The Unnecessary Century
by L. Neil Smith
Distribute freely and attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
Like all of my fellow ’46ers, I was born in the shadow of the Second World War. Unlike most, my father was a professional military officer, and I grew up and was educated all over the North American continent.
My dad had been an officer of the 8th Army Air Force, dropping bombs from a B-17 on what he hoped were German factories. He was shot down in 1944, spent time at the infamous Stalag Luft III, made a long, terrible trek from what is now Poland to Bavaria, because the Germans humanely wanted to keep their prisoners out of the hands of advancing Russians, and was liberated by elements of George Patton’s mechanical cavalry.
After a short stint working for United Airlines, Dad rejoined the military at an enlisted grade, working as an airplane mechanic until he was recalled to his reserve rank to train for Korea. Happily, by the time he was fully trained, the "police action" was over, but Dad stayed in and wound up as a bombardier-navigator aboard B-52s that flew a belly full of hydrogen bombs up over the North Pole to the edge of Soviet airspace two or three times a week. He was proud of what he did. He believed he was preserving freedom and preventing war, even though those flights to the top of the stratosphere or his proximity to those thermonuclear weapons, may have been what eventually killed him.
As we both grew older (if not wiser) and better educated, however, Dad and I began to have our doubts. It was he—at the height of the unpleasantness in Vietnam—who first wondered why it was that there seemed to be a war for each generation of Americans to fight and bleed and kill and die in. And I began making a list of America’s many wars, attempting to determine which of them had actually been necessary or unavoidable.
The list is short, and a proper subject for another essay. I made a speech about that list, which I gave to libertarians on the campus of Colorado State University. The History Department felt compelled to send one of its professors—a graying Vietnam veteran—to rebut what I had said (among other things, that under the crystal-clear wording of the Thirteenth Amendment, the draft is unconstitutional) the next week. I had a lot of fun with him in the question-and-answer period.
What I learned from that and other periods of study isn’t a state secret, exactly, but a shock when you first sit down to look at it altogether. Not a single 20th century war was necessary, not a single one.
The Spanish-American War was an act of Republican imperialism on our part, and we had no reason whatsoever to involve ourselves in World War I. To this day, nobody—not Barbara Tuchman, not even Bob Dylan—knows exactly why it was fought. There are some guesses, but one thing stands out: if the assassination at Sarajevo had been dealt with as a crime, a simple act of murder, instead of an act of war, somewhere between eight and sixteen million people (depending on your source) would have lived, perhaps one of them to discover a cure for cancer.
Most Americans opposed entry into that war—the vile Woodrow Wilson owed his reelection to his promise to stay out of it—and at least until the fraudulent _Lusitania_ incident and the questionable Zimmerman telegram, were divided on whose side in the war we should take. If you’ll forgive an alternative history moment from this science fiction writer, if we’d taken Germany’s side (there was no more reason not to than there was to take the side of perfidious Albion) then today, the most hated man in history wouldn’t be Adolf Hitler (whom nobody would have heard of), but, far likelier, Winston Churchhill.
Wilson broke his promise, of course, involved us unnecessarily in a war that was unnecessary to begin with. He was morally responsible for a full share of the millions of unnecessary deaths that resulted, for the unnecessary devastation that came along with them, for the unnecessary regimentation of everyday life and unnecessary violations of the Bill of Rights at home that our civilization never quite got over.
None of that needed to have happened. The pathetic stuffed shirt Wilson and his opposite numbers abroad puffed themselves up, felt very self-important, gathered as much power and wealth to their governments as they could steal, and all it cost was the lives of sixteen million innocent people, and the futures and freedom of hundreds of millions more.
But it was to cost much more in the long run.
The victorious "allies" declared to the world that the war was wholly Germany’s fault, and that the German _volk_—who had no more to say about it than a tribe of Patagonian Indians—would have to pay.
Britain, France, the US, and others divided up Germany’s navy, and the defeated nation was forced to construct more warships as tribute (curiously leaving Germany’s warship-creating infrastructure intact). America got a couple of dirigibles, among other things. Complicated (and, as it turns out, rather stupid) rules were written about what kinds of weapons Germany could retain for her self-defense. (Remind me to tell you a very silly story sometime about 8x60mm Mauser.) Already impoverished, Germany tried to survive by printing paper money, until, proverbially, you needed a wheelbarrow full of it to buy a loaf of bread.
Then came the Great Depression, a worldwide phenomenon, caused—unnecessarily—by government central banking (more stuffed shirts stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down), and Germany was ready to listen to a goblin like Adolf Hitler, a man indistinguishable, in any moral sense at all, from any other head of state on the face of the planet.
Thus Hitler came to power—unnecessarily.
Because the jackasses who ran the world had permitted World War I to happen, and completely bungled the end of it, the people of this poor, battered globe faced utter devastation in the second megawar in thirty years. This time, the death toll was somewhere around sixty million.
And once again, the person who might have found a cure to cancer, invented teleportation, or a faster-than-light drive, stepped on a landmine, blundered into a machinegun crossfire, or ended up on the wrong end of a sniper’s telescopic rifle sight, and was ignominiously killed.
Segue to Korea—unnecessary.
Segue to the Cold War—in which the poor, tattered, threadbare Soviet Union had to be propped up constantly with American money, food, and technology so it could be used to frighten the American taxpayer.
Then came Vietnam, in which we tried to decide how other folks, half a world away, should govern themselves. Communism wouldn’t be my first choice, but it wasn’t mine to make. It appears it wasn’t Ho Chi Minh’s first choice, either, but the Soviets were the only ones to support his effort to break free of the British and French and stay clear of the Chinese, Vietnam’s enemy of a thousand years. Lyndon Johnson’s unnecessary war had to be supported by one of the biggest barefaced lies in history, the so-called Tonkin Gulf Incident, which never really happened. After we were driven out, the dominos didn’t fall. Instead, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and put a stop to Pol Pot’s butcheries.
After a relatively long period of apparent peace—during which the CIA and other criminal gangs fomented trouble around the world—a few individuals in the Middle East tired of having their lives run for them and began to strike back, in Lebanon, against our imperial Navy, and finally (if the official story is believed) by destroying the World Trade Center and a part of the Pentagon with hijacked airliners.
Unnecessary, if we had ever learned to mind our own business.
That event was followed by not one, but by two unnecesssary wars against entire nations that hadn’t anything to do with what happened on 9/11, but offered other reasons—one had the misfortune to sit atop the world’s second largest pool of oil, the other atop the route of a proposed pipeline—for us to direct military attention their way.
More lies: connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda (their mortal enemies); the existence of "weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s hands. The result, more unnecessary death and meaningless destruction.
Now we stand—once again, unnecessarily—at the brink of a bottomless chasm that could swallow everything Western Civilization has accomplished over five thousand years. This government, beginning with the (dare I say, unnecessary?) administration of Jimmy Carter, forced decisions upon lending institutions that any businessman in his right mind wouldn’t have made without being threatened or bribed. Or both.
At last the so-called housing bubble generated by this unnecessary stupidity burst, and the regimes of George Bush and Barack Obama made exactly the same errors that were made by the pre-war Weimar Republic, the government of post-war Hungary, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Administration.
Only the evidence is that the "errors" this time, creating enough trillions of worthless fantasy dollars to wreck America, are coldly deliberate. For no reason at all, except to gain unearned riches, and out of a psychopathological hunger for power over the lives of others, our country is rapidly being crushed. Most people who are honest, and desire only what they can earn, those who are sane, and have no lust for (or real understanding of) the sick pleasures of exercising power over others, seem to have great trouble believing what is really going on.
That happens a lot, when you’re being mugged.
There will be time enough to believe it, once they’re rounded up by Army battalions who are in the country now, training for the task, imprisoned like cattle behind chain link fences topped with razor wire in camps already scattered all over America, before they’re gassed, shot, or starved to death and buried in mass graves being prepared for them.
There is also time left to bring these criminals to account, to expose their crimes (most of which are being committed in broad dayight anyway) and see justice accomplished, at a place we’ll call Nuremberg II.
Which do you prefer?