Wars of Folly

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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31 Responses

  1. dexter45 says:

    This is more than a little off the subject, but I have often wondered what Afghanistan would be like today if, instead of pulling resources out of there to invade a non threat, President Bust had hired 50,000 secular Muslims to rebuild Afghanistan.Report

  2. Jonathan says:

    As an aside, I’m always amused when I hear an American analysis of the War of 1812.Report

  3. North says:

    I think the Canadians would be mightily bemused by the idea of the war of 1812 being an American defensive war.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to North says:

      @North, yeah yeah, it’s all “WE BURNED DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE!!!” until people start talking about morality and, suddenly, it’s a “you invaded Canada, we didn’t invade you guys at all!”Report

      • North in reply to Jaybird says:

        @Jaybird, Well technically the British burned down the White House. I’m not sure how many Canadians were in that flotilla. That said, calling a war that used the very thin pretext of outrage over British impediments of American trade as an excuse for attempting to seize all of British North America a defensive one is a pretty big reach.Report

  4. Eagle Driver says:

    Ok E.D. Kain,
    Since you brought up the categorizing of war, where do you put England (and much later America) in 1939 taking on Hitler’s Nazi war machine? Chamberlain’s “Peace at any Price” deal with Hitler just didn’t work out as planned. Would you say there is a special category of “Defense – A Justified War” (opposed to your category of disguised expansion? Where would we be, much less the entire Western Civilization, without Churchill and the English Peoples standing alone against Nazi Germany? August 1940: “Never was so much owed so many to so few” – Churchill’s speech to the English Peoples following the air war famously known as The Battle of Britain.

    This is going to quite an interesting blog. One must be able to answer John Stewart Mill’s famous quote:

    “A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. ”

    I bring this to the discussion because those who do not know war seem to be most vocal in the “Peace at and Price” slogans. Warriors hate war the most, however we understand the concept of sacrifice of the few to save the many. This is a war you have not addressed (WWII would be that example). Politicians are idiots, narcissistic, and over-estimate their “leadership”. That I think is the crux of your blog.

    As we say in the fighter squadron at the beginning of a Dogfight: “Fights on!”Report

    • North in reply to Eagle Driver says:

      @Eagle Driver, Well obviously for the British it was a defensive war. Doesn’t seem hard.Report

      • Robert Cheeks in reply to North says:

        @North, And, thanks for turnig the Injuns on my people in Western Pa, and the Ohio Valley…one month alone they took over a thousand white scalps up to Ft. Niagra, to sell to your people….men, women, children!Report

        • dexter45 in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          @Robert Cheeks, Talk about the best example of defensive war and a war of plunder. How many Indians did your ancestors kill?Report

          • Robert Cheeks in reply to dexter45 says:

            @dexter45, As many as we could! That’s how you win wars and we ought to try that with the Muslims. You’d be surprised how war solves problems when done right.Report

            • North in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              @Robert Cheeks, Sorry Bob, that dog ain’t gonna hunt. Sure the indians behaved poorly, cultures faced with mass genocide do that.Report

            • Robert Cheeks in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              @Robert Cheeks, BTW, my many times grand-uncle, one Vachel Dickerson, was the only white man that Lewis Whetzel would take with him into the Ohio country to hunt scalps. The Whetzel’s dried and stretched their scalps out on the old cabin’s porch, then took ’em up to Fort Pitt to cash ’em in.
              Lewis grew his hair down his back to mock the five nations of Ohio, to invite them to fight him. No injun took his scalp and many died trying but that was back when white men had nuts.Report

            • Robert Cheeks in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              @Robert Cheeks, Dude, I have a really good book on the 1750-1790 Injun wars in the Ohio country from the perspective of the Canadian/British and it’s fascinating.
              Yes, the chicken or the egg. The American settlers been fightin’ the Eastern Aboriginal tribes since the beginning, off and on. It got real bloody in 1750 or so and kept up until about 1790 when the Five Nations of Ohio tribes were finally beaten and dispersed.
              I got kin that were tortured and killed. Kin that scouted the river for Injun incursions/war parties seeking to take plunder, rape, and murder, took part in the many forays into the Ohio country to fight ’em in the woods.
              I get a chance I’ll tell you why the white people of the area absolutely ‘hated’ the Injun! Fascinating stuff!Report

            • North in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              @Robert Cheeks, sounds like some interesting stories Bob.Report

        • North in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          @Robert Cheeks, Well Bob, when it comes to First Nations I don’t think white people have much place to complain historically. But if your nation goes picking on your northern neighbor and all the local injuns are friends with the brits and frenchies… well wars suck. And ya know the indians had good reason to hold a grudge.Report

          • Robert Cheeks in reply to North says:

            @North, I gotta go to a football game but later I’ll tell you why you Canadian coer du bois, Frenchies, Brits, were bad for turning the savages loose on my people… and yes, the Injuns were fightin’ for their survival.Report

      • Eagle Driver in reply to North says:


        Simple response, but as I wrote this kind of war doesn’t fit in the mentioned categories. You mentioned England, but what about the US involvement – was it necessary (therefore “just”) to defeat the evil empire of the Nazis? According to Churchill the war could not be won without America. Remember I am asking for the addition of the war category of “Defensive – A Justified War” in E.D Kain’s diatribe on warfare. As Churchill said in his History of the Second World War, “We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end. We might not even have to die as individuals. Hitler’s fate was sealed.” He wrote this after hearing of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into the Second World War.Report

        • North in reply to Eagle Driver says:

          @Eagle Driver, Again it was defensive, though I’d add that it’s much more muddled on the part of America. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, America entered the war and since Japan and Germany were Axis and allies America was at war with Germany as well though.

          This papers over, of course, the complex question of Japan and the US and their behaviors and motives for the entire war issue in the Far East and the Pacific.Report

  5. Sam M says:

    “but we’re talking about two separate things here. I was speaking of our economic system not having any ‘intent’.”

    OK. Fair enough. But I think it’s fair to say that when someone like IOZ says “the system” he has something different in mind than a pure market from econ 101, and that when most people say ‘the system,” they are referring to exactly the kind of set-up that leads to “the direct plundering of American tax dollars to feed the ever-hungry military-industrial complex.”Report

  6. Bob says:

    Tell me how you feel the Revolutionary War is defensive. It was supported by only 1/3 of the population. There were many nations (Canada, Australia, etc) that didn’t need to take arms to become a free nation (even if it did happen much later). I feel revolutions can be justified but they are never defensive, the act of a revolution as an aggressive nature to it.

    Civil Wars also don’t really have a defensive element to it. It’s a struggle for control usually between two sets of values, ideas or goals. It’s more than just defensive.

    As for the American Civil War, if that was a defensive war because of this reason:

    “Such a secession would have been an act of plunder as it would have stolen, effectively, a vast amount of land and resources from the United States as a whole.”

    Than would the Soviet invasions of Poland and the Baltic States be defense because they were only getting back what land and resources were taken away after WWI?

    War is too complicated to be boiled down into cookie-cutter definitions.Report

  7. Katherine says:

    The main issue in the War of 1812 wasn’t naval power or capturing Canada (though the Americans certainly did want to do the latter), it was British alliances with the Indian groups that prevented Americans from settling the Ohio River Valley. That’s why the eastern port cities opposed the war (as it disrupted their trade with Britain) while the western regions supported it – the opposite of what you’d expect if it was really about British naval overreach. That makes it pretty much a war of plunder on the American part.

    Canadian history classes cover the War of 1812 (and the American Revolution, for that matter) pretty thoroughly. The legitimacy of the Revolutionary War is more debatable from my point of view, as the main initial point of contention was Britain taxing the colonies to pay for the defense of the colonies.Report