I just received my copy of a great new book entitled Why Peace edited by Marc Guttman. I am one of many contributors, and my chapter is titled "If War is the Health of the State, What is Peace?"
I will share that chapter at a later time, and I encourage you to buy and widely share this fantastic collection. Marc, a friend and a great activist for liberty, has really achieved something special and important in Why Peace.
It occurs to me that when we speak of war, we often confuse justifiable resistance of people to evil with the propaganda-driven fiascos pursued by governments in order to consolidate or expand power, or to satisfy the corporate demands placed on politicians by the organizations, industries or cabals that helped elect them.
In American history we have many examples of this, and the American government, even in its early and more innocent years, was no stranger to state-financed war for this or that friend, ally, or economic interest. Gary North even makes a case that the concept of tax resistance embodied in the Boston Tea Party and sparking the American war of independence, was indeed less a justified popular tax revolt than a war for trade monopoly joined by the nascent American government.
German socialists, fresh to American by tens of thousands as they fled their failed 1848 socialist revolution in Germany, were key in the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Their philosophy and statism demanded Lincoln's prosecution of the war between the states. Lincoln's efforts to redefine federalism, to nationalize, to stand above the Constitution, and to politically satisfy both his industrial monopolist and European socialist backers created that deadly war, where none was desired by the vast majority of people, in either the North or the South.
This history, and the Indian Wars as well, lend credence to the idea of war as corporate strategy, implemented by governments through force, largely against the will or common sense of the people, and therefore creating a need for centralized nationalist propaganda. War and its storyline both emanate from the state. On the other hand, rebellion, resistance and a renewal evolutionary political change tends to emanate from the people, through a leavening and a changing of their hearts and minds over time.
The Protestant progressivism in the late 1800s embraced the idea that a sinning and sinful men and women could be forcefully reformed, and that a Protestant American state should be God's instrument in this human reform. The merger of church and state instead brought more war, at home and abroad. At home, surges of immigration by large uneducated Italians and Irish Catholics were dealt with by the public school movement, mandatory schooling by the state (at the time, religiously influenced) was advocated. The attempted prohibition of alcohol, and the growth of the state it created, was also a point of progressivism. Abroad, the collapse of the global Catholic empire was seen by these same progressives as an opportunity for the state, and fueled Washington's push for extended global wars.
It would be remarkably generous and entirely naïve to suggest that the progressive wars against papists, alcohol, and laziness were popular rebellions, or that they constituted some focused resistance by the average people of the country. It would also be naïve to consider that the goals of the progressives of the late 1800s and the early 1900s were not in sync with the goals of larger and increasingly global corporations of the major cities of the United States. It was this harnessing of the language and propaganda of the Christian progressives with the corporate capitalism that spawned and encouraged American's participation in the great wars of the 20th Century, and the lesser ones.
After having fought some of these wars, in the Philippines and elsewhere, retired Marine General Smedley Butler wrote his famous 1934 speech "War is a Racket." It was in the early 1930s, an age of widespread hardship, and Butler was capitalizing on both his understanding of corporate-driven wars and on popular sentiment, in a Senatorial primary campaign that he would lose.
Butler had also had a falling out with Grayson Murphy, on whose behalf Butler claimed to have been approached in 1934 to lead an army of 500,000 men to install a dictatorship in the White House. The would-be dictator was identified as Brigadier General Hugh "Iron Pants" Johnson, a member of FDR's brain trust, a FDR speechwriter and a New Deal planner. At the risk of repeating myself, the proposed dictatorship was fascist in orientation. A Congressional committee reviewed the Butler's charges, and confirmed that indeed, such a plan existed, "… and might have been placed in execution when and if the financial backers deemed it expedient." Grayson Murphy was a co-founder in 1919 of the American Legion (the purported source of the proto-army of 500,000), and a board member of organizations such as Morgan Bank, Goodyear and Bethlehem Steel.
I mention this because among many other organizations, the American Legion still takes a strong stance for wars of the state, and suggests in its language, tone, and advertisers that to oppose state wars is to oppose and disrespect the draftees and volunteers who are the foot-soldiers of these wars.
Eisenhower's farewell speech, familiar to many, echoes no more than the contemporary understanding of the embedded industrial, military and political networks of his own era. Those networks have grown, intertwined, and subsumed the policies and actions of the two major political parties in the subsequent decades. Today, as for several past decades, the warfare state benefits whether the elected President of the United States is a Democrat or a Republican.
I think this connectedness of the state, state corporations and appointed and elected warmakers is the only way we can define the term "war." Who can deny that bailed out banks and carmakers, subsidized, taxpayer-nurtured defense, technology, energy, agricultural and pharmaceutical industries are not state corporations? Who would claim today that the incursions of the state into space, into the Internet, and into our backyards, front yards, kitchens, bedrooms, gun cabinets, bank accounts and safe deposit boxes is not a war conducted by the state?
War – its funding, its design, its conduct and pursuit, as Randolph Bourne observed, is always the health of the state. We who resist, rebel, and seek renewal, whether by Jefferson's blood of patriots or though a new and peaceful understanding of the Constitution, of God, of duty or of humanity what we do, what we fund, what we design, conduct and pursue is not war.
Because it isn't war, we may not have a single leader, or any leader at all. We may not raise a large army, nor will we need to field massive and complex weapon systems. The bulk of rebellion and resistance, and even renewal in a community, a state, a country, and even a nation, is silent and hidden. Like a massive iceberg, the resistance, the rebellion and political and social renewal occurs hidden from the state's view, underneath the substrate, a powerful and indestructible keel.
We use the word "war" too much today, and we fear its "power" perhaps more than we should. Wars are just the wasteful, deadly and destructive spasms of fearful kings and dictators, created largely by the laziness and greed of those who control and drive the overweening state. Conservative and Progressive alike, the so-called left and the presumed right, those who love the Constitution as God's inspired guidance and those who believe as Lysander Spooner did, that it is no law at all – all of these believers should boldly hold state war in profound contempt.
As we treasure peace, freedom, and self-ownership, community and family, we should not teach our children to revere state war, and to become patriotic robots and passive foot-soldiers of a lying, corrupted, and spendthrift government. Instead of studying the histories of wars, written by the surviving governments, we should, through example and practice, teach our children the art of resistance to evil, the power of peaceful rebellion against tyrants, and the current and very real possibilities of political and personal renewal.
This originally appeared on Freedom’s Phoenix’s February 3 e-Zine.