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Why Americans Go to War

I wonder what it says about the modern “progressive” mindset that Paul Krugman can only imagine two reasons to wage war: for profit or for the political advantage of the leader who initiates hostilities. He (rightly) debunks the idea of waging war to make money in most cases, but is sympathetic to the idea that some leaders initiate hostilities to bolster domestic support–he thinks Vladimir Putin is one such today and that the Chinese leaders could be another example in the future although why he thinks that George W. Bush belongs in the same category is unclear. (Krugman argues that the Iraq War helped Bush win reelection but in fact it nearly cost him the 2004 election and in any case the political consequences were unforeseeable, and I believe irrelevant, when Bush launched the war in 2003.)

But the broader failing of Krugman’s article–amazing for a man who, whatever you think of his politics, is highly intelligent and broadly educated–is that he entirely omits a major reason why countries fight wars: to defend their liberties. Krugman is presumably familiar with the theory of “just war,” but there is no sign of it in his article that assumes that all wars are initiated for one ignoble motive or another. This is perhaps an indication of how far liberalism has come from the fighting faith of its greatest champions–presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

They were familiar with war and yet did not dismiss it as nothing more than a crass, self-interested undertaking. Recall Kennedy’s famous inaugural address: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Or FDR’s D-Day prayer in 1944: “Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war. For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.”

America’s brave troopers today fight for freedom in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, all the while yearning, as FDR said, “for the end of battle” when they can return home. They are not there to seize natural resources or to pump up a president’s approval ratings–nor, for all of my differences with President Obama, do I believe he has ordered troops into harm’s way for such nefarious purposes. War may be a brutal, ugly business, and one that should never be undertaken lightly; but it is also the essential safeguard of peace and freedom. Presumably Krugman understands that, but his failure to take note if it is nevertheless startling–and telling.



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2 Responses to “Why Americans Go to War”

  1. JOHN BURKE says:

    I disagree about the Andrew Cuomo contrast. As much as I don’t like Cuomo, his actions in curbing the Moreland Act Commission were well within his legal and constitutional powers as Governor. As distastefull and obviously hypocritical as his actions were, the fact is that Moreland Act commissions are entirely executive bodies, created by and staffed and financed by the Executive. The Act is a tool granted the Governor in the course of decades of rampant municipal corruption. That a Governor doesn’t want his commission investivating him is a political problem for him. An ambitious US attorney should not rummage around in this fishing for some reason to declare that someone committed a federal crime. As the invaluable Glenn Reynolds says, we are all federal criminals.

  2. MANUEL LAZEROV says:

    Krugman is clearly a proponent for the Administration. That’s a given. Consequently, it is to be expected for him to make statements which reinforce that world view, which increasingly a failing strategy.
    The height of fantasy about war and its hoped for conclusion was the president’s articulating a policy of “no victor, no vanquished”. Certainly that would be an ideal enemy to have.
    Remember Peter Sellers’ movie “The Mouse that Roared”, where a country was broke and picked a fight with a country that could defeat it , just to receive foreign aid?




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