Wednesday, May 30, 2007

War is the Health of the State

From Randolph Bourne, "War is the Health of the State" (1918):

With the shock of war . . . the State comes into its own again.

The Government, with no mandate from the people, without consultation of the people, conducts all the negotiations, the backing and filling, the menaces and explanations, which slowly bring it into collision with some other Government, and gently and irresistibly slides the country into war.

For the benefit of proud and haughty citizens, it is fortified with a list of the intolerable insults which have been hurled toward us by the other nations; for the benefit of the liberal and beneficent, it has a convincing set of moral purposes which our going to war will achieve; for the ambitious and aggressive classes, it can gently whisper of a bigger role in the destiny of the world.

The result is that, even in those countries where the business of declaring war is theoretically in the hands of representatives of the people, no legislature has ever been known to decline the request of an Executive, which has conducted all foreign affairs in utter privacy and irresponsibility, that it order the nation into battle.

Good democrats are wont to feel the crucial difference between a State in which the popular Parliament or Congress declares war, and the State in which an absolute monarch or ruling class declares war. But, put to the stern pragmatic test, the difference is not striking.

In the freest of republics as well as in the most tyrannical of empires, all foreign policy, the diplomatic negotiations which produce or forestall war, are equally the private property of the Executive part of the Government, and are equally exposed to no check whatever from popular bodies, or the people voting as a mass themselves.

Today's Rune: Protection.

Birthdays: Randolph Bourne, Howard Hawks, Gale Sayers, Topper Headon.


the walking man said...

Yep foreign policy is the direct responsibility of the executive branch of government, no argument there.

But when the policy turns to war it falls to the military to execute that policy. Inarguably a portion of the executive branch.

I have always believed that if you are going to war you are going to conquer people, cultures and civilizations and only a fool would not use every weapon in it's arsenal to ensure complete domination of the enemy of the military ie; executive branch.

Time to bring out battlefield low yield nuclear weapons and maybe a 200 kiloton hydrogen bomb for Iran.

Like the confederate general said when he saw the raping, looting and pillaging of the army of the north left behind in Vicksburgh when asked what to do now. "KILL THEM KILL THEM ALL"

Or is victory not our goal, is our goal a long term south Korean type presence in Iraq?

t said...

I will like to copy the entirety of this post to an upnaira "philosophy" page here, as it gives an important piece of the argument against states as we know them. Thanks.