Rediscover America

Army Lieutenant Mark Daily joined the Army inspired in part by the writings of Christopher Hitchens, who wrote about meeting with Lt. Daily’s family after he was killed by an IED.

Many commenters on this thread discussing the article point out that people who have actually fought in wars tend not to cheerlead for optional, preventive wars.  William T. Sherman famously said that “war is hell,” and Smedley T. Butler wrote that “war is a racket.”  Dwight Eisenhower apparently said, “When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war.”

Of the moment when he learned that his writings had influenced Lt. Daily’s decision, Hitchens writes, “I don’t exaggerate by much when I say that I froze. I certainly felt a very deep pang of cold dismay. I had just returned from a visit to Iraq with my own son (who is 23, as was young Mr. Daily) and had found myself in a deeply pessimistic frame of mind about the war.”

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out this week, Adam Smith once wrote that “[i]n great empires the people who live in the capital, and in the provinces remote from the scene of action, feel, many of them, scarce any inconveniency from the war; but enjoy, at their ease, the amusement of reading in the newspapers the exploits of their own fleets and armies.”

There was, of course, no chance the Hitchens’ own son would ever fight in this war.

Another war cheerleader, Thomas Friedman, explained that we went to war “because we could.”  That’s a familiar phrase:

“I think I did something for the worst possible reason — just because I could. I think that’s the most , just about the most morally indefensible reason that anybody could have for doing anything. When you do something just because you could … I’ve thought about it a lot. And there are lots of more sophisticated explanations, more complicated psychological explanations. But none of them are an excuse … Only a fool does not look to explain his mistakes.”

So, now we’ve learned that war isn’t such a great thing and that we should make sure we have sound reasons before going to war.  I think there might be things to learn about unchecked power, the hazards of deficit spending, the rule of law, adversarial journalism, and the value of alliances from this administration, too.

You know, basic principles of governance and statecraft that have been known for generations.


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