Review of We Who Dared to Say No to War: American Antiwar Writing from 1812 to Now by Murray Polner and Thomas E. Woods
When the present generation of men shall be swept away, and that this Government ever existed shall be a matter of history only, I desire that it may then be known, that you have not proceeded in your course unadmonished and unforewarned. Let it then be known, that there were those, who would have stopped you, in the career of your measures, and held you back, as by the skirts of your garments, from the precipice, over which you are plunging, and drawing after you the Government of your Country. [...]Alexander Campbell, Address on War (The Mexican War)
But it is said, that it might happen that any army would not be raised by voluntary enlistment, in which case the power to raise armies would be granted in vain, unless they might be raised by compulsion. If this reasoning could prove any thing, it would equally show, that whenever the legitimate powers of the Constitution should be so badly administered as to cease to answer the great ends intended by them, such new powers may be assumed or usurped, as any existing administration may deem expedient. This is a result of his own reasoning, to which the Secretary does not profess to go. But it is a true result. For if it is to be assumed, that all powers were granted, which might by possibility become necessary, and that Government itself is the judge of this possible necessity, then the powers of Government are precisely what it chooses they should be.
I think that the moral desolations of war surpass even its horrors. And amongst these I do not assign the highest place to the vulgar profanity, brutality, and debauchery of the mere soldier, the professional and licensed butcher of mankind, who, for his $8 a month or his 10 sous per day, hires himself to lay waste a country, to pillage, burn, and destroy the peaceful hamlet, the cheerful village, or the magnificent city, and to harass, wound, and destroy his fellow man, for no other consideration than his paltry wages, his daily rations, and the infernal pleasure of doing it, anticipating hereafter "the stupid stares and loud huzzas" of monsters as inhuman and heartless as himself. And were it not for the infatuation of public opinion and popular applause, I would place him, as no less to be condemned, beside the vain and pompous volunteer, who for his country, "right or wrong," hastens to the theater of war for the mere plaudits of admiring multitudes, ready to cover himself with glory, because he has aided an aspirant to a throne or paved the way to his own election to reign over a humbled and degraded people.Opportunity cost!
I make great allowance for false education, for bad taste, for the contagion of vicious example; still, I cannot view those deluded by such sophistry, however good their motives, as deserving anything from contemporaries or posterity except compassion and forgiveness. Yet, behold its influence on mothers, sisters, and relatives; note its contagion, its corruption of public taste. See the softer sex allured, fascinated by the halo of false glory thrown around these worshipped heroes! See them gazing with admiration on the "tinselled trapping," the embroidered ensigns," of him whose profession it is to make widows and orphans by wholesale! [...]
The pulpit, too, must lend its aid in cherishing the delusion. There is not infrequently heard a eulogium on some fallen hero, some church service for the mighty dead, thus desecrating the religion of the Prince of Peace by causing it to minister as the handmaid of war. Not only are prayers offered up by pensioned chaplains on both sides of the field even amid the din of arms, but Sabbath after Sabbath, for years and years, have the pulpits on one side of a sea or river and those on the other side resounded with prayers for the success of rival armies, as if God could hear them both and make each triumphant over the other, guiding and commissioning swords and bullets to the heads and hearts of their respective enemies. [...]
Give me the money that's been spent in wars and I will clear up every acre of land in the world that ought to be cleared, drain every marsh, subdue every desert, fertilize every mountain and hill, and convert the whole earth into a continuous series of fruitful fields, verdant meadows, beautiful villas, hamlets, towns, cities, standing along smooth and comfortable highways and canals, or in the midst of luxuriant and fruitful orchards, vineyards, and gardens, full of fruits and flowers, redolent with all that pleases the eye and regales the senses of man.
Lysander Spooner, The Constitution of no Authority (Civil War)
The whole affair, on the part of those who furnished the money, has been, and now is, a deliberate scheme of robbery and murder; not merely to monopolize the markets of the South, but also to monopolize the currency, and thus control the industry and trade, and thus plunder and enslave the laborers, of both North and South. And Congress and the president are to-day the merest tools for these purposes. They are obliged to be, for they know that their own power, as rulers, so called, is at an end, the moment their credit with the blood-money loan-mongers fails. They are like a bankrupt in the hands of an extortioner. They dare not say nay to any demand made upon them. And to hide at once, if possible, both their servility and their crimes, they attempt to divert public attention, by crying out that they have "Abolished Slavery!" That they have "Saved the Country!" That they have "Preserved our Glorious Union!" and that, in now paying the "National Debt," as they call it (as if the people themselves, all of them who are to be taxed for its payment, had really and voluntarily joined in contracting it), they are simply "Maintaining the National Honor!"William Jennings Bryan, Imperialism (Philippine War)
By "maintaining the national honor," they mean simply that they themselves, open robbers and murderers, assume to be the nation, and will keep faith with those who lend them the money necessary to enable them to crush the great body of the people under their feet; and will faithfully appropriate, from the proceeds of their future robberies and murders, enough to pay all their loans, principal and interest.
A large standing army is not only a pecuniary burden to the people and, if accompanied by compulsory service, a constant source of irritation, but it is ever a menace to a Republican form of government.George Norris, Wealth's Terrible Mandate (WWI)
The army is the personification of force, and militarism will inevitably change the ideals of the people and turn the thoughts of our young men from the arts of peace to the science of war. The Government which relies for its defense upon its citizens is more likely to be just than one which has at call a large body of professional soldiers.
A small standing army and a well-equipped and well-disciplined state militia are sufficient at ordinary times, and in an emergency the nation should in the future as in the past place its dependence upon the volunteers who come from all occupations at their country's call and return to productive labor when their services are no longer required -- men who fight when the country needs fighters and work when the country needs workers. [...]
But a war of conquest is as unwise as it is unrighteous. A harbor and coaling station in the Philippines would answer every trade and military necessity and such a concession could have been secured at any time without difficulty.
It is not necessary to own people in order to trade with them. We carry on trade today with every part of the world, and our commerce has expanded more rapidly than the commerce of any European empire. We do not own Japan or China, but we trade with their people. We have not absorbed the republics of Central and South America, but we trade with them. It has not been necessary to have any political connection with Canada or the nations of Europe in order to trade with them. Trade cannot be permanently profitable unless it is voluntary.
When trade is secured by force, the cost of securing it and retaining it must be taken out of the profits and the profits are never large enough to cover the expense. Such a system would never be defended but for the fact that the expense is borne by all the people, while the profits are enjoyed by a few.
We have loaned many hundreds of millions of dollars to the allies in this controversy. While such action was legal and countenanced by international law, there is no doubt in my mind but the enormous amount of money loaned to the allies in this country has been instrumental in bringing about a public sentiment in favor of our country taking a course that would make every bond worth a hundred cents on the dollar and making the payment of every debt certain and sure. Through this instrumentality and also through the instrumentality of others who have not only made millions out of the war in the manufacture of munitions, etc., and who would expect to make millions more if our country can be drawn into the catastrophe, a large number of the great newspapers and news agencies of the country have been controlled and enlisted in the greatest propaganda that the world has ever known, to manufacture sentiment in favor of war.Randolph Bourne, The State
It is now demanded that the American citizens shall be used as insurance policies to guarantee the safe delivery of munitions of war to belligerent nations. The enormous profits of munition manufacturers, stockbrokers, and bond dealers must be still further increased by our entrance into the war. This has brought us to the present moment, when Congress, urged by the President and backed by the artificial sentiment, is about to declare war and engulf our country in the greatest holocaust that the world has ever known
The rage for loyal conformity works impartially, and often in diametric opposition to other orthodoxies and traditional conformities or ideals. The triumphant orthodoxy of the State is shown at its apex perhaps when Christian preachers lose their pulpits for taking in more or less literal terms the Sermon on the Mount, and Christian zealots are sent to prison for twenty years for distributing tracts which argue that war is unscriptural.Murray Rothbard, War, Peace, and the State
War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties. The minorities are either intimidated into silence, or brought slowly around by subtle process of persuasion which may seem to them really to be converting them. Of course, the ideal of perfect loyalty, perfect uniformity is never really attained. The classes upon whom the amateur work of coercion falls are unwearied in their zeal, but often their agitation, instead of converting merely serves to stiffen their resistance. Minorities are rendered sullen, and some intellectual opinion bitter and satirical. But in general, the nation in wartime attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values culminating at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not possibly be produced through any other agency than war.
The State is a group of people who have managed to acquire a virtual monopoly of the use of violence throughout a given territorial area. In particular, it has acquired a monopoly of aggressive violence, for States generally recognize the right of individuals to use violence (though not against States, of course) in self-defense. The State then uses this monopoly to wield power over the inhabitants of the area and to enjoy the material fruits of that power. The State, then, is the only organization in society that regularly and openly obtains its monetary revenues by the use of aggressive violence; all other individuals and organizations (except if delegated that right by the State) can obtain wealth only by peaceful production and by voluntary exchange of their respective products. This use of violence to obtain its revenue (called "taxation") is the keystone of State power. Upon this base the State erects a further structure of power over the individuals in its territory, regulating them, penalizing critics, subsidizing favorites, etc. The State also takes care to arrogate to itself the compulsory monopoly of various critical services needed by society, thus keeping the people in dependence upon the State for key services, keeping control of the vital command posts in society and also fostering among the public the myth that only the State can supply these goods and services. Thus the State is careful to monopolize police and judicial service, the ownership of roads and streets, the supply of money, and the postal service, and effectively to monopolize or control education, public utilities, transportation, and radio and television.Elihu Burritt, The Valuation of Human Life in War
If there is one sentiment that more than another marks the civilization of the present day it is the interest felt in human life. Sympathy with human suffering is the most distinctive characteristic of our age. Never before in the world's history were there such associated efforts to diminish or prevent suffering. [...]Indeed, think of the interest in Robert Falcon Scott's expedition to the Antarctic, especially during the eight month long search for the remains of his party. (Also, Burritt's thesis agrees with Steven Pinker's on the decline of violence.)
Sometimes a single life put in peril will fill a nation's heart with anxiety and grief. For instance take the case of Dr. Livingstone the African explorer. What intense and painful interest was felt not only in England but in other countries in his fate. What costly expeditions were fitted out to seek for him in the hot wilds of that distant continent. Then think of Sir John Franklin and of the feeling which his fate inspired throughout the civilized world.
Now compare the feeling with which the community hears of the loss or peril of a few human lives by these accidents with the feelings with which the news of the death or mutilation of thousands of men equally precious on the field of battle is received. How different is the valuation; how different in universal sympathy. War seems to reverse our best and boasted civilization to carry back human society to the dark ages of barbarism; to cheapen the public appreciation of human life almost to the standard of brute beasts. This has always seemed to me one of war's worst works because it destroys also the sense of the ruin and misery which the sword makes in the world.
The arguments for and against war are practically the same every time. The wars fought by the United States are always aggressive and wrong and in the interest of few, but it is easy for the proponents to convince the inattentive population to support them.
The opponents labor completely in vain opposing the wars. George Norris' speech explains this. The wars are financial scams, and the problem is that there is no money in opposing them. Every newspaper and media property will wind up being owned by pro-war interests because a willingness to shill for war will increase revenue.
Also, as financial scams, the wars are horribly inefficient. The amount of money the profiteers make is maybe a handful of basis points on the total death and destruction the war causes. This ratio alone points to warmongers as being inhumanly psychopathic.
The anti-war politicians, thinkers, and other figures quoted would have described themselves as progressives or socialists or old fashioned Democrats or Whigs. None of those labels really make sense a century or two later, with the result that those quoted are strange bedfellows politically.
What does that mean? Probably that all of them would identify best today with anti-statism. I picture Eugene Debs, Daniel Webster, and Lysander Spooner all having a column on Lew Rockwell.
With every year that goes by, the awful George W Bush looks worse and worse. Think of the opportunity cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (plus the misallocation of wealth in residential real estate thanks to his deliberate inflation of the housing bubble). Bush squandered something on the order of $10 trillion.
Just to put that number in perspective, it would take George W Bush about 300 million years to earn that back at his fair market compensation, given his level of intelligence and capacity for honest labor. That's not counting the time value of money.
This book is great for countering the high school history textbook lies about this country's wars. Maybe it could help stop a young man from wasting his life in the military.