AMERIKA'S POLICY OF TOTAL WAR


A lengthy article but well worth the read for its comprehensive discussion of the origins of the present mindset of the holy psychotic warriors in Washington. War and Perle's "total war" is nothing new for Amerika. Considering the origins of the US, built as it is on the genocide of the original inhabitants, the robbery of half Mexico and the sweat of its enslaved black population is it any wonder that the history of that "great" land is strewn with the corpses of Afghanis, Iraqis,Koreans, Vietnamese, Mexicans, South Americans of every sort and just about every country that you can think of? Indeed the only thing surprising is that anybody anywhere has anything good to say about this godless greed machine that is more intent than ever on consuming this planet and whatever it can attain beyond this planet in its megalomanicac reach for the stars. T Dillon -------------------- Strategies of Annihilation: Total War in US History by Joseph R. Stromberg According to Russell F. Weigley's The American Way of War (1977), the United States' approach to military strategy has long rested on what is called total war. In a nutshell, total warriors make war on an enemy's entire society -- what the anthropologists might call its material culture -- that is, on the enemy's resources, food and other economic production, and on anything which might sustain the enemy's ability to keep military forces in the field. Such war is not exclusively modern, but looks backward towards ancient warfare, which often entailed the slaughter of all enemy males, enslavement of enemy women and children, and eradication of the enemy's whole existence as an independent political society. Rome's triumph over Carthage comes to mind. Over the centuries -- from St. Augustine forward -- many Christian churchmen and writers sought to lessen the horrors of war by means of Just War theory. Their goal was to leave society in general, that is, civilians, as untouched as possible by conflicts set off by the quarrels of the political classes. This aim was not always realized. According to historian John U. Nef, it was the prosperous bourgeois city-states of Renaissance Italy which implemented the practice of limited warfare, which came fairly close to the just war model. The rise of large territorial monarchies, from the late 1400s onward, broadened the scale of warfare, and the costly and bitter wars following upon the Reformation were a setback for the notion of "civilized warfare." It may indeed have been the sheer destructiveness of the so-called wars of religion, which led, over time, to greater acceptance of limits on war-making. Wars were "bad for business," and the growing importance of bourgeois enterprise in Europe gave added weight to arguments against large-scale war. The 18th and 19th centuries saw increased adherence to a code of civilized war. It is true enough that rules were not followed very strictly in wars involving different civilizations or cultures. There is little to recommend the conduct of European powers in their overseas empires. But in Europe at least, as Hans-Hermann Hoppe argues in Democracy: The God That Failed, territorial monarchs had institutional incentives both to limit the causes over which they fought their rivals and to restrict the costs and scope of such wars. In British North America, colonial frontier wars, or "Indian" wars, often took on the character of wars for survival. Weigley believes that such wars gave American war-making an early push towards the psychology of total war. Likewise, Americans tended to conceive of the French presence in North America as a total problem. Here an inherited English anti-Catholicism played its role, as it did later with regard to the Spanish Empire, or its successor states like Mexico. In the American Revolution, destruction of British political control was the key to victory. In regions with numerous "Tories" the war resembled civil war and, accordingly, did approach total war. Still, partisan warfare by local forces seeking to drive out invaders need not become total war, if only because the enemy did not bring his own civilians with him to serve as targets. The Americans prevailed on the basis of a protracted war but without developing a doctrine of total war. The French Precedent The wars set off by the French Revolution provided a long-run threat to the persistence of civilized, rule-bound warfare. Able to conscript hundreds of thousands of ideologically motivated republican citizens, the new French state put colossal armies in the field. Napoleon Bonaparte, an evil genius of sorts, showed how to use such mass armies, and other powers struggled to catch up. In Prussia, Karl von Clausewitz sought to draw theoretical lessons from these developments in On War (Vom Kriege). Wars had become colossal exercises in logistics and maneuver, drawing more and more of a nation's population into their maw. In the early 20th century, the German strategic writer Hans DelbrÃ?¼ck attempted to sum up matters thus far. He held that there were at bottom two kinds of war strategy: that of Niederwerfung, "suppression," and that of Ermattung, "attrition." It should be added that these kinds of war could conceivably obtain between actual combatants, leaving society relatively unscathed. The steady upward ratcheting of the scale and costs of wars had farther to go before unalloyed total war could stand forth in fullness. The Union-Savers' Expedients It was in North America that the new model was first perfected. The old union faltered in 1861. The ensuing war presented serious problems to those who wished to "save" the union. Under the existing rules of warfare, the defending Confederate States had a number of natural advantages. To counter those, total war entered into Union strategy from at least 1862. The old-school generals sacked for being "ineffective" were precisely those who drew back from the new philosophy of war put into practice by Generals like Pope, Sherman, and Sheridan. Northern policy-makers soon theorized their practice. Here Francis Lieber has pride of place. Lieber, a German immigrant who had fought in the wars against Napoleon, was -- out of some combination of liberalism, romanticism, and nationalism - extremely sentimental about the state (which Nietzsche, by contrast, called the coldest of cold monsters). Thus Lieber could write in 1838 that "the state stands incalculably above the individual, is worthy of every sacrifice, of life, and goods, of wife and children, for it is the society of societies, the sacred union by which the creator leads man to civilization, the bond, the pacifier, the humanizer, of men, the protector of all undertakings...." Out of this pseudo-Hegelian waffle comes the notion that freedom can be realized only within the modern abstract state; in the US, this meant the allegedly indestructible union. Along with this perilous modification of liberalism came, in practice, a legal-positivist approach to the laws of war, embodied in General Orders No. 100, which Lieber wrote for Lincoln's War Department. Section 15 of these Orders reads: "Military necessity admits of all direct destruction of life or limb of armed enemies, and other persons whose destruction is incidentally unavoidable in the armed contests of war....." Naturally, the decision as to which persons it was "whose destruction is incidentally unavoidable" was best left to commanders in the field, or their superiors. A cynic might well say that this "code" allowed for the after-the-fact justification of anything a commander might claim had been "necessary" to achieve military objectives. One such cynic was James Seddon, Confederate Secretary of War, who commented: "[I]n this code of military necessity... the acts of atrocity and violence which have been committed by the officers of the United States and have shocked the moral sense of civilized nations are to find an apology and defense." Further, "a military commander under this code may pursue a line of conduct in accordance with principles of justice, faith, and honor, or he may justify conduct correspondent with the warfare of the barbarous hordes who overran the Roman Empire...." In 1915, historian John Bigelow characterized the war thus: "Depredation and spoliation, especially in the latter part of the war were the general policy of Lincoln's government; and as a matter of fact Eastern Virginia and other parts of the South were swept clearer than the Shenandoah Valley of everything useful to man and beast." And historian Charles Royster observed in 1991 that the "Civil War, as practiced by the belligerents and characterized by Sherman, implemented two propositions which later wars took much further: that the nation and the nation's professed ideals admit no necessary limit in their fight to prevail; that the methods of waging war do not differ categorically if at all between the belligerent whose cause is labeled just and the belligerent whose cause is labeled unjust. Neither of these propositions commands universal assent, yet modern belligerents have acted as if they were true." Given the assumption of a right to win, the property and even the lives of enemy civilians began to weigh much less than they had in the older rules of war. Faced with such matters, Lincoln apologists typically resort to what historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel calls the Hitler-Stalin-Mao test. Clearly, Sherman's March falls far short of that. For one such historian, the fact that Northern soldiers did not directly shoot civilians is a sufficient proof of the humanity of the war. This is all well and good, but one would like an explanation for the roughly 50,000 missing Southern civilians of all colors and creeds. They seem to have perished from causes attendant on the war, once it became a war against property and economic resources. In July 1862, Lincoln rather typically told Southern unionists, who were complaining of Northern seizures of property that "broken eggs cannot be mended" -- a statement which puts him directly in the line of Jacobin-Bolshevik political ruthlessness. As a result of all this, Lincoln has become "famed for his compassion," in historian James M. McPherson's words. It would appear that Lincoln's myth has long since outrun the facts. So why dwell on that war? One dwells there precisely because that war became the template, the ideological framework, within which policies were made and within which all respectable discussions took place ever after. To be very brief, General Grant showed what could be done with grand Napoleonic battles of annihilation (or "combats" in Weigley's terms) undertaken with cheap conscripts. Confederate commanders obliged him by doing much the same. This was very costly in manpower, and more importantly, politically. Northern war weariness threatened to bring about peace before salvation of the union had been achieved. The Southern States had only to remain unconquered. To break out of this box, the Northern leadership turned Sherman, Sheridan, and others loose on Southern society as such. By living off the resources of the enemy, Sherman could ignore problems of supply while "making Georgia howl," as he delicately put it. Of $100 million dollars in property damage inflicted on his famous march, Sherman bragged that just $20 million had a real military purpose and the remaining $80 million was "simple waste and destruction." Thus the preferred strategy became one of making war on the enemy's society generally, to undermine his armies in the field. Having led to victory, Lincoln's policies are now taken as sacred text, precedent, and proof that all later actions of a like kind are rightful and just, without anyone ever offering proof that the original acts were rightful and just. For the moment, we may chalk this up to an ineradicable American pragmatism, and go on. After all, Lincoln's generals won, and this carries great moral weight in some circles. A military technician, ignoring questions raised by old-fashioned morality, could easily consider Sherman's strategy a brilliant shortcut. Such was the judgment, for example, of Captain B. H. Liddell-Hart, British military theorist and historian. Defenders of total war make much of the way in which it allegedly "saves lives" by shortening the war. It seems likely that total war distributes deaths differently between the belligerents than would otherwise happen -- and at higher total numbers. Plains Indians Before drawing any conclusions, we must continue our cook's tour of US wars. The connection between total war and Indian Wars has already been mooted. It is probably no accident that General Sherman had seen service in the Second Seminole War in the early 1840s. He hated being attacked by mobile opponents able to disappear, and called for total eradication of the Seminole people. As for General Sheridan, he told his subordinates about to engage western Indians, "I want you to be bold, enterprising, and at all times full of energy, when you begin, let it be a campaign of annihilation, obliteration and complete destruction...." In these little wars, wanton destruction of buffalo herds was aimed at eliminating the enemy's food source. Pained by criticism of his total war tactics against Indians, Sheridan - in a letter to his old comrade Sherman -- asked rhetorically, "Did we cease to throw shells into Vicksburg or Atlanta because women and children were there?" Of course they had not. Present at Prussian Headquarters as an observer during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), Sheridan espoused the gospel of total war. "The people must be left nothing but their eyes to weep with over the war," he told the Prussians. The New World thus enlightened the Old. Spanish-American War and Philippine "Insurrection" The Spanish-American War (1898) was too brief to offer much in the way of advances in total war. It is mainly interesting as the beginning of US overseas empire, formal and informal. What is interesting is the sequel, the so-called Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902). To make good the real estate deal with Spain, which brought the Philippine Islands under US sovereignty, a costly counter-insurgency was fought. General Orders No. 100 were allegedly still in force, but proved flexible enough to permit the deaths of some 200,000 Filipinos, mostly non-combatants, before the US was able to claim victory and begin administering its new-found "India." Historians keen on finding ironies might turn their attention from the American South for a few minutes and savor these: The US, having denounced Spanish "atrocities" in Cuba from 1895-1898, adopted the same tactics to subdue the Filipinos. The US was simply more effective. By a wonderful coincidence, Britain was in these same years waging a counter-insurgency in South Africa against the Afrikaner people. The Anglo-American relationship thrived on the shared experience, and the two governments conspicuously refrained from criticizing one another's tactics in dealing with "rebels." World War I World War I took the Napoleonic model of colossal combats, which sacrificed big mobs of conscripted cannon fodder, to new heights. Millions could take part. Now, Europeans experienced the costly sort of war undertaken by Grant and Lee. In an effort to find a way out, short of calling the damned thing off (that would never do), the powers looked around for previously unlawful means of punishing the enemy's society. Britain undertook a starvation blockade of Germany. Germany responded with submarine warfare against neutral shipping. The latter helped bring the US into the war with a mixed bag of sordid mercantilist goals and high idealism. All across the board, the old rules of war gave way - in the direction of total war. The most that can be said is that the settlement was in some ways worse than the war itself, setting the stage for the next European civil war as well as for the present excitement in the Middle East. Finally, interesting experiments with aircraft seemed to herald even better ways of making war on the enemy's entire society. Air Power Bids Fair to Solve All Technical Problems In the wake of World War I, Italian General Guido Douhet theorized that aerial bombardment would be the key to winning future wars. Intimidation of civilian populations would cause them to make their governments yield to an enemy's will. It was British and American strategists who took up the theme and tailored their air forces to the task of saturation bombing, unlike such powers as Germany and Soviet Russia. In 1925, Captain Elbridge Colby, US Army, helped formulate the US attitude towards air power as an instrument of total war. He wrote that a "belligerent will not wish to risk his planes and pilots, expend his gasoline, or waste his munitions, on any objectives except those of military importance." This was already problematic, given the US tradition of defining "military targets" rather broadly. Colby went on to say that everyone knows that bombing is highly inaccurate. "Innocent people are bound to be struck," he says, even if the bomber's intention is to strike a genuinely military target [my italics]. He surveyed standing legal doctrine and concluded, rather predictably, that since adherence to the rules would virtually outlaw bombing, it was the rules, not the bombing, which must yield. No one, he said, could possibly be expected to forego wielding such a convenient and useful weapon. Interestingly, he cites British bombing of Afghanistan in May 1919 as telling precedent. World War II and the Fulfilment of Total War World War II was the apotheosis of total war. This may explain its lasting popularity with proponents of political management of human life. Deliberate carpet-bombing of cities to kill civilians as such came into its own. The most that one can say is that in Europe it was mainly the British who insisted on targeting cities per se, while the Americans stuck to targets of military significance, albeit under their rather broad and careless definitions. In the Far East, US air forces firebombed Japanese cities and civilians with great abandon. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died in both theatres. Historian David M. Kennedy writes: "[T]he great nuclear blast that obliterated Hiroshima hardly represented a moral novelty by this date in the conflict. The moral rules that had long stayed the warriors' hands from taking up weapons of mass destruction against civilian populations had long since been violently breached…." Of the bombings of Japan, General Curtis LeMay said: "You've got to kill people, and when you've killed enough, they stop fighting." This goes beyond even General Sherman's wildest rhetoric -- and action -- but states a proposition widely accepted as self-evident truth by contemporary Americans. Nuclear bombs fulfilled the total warrior's dream, but had the odd side-effect of making major wars so potentially costly as to be unthinkable for the foreseeable future. Hot Wars within the Cold War: Korea and Vietnam In the Korean War, the US doctrine of total war and hysterically broad use of overwhelming firepower got further exercise. General Emmett O'Donnell commented: "I would say that the entire, almost the entire, Korean peninsula, is just a terrible mess. Everything is destroyed. There is nothing standing worthy of the name.... Just before the Chinese came in we were grounded. There were no more targets in Korea." Even Churchill, never bomb-shy when it came to Germany, objected to US use of napalm in Korea. (2,300 gallons were used in one attack on Pyongyang.) To quote the jovial Curtis LeMay again: "We burned down just about every city in North and South Korea both.... We killed off over a million civilian Koreans and drove several million more from their homes." Given such a mode of waging war, one might think that even those allegedly being "protected" by these exercises would begin to have their doubts. Of Vietnam, I shall say very little. Only those who have been asleep will be unaware that civilian deaths in Southeast Asia resulting from the US mode of warfare match, or exceed those in Korea, especially when other parts of Indo-China are taken into account. It does not change such facts to point at other ruthless forces, such as the Khmer Rouge. In any case, consistency on the part of those doing the pointing would require them to explain why such a public enemy as Pol Pot could later be the recipient of US support after his colorful career as murderer "of his own people." Perhaps the only novelty in Vietnam was the high-flown social scientific theorizing attached to the bombing campaign. This was an interesting application of behaviorist rat-psychology, which, however, cast more doubt on the methodology than on the putative rats. As in World War II, bombing did not have the desired and predicted effect on enemy popular morale. Such unhappy outcomes have never made believers in air power lose heart. We must note, in passing, extensive US bombing of irrigation dams in North Vietnam in late 1972, intended to destroy rice crops on which the population depended. This was a real Nuremburg War Crimes Trial item, but no one ever appeared in court. Noam Chomsky heroically brought these matters, both theory and practice, to public attention many years ago, which may account for his skepticism about subsequent US crusades. For this well-earned scepticism he is currently being pilloried by the neo-conservatives. Total War With A Human Face? In the post-Cold War period, we have begun to see a re-packaging of US public doctrine into a new system of discourse or representations of how wars are actually conducted. Bombs and rockets are now much friendlier. Civilians are no longer harmed "unnecessarily," given the unspeakable accuracy and precision of the new, improved weaponry. The spin is that no one who knows the deep moral rectitude of US statesmen could now dream that civilians are ever targeted on purpose. Naturally, there is some slippage in warfare, they say, but one has to expect that. Even so, the deaths of some 600 Iraqi civilians in the Amiriya bomb shelter during the Gulf War did require some fancy footwork from the spokespersons, even granting the generous US notion of "target." But what were the "targets" in Iraq? They were precisely what applied total war doctrine says they should be: everything that supports the enemy's society -- water systems, electrical production, bridges, roads, - but the point is made. If these things can be destroyed without directly killing large numbers of civilians, so much the better in the new, kindlier total war. The PR flacks may reinvent total war all they wish, with ribbons and bows, but the old concerns still peek out. Thus, an essay in the Marine Corps Gazette (October 1989), written by five officers, sketches out a theory of "fourth generation" warfare to deal with changing conditions abroad. In this brave new world, "tactical and strategic levels will blend as the opponent's political infrastructure and civilian society become battlefield [!] targets" [my italics]. Elsewhere, this gets a friendlier face as "a goal of collapsing the enemy internally rather than physically destroying him [a distinction with not much of a difference?]. Targets will include such things as the population's support for the war and the enemy's culture [my italics]. Correct identification of enemy strategic centers of gravity will be highly important." This sounds pretty total to me. Of course they also warn that we must watch out for reprisals on American soil. Yes, one might wish to allow for that. The public attention span is short. If a half million Iraqi civilians (or more) die from lack of civilized infrastructure, combined with a blockade poorly hidden behind the weasel word "sanctions," the public may never notice. This is the sheer genius of the present transformation of total war. The new total war is indirect and subtle and, therefore, less likely to arouse concerns about its costs, much less its morality. Hence the effort to disguise each new effort -- Iraq, Kosovo, or the present ill-defined "war' -- with the fig leaf of the UN, NATO, or some other coalition of the Good against the Bad. What we see is an effort to achieve global hegemony on the cheap. It is especially important that it be cheap politically -- at home. If it costs a large amount of money, that can be discounted as imperial overhead, particularly if costs can be shifted onto some of the overseas provinces. As self-licensed counterfeiters to the world, US leaders can achieve some of this through routine monetary inflation. And why should allied foreign power elites get a free ride, anyway? The State of Play at the Beginning of the Third Millennium Of collateral damage, i.e., dead civilians, in the present campaign against the Fuzzy Wuzzies, British Secretary of State for Defense Geoff Hoon has lately opined: "There is always going to be a risk that cannot be avoided." Not for him, one imagines. This suggests that even having an air force adds up to an intention to commit war crimes. Time was when one could tell a power's air strategy by the kinds of aircraft built. US total warriors have ruined even this test by turning fighter jets into virtual bombers by means of those much advertised rockets. But consider the phrase, "collateral damage." It has almost become an embarrassment because of overuse during the Gulf War. Nonetheless, it is organically linked to the doctrine of Good Intentions. The US never intends to harm civilians. Therefore, any actual harming of civilians is unintentional, accidental, and morally neutral. The mere fact that, empirically, a broad notion of targeting and seemingly endless munitions lead to rather sloppy results is not felt as refutation of the foregoing. One might ask the several hundred Panamanians -- citizens of a friendly nation with whom the US was not at war -- killed during the comic opera "arrest" of Manuel Noriega, about that. By now, we are back to Lincoln and the classic doctrine. As it now stands, US total war doctrine holds that as long as one's heart is pure, one's goals - however impossible -- are "humanitarian," and one's domestic political system is democratic, one may do literally anything to defeat a proclaimed enemy society. This represents a projection of the trauma of 1861-1865, as experienced by the Northern leadership, onto the entire globe. Glory, glory, hallelujah, untruths go marching on. This is why Lincoln is so heavily drawn on, in these moments, as precedent, justification, and inspirational (if depressive) genius and patron saint of all US wars. There have been many examples of the "if Lincoln did it, it must be right" genre lately. Every leftist, liberal, centrist, and neo-conservative defender of empire has weighed in just such terms, mainly in aid of increased surveillance and new inroads on civil liberties. In his useful book, Crusade: The Untold Story of the Gulf War (1993), Rick Atkinson played this card to rationalize the famous "turkey shoot," i.e., the mass slaughter by US-coalition forces of tens of thousands of retreating Iraqi conscripts. Those defeated forces in no way endangered allied forces, unless the US coalition really intended to occupy and reinvent Iraq. Nonetheless, allied forces simply massacred them because it was in their power to do so. Little of the warrior ethic was on display there. But Atkinson brings the ultimate argument to bear: "The law of war - the orders signed by Abraham Lincoln before Gettysburg were an example - permitted an attack on enemy combatants, whether advancing, retreating, or standing still." Further: "The prevalent American military philosophy since the Civil War had embraced a 'strategy of annihilation,' the relentless bludgeoning of an enemy to destroy his armed forces and ability to wage war." It is time, then, for a discussion of ends and means in relation to war and peace. Clever fellows like Jonah Goldberg like to deconstruct the popular saying, "The end doesn't justify the means." Quite so. Means do justify ends. The question is whether or not particular ends hallow any and every old means one could come up with. The total warriors have had their say about this for nearly a century and a half. Their later theorizings, most notably during the High Cold War at the hands of such worthies as Hermann Kahn, Henry Kissinger, and the like, amounted to a gross distortion of Just War theory. They sought to focus all attention on jus ad bellum, i.e., whether or not a particular cause was just. It cannot be said that they did a strikingly good job on this front or that their efforts had much to do with actually existing US foreign policy. Of jus in bello, i.e., what means were morally supportable in war, they said rather little. The Good Intentions took care of that. This goodness radiated outwards, enveloping all US military practices -- and indeed all conceivable US military practices -- with the all the finality of a newly discovered 14th Amendment "penumbra" wiping out a longstanding constitutional interpretation. The Good could do no Bad. Conversely, the Bad could do no Good. No weapon, however massively destructive, was immoral or frightening in the hands of the Good, just as no weapon, however modest or plausibly related to self-defense, could be suffered in the hands of the Bad. Under this genial doctrine, there are entirely good nations, whose every act, of whatever kind, against certified entirely bad nations must needs be rightful and true. Doubters are told to gird themselves up with a pseudo-Stoicism which holds that "broken eggs cannot be mended." Things just happen, you know, when just crusades are afoot. One begins to wonder if this construction is not as crazy and unlimited, in its own way, as Soviet Marxism-Leninism ever was. A look at the recent rash of neo-conservative writings on the present crisis suggests that only an explanation in terms of mistaken theology will suffice. This brings us to the decayed Puritanism of the "savers" and re-founders of the Union (the Founders having been mainly Southerners). Historian William Appleman Williams writes of the New England Puritans that their externalization of evil onto their opponents "not only distorted the Puritans' own doctrine, it inclined them toward a solution which involved the extension of their system over others." Q. E. D. This world outlook, decayed or otherwise, still partly animates the ongoing US crusade. Matters are even worse in that US leaders have the resources to pursue their post-Protestant "vision of omnipotence" (to quote Williams again), since the American economy still functions fairly well, in contrast to the late Soviet economy. They have in hand the means to pursue their Faustian dream. And yet, despite all the expensive "defense" they provide us with, we seem increasingly unsafe. What Might Be the Alternative? But let us return to the strategic front. Weigley observes that already in 1926, a writer in the Naval Institute Proceedings, William Howard Gardner, had spotted a flaw in the US leaders' ambitions: "There is great importance in the fact that in a war between the United States and an Asiatic power the latter's aims would seem distinctly 'limited' to many Americans, whereas, in order to maintain our position in Asiatic affairs, we might have to aim at 'unlimited' reduction of the enemy's country, though not necessarily by invasion in force. In other words, the geographic distribution of interests is such that the inauguration of a 'limited' war by an Asiatic power would be likely to compel us to carry through an 'unlimited' war to victory as the only alternative to accepting defeat. Consequently, the enemy's combativeness would be aroused to the utmost while some among us probably would rather yield than continue the war." It is interesting that Weigley refers to this as "the American problem" [my italics]. It certainly is that, provided US leaders insist on world hegemony. One has to believe in quite a lot of high-flown and farfetched world-land theory in the tradition of Mackinder and Haushofer to buy that project. I shall soon undertake a web search to see if Zbigniew Brzezinksi, an architect of our "successful" Afghan caper of the 1980s, has written much on whether or not the moon is made of ice. Our only hope of deliverance from our pending transformation into an ersatz British Empire lies in adopting a different conception of American foreign policy. This would mean giving up Lincoln's idea of America as the "last best hope" of mankind, and his successors' program of exporting our blessings by force. This would mean a final, fond farewell to the civic religion forged in the fires of Atlanta and Columbia. While Russell Weigley has been a good guide to the United States' philosophy of war, he has said little about the necessity or merits of those wars. For this, we turn to Williams, whose work was a single-minded, radical critique of the US Empire and its Open Door ideology. To this we add the free market economics of Murray Rothbard, which shows us how to disaggregate, or unpack, the ideological categories of the prevailing system. In those quasi-Hegelian categories, the empire is the only possible "realm of freedom." Freedom is, in fact, precisely that which the empire allows or commands. All else is anarchy or oppression. Rothbard starts with the simplest lesson of all: the state is not the nation, the state is not the people, and the state is not society. See especially, Murray N. Rothbard, "War, Peace, and the State" in Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays (2000), pp. 115-132, for the wide-ranging consequences of this simple insight. I have no space here to dwell on how war invariably strengthens the state. I take that as given. With empire, we have far too many opportunities for war, and therefore for state aggrandizement. Americans need to decide whether they wish to regain their freedoms. If they do not, they can sign up for the "national greatness" and imperialism offered by the neo-conservatives. One of the burdens Americans will bear, if they choose the latter path, will be the costs -- in life, liberty, property, and social morality -- of total war. The point of this essay has not been to make anyone feel guilty about the methods used in past wars. I know no one, personally, who burned Atlanta or bombed Dresden. It is just that, given the track record of the strategists we have had, if we stay on the imperial highway, sooner or later some of us will be asked to undertake, or acquiesce in, the inglorious deeds of total war, however sanitized and repackaged they may be. I don't know if we should really want that for our children or our grandchildren. What is needed is an historically formed understanding of the pattern of US wars; how certain kinds of challenge, and not others, call forth an armed response; how pretended "negotiations" always break down, systematically; how loveable, local revolutionary "allies" are always shoved to one side while the US appropriates their cause, from 1898 on; how war immediately becomes total war; how the proper authorities always demand Unconditional Surrender, as if such a demand were normal; how widespread destruction gives way, after victory, to sentimental but profitable "reconstruction" of the chastened foe. In short, what we need is the historical vision we never got in high school. A Final Observation In his exhaustive account of US military practice, Weigley remarks that America has produced only one gifted practitioner of the war of attrition (partisan war), General Nathaniel Greene. I ask, Why might that be? I answer that it is because the Revolution was in most respects a just war of defense, and not a war for empire. It has been a long time since we fought a war which was clearly of that character. October 25, 2001 Joseph R. Stromberg [send him mail] is the JoAnn B. Rothbard Historian in Residence at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and a columnist for Antiwar.com.

Created By: Tony Dillon