Are All Wars Local?

Carl von Clausewitz. Postage stamp issued in 1981, 150 years after his death.

W.J. Astore

Tip O’Neill, Speaker of the House when Ronald Reagan was president in the 1980s, liked the saying, “All politics is local.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the famous Prussian theorist of war in the time of Napoleon, taught that war is the continuation of politics by other (violent) means.

Does it follow from this that all wars are, in a sense, local?

It doesn’t seem so at first glance. Americans tend to see wars like Iraq and Afghanistan as distant events that are disconnected from our daily lives. (Obviously, if a loved one is in the military and deployed overseas, concern and connection are greatly heightened.)

But when we begin to see the local costs of war, fully to see them, the way they poison lives, infect and erode democracy, and compromise the very climate we live in, we may finally act to put a stop to war.

No matter how distant and obscure America’s wars may be (and who among us really knows what’s happening this minute in Somalia, to cite one example), there are effects that are local.  And until we calculate those costs, and confront the waste and inhumanity of them, we simply won’t work synergistically to end them.

What are some of these local costs? As President Eisenhower said in his famous “cross of iron” speech, every warship we build, every rocket we fire, every warplane we launch, represents a theft from those who hunger, a theft from projects such as building schools or repairing roads and bridges. Every dollar we spend on war is a dollar we don’t spend here in America on our own sustenance, our own health as a civil society. Meanwhile, the dreadful costs incurred by wasteful wars, which will eventually exceed $8 trillion for the Iraq and Afghan wars, drives up our national debt, which is then cited, rightly or wrongly, as a reason to curb domestic spending. Profligacy for war, austerity for ordinary Americans, seems to be the new American way. And it’s impoverishing our democracy and our civic culture.

Other effects of war would include the costs of aiding veterans who are wounded, whether in body or mind or both, in our local communities. It would include the militarization of local police forces with surplus military weaponry that is then used to suppress legitimate dissent. And, if you’ve lived on or near a military base, you’ve likely experienced noise pollution to go with environmental pollution and degradation, much of it kept classified or otherwise hidden from view.

America’s wars, in short, are never truly distant and disconnected from our lives. They are instead connected to us, shaping our vision of what’s possible and impossible, what’s inevitable and what’s preventable, what’s normal and what’s abnormal.

A state of permanent war is not normal, America. Its effects are all around us and they are not good. But the good news is that, just as the effects of war are local, so too can the fight against war be local. Raise your voice and take a stand against war. If all politics is local, the political fight against war can and should be local too.

23 thoughts on “Are All Wars Local?

  1. The real war is one of perception, a perception that is often processed, massaged & manipulated to serve ends most don’t want by people we don’t know and wouldn’t like.

    The eventuality of this experience is absolute; everything until that point is conditioning, and maybe what comes afterward as well.

    Be mindful of internalizing the reality of someone else, keep the mental/emotional/psychological tethers critically labeled and reject the Astroglide fanny pack.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your penultimate paragraph contains the money quotes, Bill. We’re being told that this country can’t afford a $3.5tn investment package, but we can afford to pour much more money down the military rat hole so yes, the war drums are shaping the possible.

    Pundits across the spectrum are now subtly or not-so-subtly agonizing about what a danger China represents, be it in terms of cyber warfare or seizure of territory or burying the U.S. financially. All this in the name of laying the basis to convince the citizenry that a conflict is inevitable. Analysis by analysis, they’re ginning up hostility, drawing the population into the warmongering mindset. Before long, a clash will no longer be preventable. Unless, of course, the Chinese are wise enough to pull up the drawbridges and tell the U.S. to pound sand.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. if the chinese are sufficiently sober and prescient to “tell the US to [go] pound sand” [luv that phrase, denise], then i presage the US will launch a ‘false-flag’ operation. the US of Idiocy will find a way via nociceptive deception to feign-claim that one of its destroyers, now steaming towards the south chine sea and western pacific, has been attacked by a chinese aircraft, and BOOM!… here we go again: another military subreption from US troglodytes will lead to a gallimaufry of feckless american cheerleaders waving their silly-frilly gonfalons on the gridiron screaming for revenge. the rest will meekly slog along behind their sexy skirts and noisy megaphones.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. hey albert, thank you for what appears to be a soupçon of ‘ben trovato’ approbation. instead, i should be the recipient of opprobrium and censure for all those archaic, categorically obsolete, cryptic, and sesquipedalian verbal tortures. you are too charitable. appreciate your declaratives nonetheless. some gravitate toward coin-collecting, others stamp-collecting, others rock-collecting, others shell-collecting, others wife-collecting. my selcouth compulsion has been word-collecting since diaper-hood.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Perhaps one reason US leadership is so hell-bent on fighting wars is that our whole history has been incessant warfare. The wars against the Native Americans that began when the first settlers arrived continued incessantly till the late 1800’s. The focus was stealing resources from others on some pretext and killing them if they tried to stop us. This incessant warfare gradually turned beyond the US borders as the Native Americans became defeated. So what we are seeing now is nothing more than what we have been doing for the last 500 years.

    Not sure what to do about this, but it may help to realize that our behavior since the mid-1900’s has not been an aberration.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. All the above are thoughtful comments and insights. I believe half the reason I enjoy this site is that I know I am not alone with my anti-war, pro-peace mind set.

    Speaking of mind sets, not only are all wars localized, they are localized inside the heads of the citizens. As many of you stated above, the mind set is the first and really crucial issue in getting a war going. I read with increasing frustration and fear about the ramping up of negative news regarding China. This is the start of the process to instill hatred of ‘the enemy’ in the citizenry. Yes, the Chinese are doing bad things to their minorities, their environment, and using / abusing many countries to get the resources they need, just like we do. Instead of defending that sort of behavior with a military, we would do better to invest in respect, clean technology and peaceful gestures to the world such as this:

    Liked by 2 people

    1. well yes… and this USAID project certainly puts the US closer to china’s borders, which will delight the US generals. next the creeping cruds will slither into tajikistan, then kyrgizstan, then kazakhstan [all abundant w/ untapped minerals]…. at which nexus china will be gradually surrounded by US ‘projects’ on its western front. next, the pentagon will move in and start building military bases in lieu of USAID projects, arrange to have a bomb dropped on one of their dams or bridges, blame it on a chinese terrorist… an whamo-bombo, history will repetend once again!

      i am not fatiloquent, but we have worked on multifarious USAID ‘projects’ since the late 1960’s… throughout africa, the middle east, south asia, the caribbean island states, southeast asia, and the western pacific. commensurately, i refuse to be deceived by the US’ spurious gullery and specious cozenage. first come our USAID-funded projects, then the CIA spooks slither in, then the factitious military bases [“oh, never fear; they’re just here temporarily to protect your people and our workers.”]. then halliburton, bechtel, and fraudsters like blackwater charge in. following on their calanus heels will be a panoply of resource-removers who arrive by the truckload. the local chieftains are suborned by stratagems and ormolus, pockets are well-stuffed, and the depauperate receive nada… except the opportunistic brummagems, of course, who gather in their thousands, plying their ‘assets’, as they circumnavigate the US bases’ perimeters in order to gamely service sex-starved american ‘service’men and women.

      these US installations are initiated by the instauration of USAID projects in order to subreptitiously appear as if we americans are eleemosynaries… the supererogative ‘good guys’… it’s all poppycock, piffle, and balderdash. most of these impoverished countries are left fractionalized, factionalized, and utterly fractured. meanwhile, the american sleazebags pack up their toys and return to the homeland for more monday-night football, their favourite beers, soaps, and comfy couches.

      it begs the oppugning: when will the US electorate, pentagon, and politicos toothpaste-away the scratches on their eyeglasses and realize their OCD chicanery and circumventions are naught but despoliations of others… and themselves as well? i yearn for your optimism, william scott.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Denise.

      I don’t believe a CIA agent would last 10 minutes is South Waziristan. Also, even the Pakistani army is afraid to go into the tribal areas.

      Maybe I am naive, yet I still believe it is better to lend a hand and do something constructive than to stand by and do nothing.

      I also am not in favor of dams because they destroy both the upstream and downstream environments, however it is for the people of that environment to come to that conclusion.

      I did not want to get into the ecology – consciousness issue because that is a whole other discussion. Basically, until a people are secure in their food supply and health needs, they will not progress to the higher level of consciousness that makes them want to remove that dam, control their population, and live in harmony with the Earth and all their / our relations.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I recall an comment from the 80’s, perhaps from my African studies class, that speaks to your point.

        “Africans will have fewer children when they are burying fewer children.”


  5. However, by the time the people impacted by the dam progress to that higher level of consciousness, as in uncountable other cases globally, the damage may be irreparable. Put simply, homo sapiens doesn’t have the leisure to wait for philosophical enlightenment.


  6. However, by the time the people impacted by the dam progress to that higher level of consciousness, as in uncountable other cases globally, the damage may be irreparable. Put simply, homo sapiens doesn’t have the leisure to wait for philosophical enlightenment. If the extractors and consumers refuse to wise up—and I’m including Western societies as well as the people of South Waziristan and other less-developed areas—then they must be dragged, kicking and screaming, into Earth-friendly habits. Otherwise, any policy enacted by any government will be moot.

    And I realize I’ve gone WAY beyond the scope of your comment, William, which does make perfect sense in terms of making peace, not war.


  7. Wars are fought by the underclass and their equivalent among the enemy du jour. They are, by definition, lacking in those fine qualities others flash about in their attempts to intellectualize and distance themselves from civilization’s most uncivil act, the destruction of its own species. As long as the vast gulf exists between those who declare wars and those who die in wars, any and all high-minded philosophical ramblings are, to quote Kurt Vonnegut, “a fart in a whirlwind.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. based on historical exegeses, polemics, and disingenuous inerrancies, our troglodytic species will be “farting into a whirlwind” until we are no more, butsudanbill. i envy wm. scott’s optimism, but too many decades of bearing witness to the naiveté of sanguinity leaves me enervated by those decades of travail… i.e. slogging through the muck of environmental conservation dynamics deliberately blindsided by the CIA/CMIC invigilators of our USAID-funded projects that were never meant to succeed. we were naught but a smokescreen for US imperialism. let’s hope the subsequent generations are less myopic, more sensible, and more compassionate.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think Wars are never really won or lost. The side which succeeds if you will in imposing the most of it’s culture on the other is declared the winner, but a hell of a lot of the losers culture is soaked up by the winners. I think that America conquered Germany in World War II, but in the process some of the more loathsome characteristics of the German character were absorbed by our professional military…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And let’s not forget “Operation Paperclip” … and its effect on the military and the overall geo-political outlook. It (and its technological descendants) brought a whole new meaning to “projecting force.”


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