Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What is it good for?

I'm reading a thread on a non-political forum about what it means to be a hawk versus a dove. (I'm not linking to it because it degenerated pretty quickly into a third grade shouting match, quite unusual in anonymous internet forum postings.) On their artificial scale, I would consider myself a qualified hawk--mostly because I think the best way to ward off attack is to make sure your would-be attacker knows full well what the consequences would be, and this requires a large, efficient army that acts consistently and predictably to back up your claims. For much of its existence, the United States has done a pretty good job of balancing having such an armed force with retaining its own freedoms and ideals, though there are a few glaring exceptions.

The participants in this vigorous online debate fall into several camps; the Europeans believe any war fought for any reason at any time is unjust because War is Bad and the only justified reason for killing someone is if they've already killed you and besides war distracts everyone from shutting down mosques and burning headscarves, which are perfectly OK. Americans and other Anglo states are wondering what the fuss is, since not killing civilians is all you need to be dovish, right? And the Middle Eastern and Asians nations aren't saying much of anything because the autocratic bootheel of silence is pushing down on their vocal chords.

Personally, I've always wondered why people were so upset about the concept of "the business of America is business," which, by extension, means a free-market democratic society with a military to protect such interests.* The only other democratic society is one where all your obligations are met by the state, with the flip side being that the people are obligated to the state. This seems, to me, to be a scarier prospect, and I'm afraid less and less people agree with me.

*I don't agree with using the military to secure economic interests, even if these business interests are in the interest of America--the free market should be free, of course, something using military force kind of violates. However, with the exception of some limited engagements in South America (OK, maybe not so limited in the minds of the South Americans), "economic interests" make a good excuse and proxy issue for the real reasons war occurs, and that's generally due to plain old power politics.  But it's not good in polite company to state as such, so it's easier to claim it's for cheap oil and green bananas. Sure, "power politics" isn't a good excuse for war either, but pretty much all excuses for war are dumb, and you could do a lot worse. 

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