Saturday, August 18, 2012

War and Consequence

Back in 2008 I actually thought war was a major issue in American politics.  I remember rallies, protests, and sign-waving.  A vote for McCain was portrayed as an approval for war, and many people weren't having it.

People sing a different tune now.  Almost four years have passed and the US military has continued to be used to search out monsters to destroy all over the world.  It has devastated Iraq for no reason, leaving over 100,000 dead.  It assisted in toppling Libya's government because Obama suddenly felt like it, and it is looking to do the same in Syria.  It continues to slaughter innocent civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan- sometimes with unmanned drones, which it also uses in campaigns in Yemen and Somalia.

Understand that there is nothing worse than war, much less a war with no concrete objective.  War destroys capital and kills people by the thousands- people whose life and loved ones matter as much to them as yours matters to you.  War takes a cut off the top of all productive civilian economic activity, and it's not cheap.  We and our children will pay for it in higher taxes, a lower standard of living, and a less certain future.

War costs freedom, too.  It has always been the parent of surveillance states and police states.  Even now our communications may be tapped without a warrant in the name of fighting terror.  The government can rifle through our personal finances and medical records as it sees fit.  Congress routinely gives our tax money to private corporations.  We're undressed and hassled when we want to fly, and can probably expect similar treatment for other modes of transit.  The Pentagon has so much military equipment that it gives its surplus (including assault weapons, riot gear, and tanks) to local police departments.  The President has granted himself the power of having his own kill list.  And the federal government recently gave the OK to use drones in domestic air space.  History suggests these relatively novel things are now a permanent part of American life.

The upcoming elections will probably mean nothing so far as all of this is concerned, as neither candidate has shown an interest in changing any of it.  An Obama victory will send the message that no President will be held accountable for using the military as his plaything, and a Romney victory will prove that Americans are willing to settle for any candidate who says he's not a Democrat.  Either way, war will be quietly downgraded to a fringe political issue just like the maintenance of the Bill of Rights.  It's a foregone conclusion at this point, but I still don't want it to happen.  I'd sooner not vote at all than consent to war by voting for either of those two men.

If the future of the United States is in the hands of politicians who think perpetual war is acceptable, we the people are in trouble.  War is destructive, expensive, and erodes our freedom.  It makes us all less safe, and it pushes the limits of what kind of tyrannies Americans are willing to tolerate.  We'll soon find out what those limits are if we continue giving politicians a pass on this important issue.