A reader contacted me about China, Russia, and risks for war. One thing history has taught me is to be humble about predicting anything. Here was my response:
Have to admit I don’t know what China is planning. I understand the policy of “One China,” i.e. that Taiwan is still part of China. I don’t know if China is planning war. I tend to doubt it. Unlike the U.S., China is patient and careful. But war by miscalculation is always possible. Just look at 1914. Here in the USA, we keep hearing that China is our most serious potential enemy. That kind of rhetoric is not helpful, to put it mildly.
With respect to the Russia-Ukraine war, history teaches us that war is unpredictable, even chaotic. The war already approaches 90 days, longer than most people predicted, I think, with no clear end in sight. Meanwhile, the USA is planning to send $40 billion in “aid,” mostly military, on top of the already $12 billion or so that we’ve sent. This money is not intended to end the war; indeed, it can only prolong it.
So I’m not optimistic about any of this. It all strikes me as reckless and escalatory.
If I had but one message for my country, it would be this: Reject militarism. Reclaim democracy. Reinvest in America. Restore peace.
But we’re doing the very opposite of my message. We’re priming the pump for more war. Meanwhile, more violence overseas feeds more violence at home. And the government’s response is always the same: More police internally and more troops externally. More spending on police and the military. More focus on “security” achieved through weaponry and surveillance.
To me, it’s sobering and sad how broadly yet narrowly we define “national security.” It’s broad in the sense that America seeks full-spectrum dominance of the land, sea, air, space, and cyber; that global reach, global power, and global dominance is the goal; that the U.S. military splits the globe into “commands” headed by four-star generals and admirals. Yet it’s narrow because we don’t equate security with having affordable health care, a clean environment, a quality education, safe water and healthy food, and similar, non-military essentials.
How can we be safe and secure when kids are drinking water with lead and other toxic chemicals in it? When sickness leads to personal bankruptcy? When people can’t afford to put gas in their tanks while putting food in their bellies and paying their rent? When they have to ration essential drugs like insulin?
Instead of priming the pump for more war, we should be doing everything possible to work toward peace. Ike told us this in 1953, JFK in 1963, and MLK in 1967. George McGovern in 1972 told America to come home, to reject constant warfare overseas, and to focus on healing our country and its divisions.
Yet the pacific wisdom of leaders like Ike, JFK, MLK, and McGovern is being repressed in America today. If Ike gave his 1953 “Cross of Iron” speech today, explaining how weapons spending represents a theft from the American people, he’d be dismissed as muddleheaded and misguided. If JFK gave his 1963 speech calling for peace with the Russians, he’d be called a Putin puppet. If MLK gave his 1967 speech about the evils of militarism, materialism, and racism in America, he’d be called unpatriotic and even traitorous. (As he pretty much was in 1967, but that’s another story.) And McGovern and his principled anti-war stance? He’d never get near the Democratic nomination as a presidential candidate. (Indeed, that’s why the DNC invented super-delegates.) Doubtless he’d be smeared as an isolationist, as a Russian (or Chinese) agent, as an idealistic dupe or a useful idiot for America’s alleged enemies.
So we keep priming the pump for more war. And I have some experience priming a hand pump for water. Keep cranking that handle (war rhetoric), keep adding some water (more and more weaponry and troops), and soon enough the water starts gushing out.
When will war start gushing out for America? Don’t events at home and abroad suggest it’s already beginning to flow?