War is over

So, my new apartment is the sort of place where delivery people need to follow fucking directions. But of course, with Amazon’s labor practices, they’re too rushed to do so. Most stuff I can get delivered to my private mailbox, but with groceries from Whole Foods, owned by Amazon, I simply have to go in and pick up these orders myself.

It was on my way back from such a pickup that I noticed a large pickup truck, but a bit diminutive by Donald Trump supporter standards,[1] with stickers referring to U.S. Highway 395; to Lone Pine, a community along U.S. 395 in a valley on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains; and to the vehicle owner’s profession of belief in sasquatch (“big foot”).

I smiled to myself. Almost certainly another Californian, I thought, even though the truck had Pennsylvania license plates. I actually see a lot of California plates on the roads around Pittsburgh; I know I’m by far not the only Californian to have moved here and indeed, if there is any hope for Pennsylvania politics, where the legislature is dominated by fanatical Trump supporters, it may well arrive from California.

Another sticker on the truck said, “War is Over,” clearly expressing exasperation with endless war, for which the most notable recent example is Afghanistan, where it can now safely be said that in twenty years, the U.S. accomplished nothing but death and destruction. The rationalization, of course, is that at the cost of considerable blood and treasure, U.S. and allied forces delayed the tragedy that now unfolds, kicked the can down the road until, to his credit, Joe Biden decided enough was enough and pulled the plug.

Which led me to thinking about war in general. Does it ever do better? Does might ever support “right,” however we assign that moral evaluation?

The only obvious example in the last century or so is World War II, where victory was achieved against the Nazis in significant part—I make a point to acknowledge it here because it is not often enough acknowledged—due to the sacrifices of the Soviet Union.

But even World War II should be viewed as a consequence of the Versailles Treaty which actually failed to resolve World War I. The Treaty demanded ruinous reparations from Germany and exacted humiliation for the country’s role in a war that seems to me to have been entirely pointless. In retrospect, I see a parallel with neoliberalism’s ruinous demands of the working class and the right-wing nationalism, including Trumpism, that now bedevils the west.

We don’t remember World War I that way, of course. Pittsburgh has a “Doughboy” statue at the gateway to the Lawrenceville district, commemorating a soldier in that war. But where with most wars, I can understand reasons for them to have been fought, even as I nearly always disagree with those reasons, with World War I, I draw a blank, even having read some history of the era. This one makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Nor can the wars in Iraq, Vietnam, Somalia, Yemen, or Korea be said to have had a favorable outcome for the U.S. Indeed, might failed to make “right,” as the U.S. defined it.

The argument for war, even as kicking the can down the road, must be set against the resentments it engenders. I remember an interview—as near as I can tell, CNN has removed it from their site—with Osama bin Laden, in which he attributed the 9/11 attacks to U.S. support for Israel, its military bases on the holy soil of Saudi Arabia, and its role in the Middle East generally. These grievances stemmed from a continuation of western military imperialism in the region; al Qaeda’s attacks have in turn provoked Islamophobia and a more visible anti-Arab hatred in the U.S.

If the goal really is peace, it seems the U.S. and its allies do a better job of enriching armaments manufacturers. If the goal is, as some cynics contend, the control of oil resources, it seems the U.S. and its allies do a better job of increasing Russian and Iranian influence and of supporting authoritarianism.

War, sadly, is not over. But it is, at best, futile, and often, counterproductive.

  1. [1]Angie Schmitt, “What Happened to Pickup Trucks?” CityLab, March 11, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-11/the-dangerous-rise-of-the-supersized-pickup-truck

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