War as first resort: Simon Tisdall

Simon Tisdall in the Guardian writes about the history of war, from the perspective of the US, and argues that war is always the first resort – never the last. He lists the litany of conflicts that have involved the US. This is an excellent article.

America has been fighting wars all our lifetimes, from Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf to Serbia, Afghanistan and now, again, in Iraq. Its wars have flared hot and brief, as in Libya in 1986, Panama in 1989, and Somalia in 1992. They have run cold and long, as in its 40-year global confrontation with the Soviet Union. They have been fought by proxy, as in Angola and Mozambique, or behind the scenes as in Lebanon and Cambodia. They have been waged covertly as in Chile and Cuba, Nicaragua and El Salvador; or by invitation, as in the current Colombian “war on drugs” and the Philippines leg of the “war on terror”.

He then correctly draws a comparison with 19th century British and French colonial ambitions:

American presidents merely follow the example of earlier imperial powers, most obviously the 19th-century British and French gun boaters whose colonies, dependencies, satrapies and influence they have by stages usurped. Like them too, self-deceptively perhaps but with more objectively convincing reasons, the US also believes it acts for the greater good – to uphold values and ideals such as democracy and free speech upon which the republic was founded.

He then goes into the subject of war –

From Marathon to the Somme, from Agincourt to Austerlitz, around the world, war has been and often remains an option of first resort, not last. War may not be desirable in theory. War may be morally reprehensible. War may be hell. But as Hobbes pointed out, it is a brutal constant to which a ritual obeisance is paid.

Brilliantly and with great insight Tisdall says:

The US march on Iraq is merely the latest, sick manifestation of a world that for all its supposed modernity, remains addicted to war. Humankind’s self-destructive, self-interested apocalyptic urge is the real, abiding enemy within. Beware that old Armageddon buzz. It’s the thrill that kills.
I could not agree more – war is a part of humanity. Maybe someday we will grow out of it – if we do not, we are all doomed.

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