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war

Nothing seems less rational than using violence to settle arguments, which makes war—committing mass murder in pursuit of political goals—the stupidest invention in human history. Yet almost every documented society, going all the way back to the world’s first written records 5,000 years ago, has waged war. If war is really such a bad idea, why is it such an apparently permanent part of the human condition, and can anything alter that fact? Ian Morris

During the Cold War, the US had some 400,000 troops in Europe, 800 warplanes and potent naval forces. Today, the US has only 43,000 troops left in Europe: two combat brigades and the rest air force and logistics personnel. The old days when the Soviet Union had 50,000 tanks pointed at Western Europe are long gone, but Russia’s modernized armed forces still pack punch. Meanwhile, the US has scattered forces all over the globe in what Frederick the Great would call an effort to defend everything. Most notably, US troops have gone to Afghanistan, Iraq, then Kuwait, and many home. America’s strongest divisions are now guarding Kansas and Texas instead of German’s Fulda Gap and Hanover. War Fever in the Air

The biggest misconception about the war is that the soldiers care about politics. The right thinks the soldiers want support. They want to feel good. They want everybody to fly their flag and have a bumper sticker and go, ‘Rah! Rah! Rah! I support the troops. Yay, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!’ The left thinks the soldiers all want to run off and get out of there, that they’re dying in a living hell. I think that most of the soldiers are young people that are having a decent adventure. Sergeant Perry Jeffries (via The American Bear)

The Iraq war was misleadingly sold to Congress and the public as a relatively low-cost, short-term affair (among other things), so conscription wouldn’t have made much of a difference in preventing it. If we want our political leaders to “think twice” about the wisdom of needlessly invading a country whose government posed no major threat to the United States, perhaps we should start by holding accountable the politicians that failed to do so. Perhaps the military would benefit from some of the reforms Ricks proposes, but it is extremely doubtful that it would make the government less prone to wage an unnecessary war when there is a bipartisan policy consensus in favor of it. If we want to avoid unnecessary wars in the future, we need political leaders less inclined to favoring aggressive policies and less eager to take military action as anything other than the last resort. Reviving conscription doesn’t make any of that more likely. Conscription Doesn’t Make Unnecessary Wars Less Likely

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It is one thing for the ruling class to target the general domestic population on economic matters, as it has by systematically squeezing every last bit of wealth and opportunity out of “ordinary” Americans and shoveling all of it into the drooling maw of the rulers (and for many Americans, these methods of brutalization are already catastrophic in the extreme). It is very different when the ruling class announces to the world that it considers every human being on Earth not favored by power and privilege to be fair game in a neverending campaign of slaughter. Yet there are no crowds in the street. Forget howls of fury; you can listen with the greatest concentration of which you are capable, and you will detect barely a whimper. Life goes on precisely as before, as if nothing of great moment has happened. With very rare exceptions … even the harshest critics of the murder campaign so thoughtfully detailed in the NYT will not say: These people are monsters. This is profoundly evil. All these people, all those who collaborate and assist in such a program, have placed themselves far beyond any limit of what can be designated as civilization. Unspeakable Things: The Liberals’ Clumsy Dance Across Obama’s Killing Floor

You have Martin Luther King’s statue in your office, but you are sending these unmanned drones out, and bombs are dropping on innocent people. That’s not a small thing. That’s not a small thing. We know from historic examples that if you engage in a certain kind of foreign policy it eats at your soul on the domestic front. Cornel West

It is absolutely true that the “hero” rhetoric that is attached to all things related to the U.S. military is used to shut down real debate about the merits of what exactly it is that all those heroes are doing out there. If all soldiers are heroes, then all soldiers are righteous. If all soldiers are righteous, then the soldiers’ cause is righteous. The soldiers’ cause is war. Therefore the war is righteous. This is one of the oldest tropes in the “Manipulating the Free Press During Wartime” handbook. You need only look back at the profusion of American flag graphics and distinct lack of pointed skepticism that defined the U.S. media in the run up to the Iraq War to know how well this tactic works. It is easy for a TV network and its pundits to be patriotic. Theirs is a cheap patriotism. It is a patriotism of platitudes and comfortable symbols and cartoonish enemy villains to be opposed. Dissenters are just easy weenies to be picked on in the media schoolyard. Pundits, Platitudes, and Patriotism: War Heroes and Their Enemies

Calling “hero” everyone killed in war, no matter the circumstances of their death, not only helps sustain the ethos of martial glory that keeps young men and women signing up to kill and die for the state, no matter the justice of the cause, but also saps the word of meaning, dishonouring the men and women of exceptional courage and valour actually worthy of the title. Political correctness: Hero inflation

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Our public discourse is such that anyone can find him or herself viciously denounced by complete strangers based on a single sound-byte from which everyone extrapolates wildly. In Defense of Chris Hayes

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