesses built by someone are not going to have those poisonous people generally-otherwise the business would have failed. And CEOs are mostly hyper ambitious types who work long hours because they want to. Then get to the top, lay off hundreds of people and go to overpriced “charity” dinners.

      I think the method to prevent CEOs and business people who hurt others is a different then paying them to stay home.

      • Just joking, really . . . although I doubt many CEOs add a whole lot. Particularly the highest-paid ones!

          • Would you ask a bird to stop flying? A star to stop shining? Some things are beautiful in their perfect ability to be what they are. All modern Repubs lie as a matter of course . . . but some eagerly believe those lies with childlike enthusiasm. I’ve never thought Rush or Bill O’ or Coulter believe half of what they say. Glenn Beck did. It gave him a mystical aura like a mad Biblical prophet. The blood shall rain down, the boils and pustules seep with impurity!

            Fiorina’s pretty good. I halfway buy her act. Trump’s I don’t buy at all, he’s playacting to an effective script. I gotta admit — if I punched a hole in my brain and filled it with Pure Evil, I’d have a lot of fun writing for someone like Trump. Just discovering how far the rage-high American Id can really go, and knowing you’re on a run where no mistakes are possible. There’s nothing he can say that harms the campaign for being Too Despicable. That will change, but right now it’s got to be creatively pretty fun to be on his staff. I mean if you enjoy putting your creativity in service of Mussolini.

            • There is a quote supposedly by Trump from 1998 that keeps getting eagerly shared by my liberal friends (even though it is not true according to Snopes) saying that the Republican base is so stupid that he could lie about anything and they would believe it thanks to Fox News.

              It sounds like it would be from him since quite frankly, it does seem like something that is true to come from him AND is accurate about the Republican base they are primed to not exist in our reality.

              • The only thing about it I don’t accept on faith involves the date; in 1998, Trump wasn’t making many political statements I remember, and Fox hadn’t quite hit the stratosphere yet. But it sounds very much like how I suspect he thinks, even if he’s never been dumb enough to say it out loud.

                We are living in interesting times, as the old Chinese curse says.

                You seem to enjoy researching things, so here’s something you might enjoy; Jeb Bush’s connection to anti-Castro terrorist organizations based in Miami that bombed Cuban hotels, blew up planes, etc. Give it a look if you’re interested. I only learned about it recently, and it’s gruesome. Those groups were pretty foul, and the Bush family was friends with a lot of them, no surprise.

                As far as I know, the only terrorist organization Trump’s been directly connected with is Trump Enterprises. (It’s another joke! My jokes are bad! Peace . . .)

                • Not sure if “enjoy” is the word I would use. More like be horrified and depressed and sadden that this behavior was going on.

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