War Isn’t Actually Pointless, by Paul Rosenberg

From Paul Rosenberg at freemansperspective.com, with a hat tip to SLL reader Neil M. Dunn, who included the link in a comment yesterday: 

People often say that war is pointless, and it must be admitted that their argument is a good one:

What was gained in Iraq and Afghanistan? Things there are just as bad today as when the Western armies rolled in. And the threat to the West seems no less. To what end were all those people killed, mutilated, and terrorized?

What was the point of all the kingdom-versus-kingdom wars? Borders shifted left; borders shifted right; but the daily lives of the farmers, bakers, and traders mostly went back to normal after all the death.

And so on.

Even in the case of World War II – our best “wild man must be stopped” scenario – the facts don’t actually bear out the effectiveness of war. Yes, I’m very glad that Hitler was stopped (had I been there, I might have undertaken to kill him myself), but in full honesty, we must also admit that while the war stopped Hitler, it also made the world safe for Stalin, who went on to kill more people than Hitler ever did.

And without Stalin and a strong USSR, would Pol Pot have been able to kill a fourth of the population of Cambodia? Would Mao have been able to rack up the greatest death toll in human history… as much as Stalin and Hitler combined?

So, even in our very best scenario, a good argument can be made for war’s pointlessness.

But alas, I am drifting from my title subject, where I maintain that war is not pointless.

The Ruler and the “Poor Slob”

One of the more instructive quotes on war comes from Hermann Göring, a key member of Hitler’s inner circle. Notice the distinction he makes between the people and the leaders.

Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood.

But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a communist dictatorship.

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peace makers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

This explains why we so often see war as pointless: We’re looking at it from the vantage point of the poor slob, not from the vantage point of the ruler.

So, the truth is that war is not pointless… it’s only pointless from the standpoint of the poor slob who has to suffer and die in it.

For the ruler, war has a clear and compelling purpose: it gets rid of competitors.

States fight. That is as accurate as any statement of history that can be found. It was true 6,000 years ago and it is true now. Conflict is part of the core nature of states; they compete like animals over limited territories. Thus, war serves them.

To continue reading: War Isn’t Actually Pointless

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