2By Hank Stone*

War famously being “hell,” why do we Americans do so much of it? 

There are two big reasons we have wars. 

Money, of course, is the obvious reason.  Our country spends about $1 trillion every year on wars and preparations for wars.

Everyone who gets that money is understandably concerned that peace may break out. 

The man on the street does not want war, but doesn’t like to think about it either.  So he delegates thoughts about war and peace to leaders who promise to keep us safe.  Those leaders generally can gather more personal power, and get a pass for possible misbehavior, if the people are agitated about crazy terrorists under their bed.

So everyone who receives a piece of that $1 trillion per year, understandably enough, likes war.

The other big reason America gets into wars is a constellation of traditions

Everyone who was around after World War 2 was regaled by heroic tales of brave soldiers, who kept America safe by fighting “the good war.”  We have experienced parades, marching bands, snappy uniforms, medals, and clean-cut, disciplined, fearless young men.

At the same time, the U.S. economy has been strong for our whole lives.  The Korean War was unsatisfying, and the Vietnam War was problematic, but the institution of war never wrecked our economy.  War keeps us safe.  Freedom isn’t free.

Periods of war, punctuated by periods of peace, seem normal to us.  Our children watch GI Joe cartoons, and celebrate the death of the evil “other.”

When so instructed, we citizens seamlessly switch from fear of Germans and Asians, to fear of possible terrorists – anyone who looks Middle Eastern.

There is an important difference between those who receive money and power from the war system, and we who simply find getting into wars traditional, and normal.

The difference is like wolves and sheep having dinner together.  The wolves make the arrangements, and collect the money.  The sheep appreciate the tradition, but recognize too late that they are on the menu.

In our money-oriented culture, it’s hard to fault the weapons makers and military brass for doing what they do.  But the time has come for the rest of us, who are made poorer and less safe by militarism, to reconsider our support for the tradition of war.

For militarily weak countries, war may sometimes be unavoidable.  The U.S., by contrast, has extraordinary military power.  We always have alternatives to war.

We Americans don’t need to be aggressors.  We don’t need to be thieves.  We don’t need to be murderers.  We don’t need to be fearful.  And we don’t need to be sheep.


*Hank Stone can be contacted at: [email protected]

NOTE: The Democratic World Federalists are committed to expressing a wide range of views on the vision of creating a peaceful, just, and sustainable world through a democratic World Federation. The views expressed in this article represents that commitment and not necessarily our official position.