War is Never the Way
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Politics and Activism

War is Never the Way

Hypocrisy and greed in American foreign policy.

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War is Never the Way

You have almost certainly been hearing about the "Iran Deal" in the news. The largely partisan and rhetorical debate centers around whether we should trust Iran to uphold an international agreement to not pursue the development of a nuclear weapon.

Some say that it is the only alternative to war. Others say it is indeed not an alternative to war at all, but only an ineffective attempt at diplomacy and that we are better off simply starting the war now. From a purely strategic, black-and-white perspective both of these arguments make some kind of sense. You may favor one over the other. But there is one disturbing point on which almost every elected and military official in this country agree: if Iran were to break an agreement then war is the only remaining course of action.

This assumption, this "reality", is not questioned. The only two options the American public is led to believe are available are "war now" or "war later". It is exactly this kind of twisted, immoral logic that led the U.S. to spend the latter half of the 20th century overthrowing governments, supporting terrorists, and intervening in regional conflicts, all of which resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent people.

For those people who are still living in the regions the U.S. has graced with its intervention, is life any better? Certainly not in Vietnam, where the devastating effects of chemical weapons still cause birth defects and thousands of undetonated explosives threaten to end someone's life in a random blink of an eye. Certainly not in Egypt, where the U.S.-backed president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has curbed all of the civil rights advances made in the 2011 revolution - massacring even the peaceful members of the Muslim Brotherhood, imprisoning journalists, and imposing martial law. Certainly not in Iraq, where the irresponsible power vacuum left behind by the clumsy and unjustified U.S. occupation allowed a small terror cell to form an army of 30,000 fanatics.

So where did we go wrong? It seems like the only way to stop human rights abuses, wanton killing, and cruel dictatorship is to take military action, but that only ensures more violence. Perpetrated by a different person perhaps, but more violence all the same. What can we do then? Is it hopeless? Not if History has anything to say about it.

Wars are fought for good and bad reasons. Wars are ended in good and bad ways. World War I was an unbelievably petty conflict, springing from the vanity and pride of a couple of European monarchs. It ended with aggressive reparations and sanctions placed on Germany, enforced sometimes by military action. Faced with unjust abuse from foreign powers (and their own leaders) the German people were moved to support the radical National Socialist Party (some favored the communists, but were silenced). Thus followed the most tumultuous and deadly single period of human history.

Now look at World War II, forgetting the mistakes that led to its starting for a moment and just analyzing it independently. Faced with a malevolent, ideologically extreme military power, the Allies reluctantly went to war. It was a defensive war, not started out of any personal interest (although the Allies did stand to profit), but out of necessity for the existence of peace and democracy. Moreover, it was concluded fairly and justly, without the ridiculous, unrealistic reparations and sanctions as before. West Germany experienced a miraculous financial recovery, as did Japan. As a result, those societies have been restored from their violent fascism and are no longer menaces to peace. Israel and Eastern Europe were diplomatic blunders, but at least they were respectively unintentional and unavoidable.

Now compare that to the wars of our generation.

The justifications given by the U.S. and other Western powers for their wars more recently have been nothing but farcical. If our goal was to liberate the Iraqi people from an oppressive dictator, why did we spend the 1980s supporting Saddam Hussein with weapons and money? Of course the real reason was that Iraq was fighting the newly formed Islamic Republic of Iran in the 1980s. And why do we not like Iran? Well, because they overthrew the U.S.-supported Shah in the 1979 revolution. Why did they do that? He was a dictator who sold the resources of Iran to Western governments while his own people suffered in poverty. Why did we support him? Prior to 1953 Iran was a booming secular democracy, with social security and unemployment benefits rivaling those of the U.S. The progressive prime minister at the time made a big mistake though: nationalizing the Iranian oil industry, which had been previously monopolized by the government of the United Kingdom. The valuable commodity of oil was too important to let human rights get in the way of it, so the CIA overthrew the prime minister and installed the Shah as the de facto autocrat.

Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein. Rumsfeld later oversaw the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

And so the roots of the violent Middle East can be traced back to greed. There is more to the story than that of course, but that is one link on the great chain of events that shaped the modern world.


There is a right way and a wrong way. The right way is surely quite complicated. The general idea of "peacekeeping" is a good one; stopping heinous human rights abuses should be a priority. The important thing is to be careful to distinguish that from greed. That which our leaders call noble and righteous may be a convenient exterior justification that shields a much uglier truth. If we as voters continue supporting two major parties which both use violent foreign policy measures to attain material wealth, we will only be playing into the hands of the powerful. Our tax money will continue to be diverted to researching new ways to kill people, and our role in the world will be what people in other countries already acknowledge it as: greedy people using the guise of justice to fool themselves into thinking they are helping, when they are really just controlling. If we shrug off the fetters of American exceptionalism and demand an end to hypocrisy, we can begin to really do good.

Goodness needs no weapon; it needs a shield.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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