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War Is a Racket (1933) (wanttoknow.info)
336 points by rahuldottech 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 181 comments





> Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the "war to end all wars." This was the "war to make the world safe for democracy." No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with United States patents. They were just told it was to be a "glorious adventure."

Very strange how WWI makes almost no sense from today's perspective. Every country was damaged either directly by the conflict, or indirectly through its protracted (and still ongoing) resolution.

Had those young men simply decided to do nothing rather than join, the world would have been a better place.

I'd be curious to know Butler's take on WWII (he died in 1940). That's the one that people seem most hung up on. It's the only war in living memory considered near universally "good" by those in the US. It's the war that's invoked by every administration trying to stir up popular support for a military adventure in a country most voters can't place on a map.

I'm doubtful our current reverence for WWII will stand the test of time. Long after Hitler has been replaced by the next boogeyman, history students of the future will scratch their heads at what could have possibly motivated a young man to volunteer for such a fool's errand.


Honestly, the most interesting chapter in Butler's career has to be when he stopped a Fascist American coup attempt against FDR by many of the war profiteers he spoke about. https://www.npr.org/2012/02/12/145472726/when-the-bankers-pl...

>Very strange how WWI makes almost no sense from today's perspective. Every country was damaged either directly by the conflict, or indirectly through its protracted (and still ongoing) resolution.

US won big in that war. WWI nearly bankrupted the British Empire, guess who it was loaning money from? (Hint: it's the US[1]). The only finally paid it off in 2015.

WWI turned the US into a world power, and marked the end of many (other) Empires.

As for the European powers, the war made a lot of sense before it started, as a lot of money was spent on making the shiny toys that killed so many people. Maybe not to the citizens of the countries that took part in the war, but surely to the profiteers.

Finally, one can argue that the war made sense for Germany in the long run, in spite of all the losses. Before the war, Germany was surrounded by Empires: the Russian Empire, the British Empire, the French Empire, the Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman ones. Germany was allied with some of them, threatened by others, but the history shows how fickle the alliances were.

Fast-forward to today, and Germany is still there, while the Empires are gone. WW1 effectively took down the Russian Empire, and was the beginning of the end of the British one (to say nothing of the others).

I am being facetious here, but if the goal of WW1 was to establish a more friendly Europe for German ambitions, then that goal was eventually accomplished.

That's to say, the war made sense for Germany because it was surrounded by states that stood to lose more (if you ignore human life).

Of course, this argument doesn't make sense if you care about people to the slightest extent. But the people who start the wars rarely do.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_British_nationa...


Also, world war 1 was revolutionary in terms of politics.

The many countries (sometimes newly established after the fall of an empire like austrian-hungary or russia) suddenly found themselves with a completely new political system.

The november revolution in germany resulted in the abolishment of the monarchy and firmly entreched social-democrats inside the political spectrum. It also shows us why having a young democracy without a strong sense of institutional-ism and tradition is incredible fragile.


The recent report on the failure of the war in Afghanistan shows that it makes no sense either. And it's going on right now.

This radiolab podcast goes into detail of men deciding to do nothing on both sides in WWI, but it got complicated really fast:

https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/segments/10401...


The whole “white feather” campaign during WWI (women would hand unenlisted young men a “white feather” which was understood to represent cowardice and shame men into enlisting) really contrasts with the unemployment that British soldiers faced after the war: “no former servicemen need apply” was a common warning on shops in the early 20’s. They were treated like garbage before the war, during the war, and after it, too.

Why were they discriminated against after the war? In the US, former servicemen got the world handed to them on a silver platter.

Not after the Vietnam War, so it seems like the near-veneration of veterans in the modern world didn't happen until fairly recently.

That matches my father’s experience - he said he had to leave Virginia because nobody was hiring former sailors after Vietnam.

>Had those young men simply decided to do nothing rather than join, the world would have been a better place.

I am not so sure. I think the main reason that decolonization happened is that a whole generation of young men were lost and Europe was too exhausted and poor from the two world wars to keep its colonies.

Without WWI, there would not have been WWII which would have left the European nations as the premier powers in the world who would have held on to their colonies in Asia and Africa.

So without WWI, there would still be a pretty high chance that India would still be a British colony.

Europe may have been a better place, but probably not the rest of the world.


WW1 and 2 were the same conflict. The apparent stupidity of WW1 is really a function of how accustomed we are to modern industry, communications, and some of the things hard-won by that conflict.

End of the day, it was all about resources, and is no different than today’s conflicts, which boil down to oil on the supply and the control of money on the demand side.


Except now Iran shoots missiles at a US base in Iraq and the price of oil barely budged. Times have changed, and the US is much more energy independent. And over the next decade even more so as the EV revolution and renewable energy continue to dominate.

IMO the increasing irrelevance of the Middle East will continue to increase world peace and prosperity, at the expense of some truly awful regimes which will crumble.


some historians argue the prussian-franco war, ww1 and ww2 are essentially the same conflict.

> Very strange how WWI makes almost no sense from today's perspective. Every country was damaged either directly by the conflict, or indirectly through its protracted (and still ongoing) resolution.

We get to look back with hind sight and only remember negative consequences from positive actions. The US entered WW1 after Germany began unrestricted submarine ware fare for the second time, and coming on the heels of the Zimmerman telegram. France and Belgium were invaded by hostile power. Germany feared Russian modernization and fear of not being able to Compete with France and Russia. Russia sided with the Serbs. France Sided with Russia whose alliance it has sought to counteract the power of a newly unified Germany which had defeated France in 1871 taken territory and imposed a large reparation payment. Austria an absolute monarchy wanted to quite serb nationalism.


WWII was the last time modern industrialized nations were openly at war with each other. The nuclear bomb changed everything. That's one reason WWII is regarded differently than anything that has come since.

Hitler's extermination of the Jews will have him as a historical villain for a long, long time.


The stupid thing about WWII is the whole thing was could have been avoided by people being reasonable with the Treaty of Versailles. The deal they signed effectively putting Germany into debt bondage made something going pear shaped pretty much inevitable, as predicted quite clearly by Keynes in The Economic Consequences of the Peace. Of course by the time Hitler had tanks rolling it was too late to sort things peacefully. Thankfully they learned the lesson and were economically easy going on Germany and Japan after WWII but it was a darn expensive lesson. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Economic_Consequences_of_t...

The other thing that happened was the Weimar Republic under Heinrich Bruning responded to the onset of the great depression with austerity measures. Just like the US did with similar results; deflation, industrial collapse, massive unemployment, and civil unrest.

The difference was the US got FDR instead of Hitler.

Modern Economists hate talking about this and have managed to drop it down the memory hole.


Also, the weimar republic was a very young democracy in a country with very little democratic traditions.

Many germans simply didn't believe democracy was the form of goverment required to battle the great depression and return germany to it's former glory. Both on the left side aswell as the right side of the political spectrum. The nearly endless turmoil during the 20's was a result of that.


Always seems to me that political culture is long lived and difficult to change. Seems really common that revolutionaries once they take over find it impossible to govern without mimicking the previous government. AKA how the Soviet Union ended up looking a lot like the Czarist Russia. Ditto a bunch of former states. And how China seems to be slipping back into rule by mandarins under an figurative emperor.

> Long after Hitler has been replaced by the next boogeyman

I don't envy the people living in those times. Hitler is one hell of a boogeyman to top.


It depends how you measure it as there were worse people in the same era as Hitler. If I recall the stats correctly it is a much better bet to be led by someone like Hitler over Stalin or Mao.

The ethnically targeted nature of the holocaust is the main claim to 'worst of the worst' status, but honestly it isn't obvious to me that a dead Jew is more horrific than a dead anyone else. They are both pretty bad.


>The ethnically targeted nature of the holocaust is the main claim to 'worst of the worst' status, but honestly it isn't obvious to me that a dead Jew is more horrific than a dead anyone else. They are both pretty bad.

What made the holocaust particularly heinous, apart from the ethnic cleansing and antisemitism (the latter of which was not entirely uncommon in Western culture, unfortunately) was the industrial scale and effort applied to it. The Nazis weren't just killing Jews, which would have been bad enough, they set up (possibly the first ever) large scale automated data collection and processing network using IBM tabulators to efficiently process census data and find the Jews to kill, as well as organize and correlate the resources, personnel and urban infrastructure to be able to kill them by the trainload, with the eventual goal of killing every single Jew in Europe.

While it is true that other groups were targeted by the Nazis, the holocaust was still in a class of evil all of its own. It's one of the events that led to the coining of the word "genocide," after all.


Alas, antisemitism is still extremely popular in the west -- and is becoming more popular by the day.

As this thread shows, antisemites feel no need to hide themselves any longer, and nobody feels troubled enough to shout them down


Do note the Nazis didn't target the Jews exclusively. They had a plan calling for the near total extermination of all people of Slavic origin. They just were stopped before they could bring it to completion -- though they did manage to start it!

The crimes of Nazism are horrific and put them in an entirely different level of evil.


Hitler was horrible. Stalin was horrible. Stalin killed more people. But Stalin had more years in which to do it, and ruled a larger population. If you calculate (total body count) / (people-years ruled), I suspect Hitler was worse. (He might not be worse than Pol Pot, though...)

Famine deaths [1] still outclass genocide deaths [2], and there is still insufficient data on the Native American genocide, though it is likely on the same order as the Holocaust. You are right that the death rate per unit time wasn't as high, and the Holocaust is probably up there on that basis. The Holodomor is pretty on par with the Holocaust for death rate per unit time at the low end of death estimates, and outstrips the Holocaust at the high end of estimates, happened first, but wasn't publicized until relatively recently.

Never underestimate the depths of muderous intent those who wield power can potentially inflict.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_famines

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_genocides_by_death_tol...


>The Holodomor is pretty on par with the Holocaust for death rate per unit time at the low end of death estimates, and outstrips the Holocaust at the high end of estimates, happened first, but wasn't publicized until relatively recently.

It wasn't publicized because the New York Times was involved in covering it up.


I read on Reddit that some do. It's just not enough

So WWII as being necessary to stop Hitler, I can see withstanding the test of time.

The things that caused WWII, Hitler's rise to power, and the systems that enabled and, frankly, bent him and the Nazis towards the evils they committed, I think we were culpable for, for how Germany was positioned on the world stage post WWI. Germany was ripe for a demagogue, and people needed the sense of security mindlessly following one provides.


What made America ripe for a demagogue?

Increased unaddressed income inequality, a growing partisan divide that led to a large group feeling disenfranchised enough to rally around a candidate whose whole platform was "burn the status quo to the ground", etc?

I mean...we didn't have an unnecessary war that left us in a bad state; we got there ourselves.


The capitalist project has failed, and our Constitution - poorly written even for the time - is wholly unequipped to deal with the crisis, nor the emergence of highly ideological political parties.

I agree overall on both points, but it's worth noting that the founders intended for the constitution to be amended much more frequently than it has been.

The challenge becomes what to do next. Do we follow Lenin's teaching and attempt a revolution, do we structure our society around trade-unionism, do we need to invent a new form of government, or are we destined to a fascist future ruled by increasingly imperial powers?

This is the kind of whitewashing bullshit proliferating in the west that drives me mad.

Hitler wasn’t the fruit of Great Depression suffering. Most of the world was suffering the consequences of the Great Depression. Hell, many countries had autocrat leaders at the same time. None have committed anywhere near the level of atrocity that Hitler has.

Because Hitler was a product of German people’s fanatical antisemitism and anti-slavism. The roots of which reach back long before World War I.

Bismarck was famous for and boastful of his antipolonism and often called Poles “animals”, “wolves” etc. And he’s thought of as that “progressive” father of modern Germany.

With a dad like that it’s hardly a wonder that the kid turned out to be shitty.


Everyone had huge anti-semitism at the time. The US had extremely common "No Jew" rules for clubs and such. We didn't end up gassing jews.

I was not referring to the Great Depression. I'm talking about the War Guilt clause of the Treaty of Versailles. It left Germany with a huge financial burden to other countries, and did nothing to actually address any of the issues that had caused WWI.

Yeah, the Jews were a convenient "other" to blame. The playbook is pretty straightforward - blame the status quo, the economic pressures (fair or not) that the poorest are facing (which only works if those feeling they're poor are sufficient in number), while doing nothing that would actually benefit them, and blame some 'other'. You've seen it repeat time and again.

The point I was making is that the status quo in Germany at that time -was- onerous. Being economically liable for the entire cost of a war, both the damages inflicted on both sides, AND the financial cost incurred in waging it for both sides, is going to be felt. And people are going to chafe; after all, the country probably had a reason for going to war in the first place, even if it was just public sentiment. And forcing such a treaty on Germany was the decision of the Allies.


Well, as the entirety of my people were saved from extinction, I for one am glad that some "fools" decided to risk their lives to end what was otherwise a very effective genocide.

As it stands, a third of us were murdered by the "Third Reich", and our numbers have still not recovered.


> Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die... They were just told it was to be a "glorious adventure.

Told by whom? Oh that's right, the news media. People really need to go look into why the NYTimes, WashingtonPost, Pulitzer's properties, Hearst's properties, etc were created and how their yellow journalism played into wars even to this day.

Also keep in mind, the biggest ( proportionally ) benefactor of war isn't defense contractors, it's the news industry.

https://www.mediaite.com/news/tucker-carlson-scores-highest-...

People forgot that WashingtonPost went bankrupt in the first half of the 1900s and the news industry was in danger of collapse. What saved the industry? War.

Keep in mind that the news industry, especially the NYTimes ( a company created by a banker ) editorial board, attacked Butler as a "hoaxer" ( aka conspiracy peddler ). How times change, but the propaganda remains the same.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_Plot

> Very strange how WWI makes almost no sense from today's perspective.

WW1 makes total sense. By WW1, the entire world had been conquered by European powers and America. Every piece of land on earth was under European/American control or influence. So european powers had no one left to fight but themselves.

> Every country was damaged either directly by the conflict, or indirectly through its protracted (and still ongoing) resolution.

Europe was in ruins and more importantly fractured. Go read TS Eliot's The Waste Land. It's partly about his angst of over a broken europe and the collapse of western civilization and the ultimate pointlessness of that war.

> It's the only war in living memory considered near universally "good" by those in the US.

It's considered good because propaganda tells us it's good. Propaganda tells us its good because we came out on top. But I don't see how a war with nukes and upwards of 120 million dead could be considered good. That's more dead than the worst pandemic in recent history - spanish flu which killed upwards of 100 million. I doubt anyone would say the spanish flu was "good".

> I'm doubtful our current reverence for WWII will stand the test of time.

Reverence of ww2 will be determined by who is in power. History, as all other propaganda, is written by those in power.


> Reverence of ww2 will be determined by who is in power. History, as all other propaganda, is written by those in power.

I think this occurs within some time frame of the event, and even then only among the better known, funded and "court approved" historians. There will be outcast historians that plug away at recording various facts surrounding the event (e.g., continued investigation into whether FDR was intentionally bellicose, was it truly necessary to nuke Japan, was fire bombing the German civilians tactically useful, etc.).


You are an antisemite, a monster, and a true Nazi.

WWII had a compulsory draft where it was already established by then that congress had the power to initiate a draft. It was also hashed out that it was a federal issue and not a state one.

Which we all know is hot garbage. The government quite literally says, your individual freedoms are not greater than our goal for the country. If you ask me, that sounds NO different than communism! But when you fight for uncle sam, it must mean "the greater good" is good, just because the "greater good" isn't commie red "greater good."


That issue was already resolved much more poignantly in the American Civil War.

I know it is not a popular view but I think WWII was a major mistake. We could of course not have stopped Hitler's initial actions, but it was the West's choice to wage war against Hitler. I think that was a mistake.

The rational was to keep Poland and the Czech republic free. However at the end of the war neither country was free. They had fallen under the Soviet sphere of influence. The goals they set hence failed.

They KNEW Hitler planned to attack Russia. He had spoken for years about that. That meant they would go through Poland. The sneaky but rational solution would have been to sacrifice Poland temporary and let Hitler attack Russia. Russia and Germany would have worn each other out.

At the end a heavily built up allied military could have marched in and cleaned up.


Note that while this wasn't widely known in the West at the time and therefore cannot be their justification for going to war against Hitler, Nazi Germany's "Generalplan Ost" [0] (their "General Plan for the East", a plan of global genocide so vast it defies belief) called for the almost total extermination of the populations of most Slavic countries, Russia and Poland included. If I remember correctly, the quota for Poland was 80% Poles -- and note I say Poles, not Jewish Poles -- to be exterminated.

So on the one hand, Cold War Poland ended up a puppet of the Soviets. Repression of dissidents, etc. But the Poles were alive. On the other hand, had Nazi Germany won and completed their plan there would be no Poles left to complain about their lack of freedom.

So was WWII really a mistake?

----

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generalplan_Ost


Except I doubt it would ever have happened. Germany would have struggled mightily with Russia. Likely Germany and Russia would have fought each other to some sort of standstill. They would have bled each other out and which point allied forces could have moved in and beaten both Germany and Russia. We could have avoided the whole cold war and east block.

fortunately the mistake was made, or even more people would have died in the concentration camps.

I don't think that is given. If Germany had sent massive forces towards Russia and there had been no war in the west, France and Britain would have been free to launch a major assault on Germany while German troops where tied down in Russia.

They war could very well have ended sooner.


> We could of course not have stopped Hitler's initial actions

Germany was not ready to fight a war in 1937, 1938, or even 1939, when it actually invaded Poland. Had the West actually responded to German aggression with a land assault, even as late as the actual invasion of Poland, then it's rather likely that the war could have been cleaned up before the Soviet Union would have invaded Poland.

Furthermore, an appropriate Western response to actually supporting the Central European states would probably have given the USSR pause before invading, as it would have demonstrated that the defensive treaties were not mere pieces of paper.


I don't think decisive action was possible after WWI -- everybody still remembered the meatgrinder and what a web of defensive treaties led to.

> what a web of defensive treaties led to

Ironically, none of the countries in WWI were actually obliged to enter into the war by virtue of their treaties.

The Triple Alliance didn't kick in unless one of the parties was "without direct provocation on their part, [...] attacked or [...] engaged in a war with two or more Great Powers nonsignatory to the present treaty" (or Italy attacked by France alone). But France and Britain declared war after Germany did, so the "two or more" doesn't kick in. Not to mention that the "direct provocation" is an ample loophole for anyone wanting to wriggle out of the treaty (as Italy, in fact did).

The Triple Entente wasn't a single treaty. The Franco-Russian Alliance was the strongest, requiring France and Russia to attack Germany should Germany attack one of them or merely mobilize in response to any of the Triple Alliance mobilizing. But again, this is a defensive trigger, and Russia mobilized before Germany did [1], so the clause didn't kick in. The Anglo-French Entente was not backed by any military alliance treaty, nor was the Anglo-Russian Entente. The Treaty of London merely guaranteed Belgian neutrality, and did not oblige anyone to enter into war against someone who violated Belgian neutrality.

For extra irony, in WWII, Britain and France went to war against Germany in defense of Poland, with whom they did not have a binding defensive treaty, but not in defense of Czechoslovakia, with whom France did.

[1] We know now that Germany actually decided its full mobilization before Russia did, but held back on announcing it just long enough to have the Russian mobilization announce first. In the event, France actually did not mobilize until after Germany mobilized against it, the German military having convinced Kaiser Wilhelm that mobilizing against only Russia was impossible.


You might find Garet Garrett's writings against World War II interesting [1]. He was not a socialist (he was an ardent anti-communist), which makes his conservative arguments against joining all the more interesting.

[1] https://fee.org/people/garet-garrett/


History doesn't tolerate what-ifs, but just in case. Soviet Union wouldn't stand war with Germany without Allies. Hitler would get access to all the Soviet's resources: cheap slaves' workforce, food, oil, coal, steel, Arctic and Far East seaports. Then attack on the US together with Japan, both East and West coast. The US would not have a chance. Game over.

That is the whole point. Germany and Russia could have knocked each other out. That would have allowed allies to take both of them.

Instead allies did the absolutely stupid thing and propped up Russia making it strong enough to take over half of Europe! Wow brilliant move there.

Helping Russia was a major strategic blunder. It helped create the cold war.


As far as I know, current consensus is that the Soviet Union would have defeated Nazi Germany regardless of Western intervention, it just would have taken more time (and a lot more casualties) to get to Berlin.

It really is a case where the Nazis picked a fight they just couldn't win.


Current consensus where? I live in Russia, we currently have a state-induced wave of unhealthy "patriotic" hype here, mostly based on WW2 events. But even in these circumstances I rather got an opinions like "without West we wouldn't make it against Hitler" in my circles.

The keyword is "lend-lease" [0]. About 5% of weapons for 1942 Soviet offensive operations, decisive for the final outcome, were US-made. And 80% of cars and trucks. And lots of raw material.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lend-Lease


Consensus in the West, by historians not trying to score a political point about current world affairs.

Lend-lease, while critical help, is often overplayed in the West as a way to diminish the Soviet contribution to the war -- this is in itself the legacy of historical views shaped by the Cold War and (unsurprisingly) by ex Wehrmacht officers who collaborared with the West after WW2. There's no credible mainstream analysis that has Germany winning against the Soviet Union. In fact, it is often argued that by starting Barbarossa, Hitler effectively lost the war. Germany didn't have the manpower, logistics capabilities or equipment to take on the Soviet Union.

That's not to say it wouldn't have cost the Soviets a lot more time, effort and bloodshed to defeat the Nazi war machine without the help of the Western Allies.

I'm not Russian and I'm completely uninterested in how current Russia and Putin are spinning this, by the way.


I know it is not a popular view but I think WWII was a major mistake

It's a plenty popular idea, but people won't say so publicly because of social pressure: The Greatest Generation, The Good War, etc.


The Greatest Generation is an US concept, which only entered the war after it was attacked.

> Had those young men simply decided to do nothing rather than join, the world would have been a better place.

Words cannot express how disappointed I am with people who say things like this.

Assuming you believe that your country's political system is not worth overthrowing, then serving your country is an honorable act, and people who have served should not be criticized for taking on the burden that is service. Quite the opposite.

Now if your political system is beyond repair and unsalvageable through reform, then sure, service is not honorable.

It's unfortunate that so many of my fellow citizens seem to take the intellectually lazy way out: Criticize the choice to serve, but be unwilling to reform/overthrow their government. This line of thinking is so widespread, it's truly disheartening.


Major General Smedley Butler was a 2X Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. In his literary magnum opus, “War Is a Racket” he argues just that. A true statesman, he informed FDR & Co of the Business Plot, the cartel of big businesses who plotted to overthrow the US government. An amazing American that time will not allow us to forget.

Smedley Butler is like a God figure to Marines, second only to Chesty Puller. I've often referenced this when arguing about the military-industrial complex with people who assume that if you criticize military spending you are somehow anti-military. I don't know if it has any effect.

Some might think it's a fallacious argument from authority, but I don't think it is. Fortunately, or unfortunately?, the people I tend to argue with about this stuff likely don't know what that fallacy is.


> arguing about the military-industrial complex

Although it was almost 30 years later, you could also quote Eisenhower's parting words:

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex."


I've had several Marine and ex-Marine friends mention Butler to me. How does "War is a Racket" align or jive (or not!) with the presumed reason that most young men and women sign up for the military, which is to valiantly protect and defend the country?

I almost joined the Marines (but failed to make it for OCS due to health reasons). My dad's side of the family is a military family, with my grandfather being a career officer in the Army and two uncles also serving.

I think it's much deeper than "defend the country." For a lot of people, the military is the only ticket out of their bumfuck nowhere life. For some people, it's a chance to learn some self discipline and self confidence. For some people, it's a brotherhood of warriors they're part of. For some people, it's a way to get a college education. For some people, it's about defending their nation. Of course there are plenty of people who watch a Michael Bay movie and think they'll be some badass operator if they enlist.

I think someone like Smedley Butler might have viewed the military as a place that turns boys into confident men, teaches them valuable skills, instills discipline and self respect into them, and hooks them into a network of lifelong brothers.

War is not necessary for any of this, and he realized that when we go to war, he has to send his men to die so that people with contacts in Washington can get rich. He says in the linked paper that he suspected it when he was a Marine and finally realized it after he retired.


“How does "War is a Racket" align or jive (or not!) with the presumed reason that most young men and women sign up for the military, which is to valiantly protect and defend the country?”

It aligns with the fact that the warmongers are putting out a lot of propaganda that makes it a virtue to go to war and die for the warmongers.


We're no longer living in the 19th century, most people no longer believe in the nobility and glory of war.

Much of the modern recruitment efforts I've seen focus on benefits like paying for student loan debts, workforce training and healthcare.

I would bet that most people who join the military today (at least in the US) do so hoping to avoid ever having to see action, rather than looking forward to killing for their country.


I'm a Gen X-er, and people at my high school were joining the military almost entirely for the touted financial and education benefits. I had multiple friends who went into various branches and I don't recall a single one joining with the expectation that they wanted to go out and kill people.

Having said that, though, do you remember people in that age bracked signing up in the aftermath of 9/11? They were doing so explicitly because they wanted to go out and "fight back." And we've been at war in those areas ever since. I don't think it's particularly plausible that, after nearly two decades of constant deployment to war zones in the Middle East, anyone would sign up for the Marines with the expectation that they would not be required to go kill for their country.


> most people no longer believe in the nobility and glory of war

Sounds like you live in a nice bubble.

> Much of the modern recruitment efforts I've seen focus on benefits like paying for student loan debts, workforce training and healthcare.

highly branch-specific. They cater recruiting messages to the target audience. Look up Marine recruiting material.

> I would bet that most people who join the military today (at least in the US) do so hoping to avoid ever having to see action, rather than looking forward to killing for their country

you'd lose that bet


> I would bet that most people who join the military today (at least in the US) do so hoping to avoid ever having to see action, rather than looking forward to killing for their country.

Most of the guys I went to basic with or deployed with could. Not. Wait. To see action.


I bet you are technically correct, because support roles are the majority of the positions available. The guys who join a combat arms MOS sign up to fight. I signed up for a 19D slot in 2006.

It is worth pointing out that Butler served at the time when the US foreign policy was pretty explicitly based on aggressive interest in foreign trade: if another country wouldn't let Americans in for commerce, than send in the Marines to force them to do so.

As a result, it's worth cautioning people that just because a fact of foreign policy efforts was true 100 years ago does not mean that it is true today.


> As a result, it's worth cautioning people that just because a fact of foreign policy efforts was true 100 years ago does not mean that it is true today.

Perhaps we might say something contrarian to this: if it was something true 100 years ago, the burden of proof is on the side of proving it is no longer so. And I think you will have a hard time at it.


The US no longer has a foreign policy explicitly built on the protection of American commercial interests abroad. If you haven't noticed, we no longer invade countries (e.g., Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela) when they threaten to nationalize industries that the US has a large stake in.

If you believe that the foreign policy is built on that premise, but that the government is lying about it, then the burden of proof is on you to show that lying is in effect.


>The US no longer has a foreign policy explicitly built on the protection of American commercial interests abroad.

Ok, literally true I guess? Not "explicitly" maybe. But you continue

>If you believe that the foreign policy is built on that premise, but that the government is lying about it,

>If you haven't noticed, we no longer invade countries (e.g., Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela) when they threaten to nationalize industries that the US has a large stake in.

What the US does nowadays isn't less appalling. I suggest the recent book The Wikileaks Files: The World According to US Empire, which goes around the world looking at the way US leaders/diplomats/agencies think and talk and act in relation to various countries and regions. Not how their press releases describe it, but quoting from their actual communications and instructions and advice and reports, in great detail. Mostly it's about the 2000s and 2010s, with some historical context. Warning: it will be very disheartening.

In the 1990s I read most of Chomsky's earlier political books, with each book focusing on a particular country/region, and following up his sources - books, papers, media, the UN voting record etc. That was incredibly depressing and sickening. The US crushing any show of real democracy and independence in country after country. Often training torturers and arming death squads in the service of dictators they installed and armed etc. (When they weren't actually invading and/or bombing) And covering it up with self-righteous propaganda about being pro-democracy.. It's hard to believe at first, so different from the glossy CNN/NBC/CBS/ABC picture of the world.

>the burden of proof is on you to show that lying is in effect.

Just read The Wikileaks Files and you should be amply satisfied on that score. (But sounds like your whole world-view will be shattered, sorry for that.) Yes, "built on the protection of American commercial interests abroad", yes, "the government is lying about it", it's plain as day.


Well, no, we don't invade them - we subsidize a coup in their country. It's much cheaper that way, when their own troops are performing occupation duties, paid for by the taxes of the people they occupy.

And if those people revolt, then there's a "legitimate government" asking us to help them in a "police action" - not a war, God forbid! And then we train their troops and give them munitions. And if all that fails, then we send our troops to protect the "legitimate government".


> And if those people revolt, then there's a "legitimate government" asking us to help them in a "police action" - not a war, God forbid! And then we train their troops and give them munitions. And if all that fails, then we send our troops to protect the "legitimate government".

And the last time this happened was... ?


It has never stopped.

> then the burden of proof is on you to show that lying is in effect

Don't say on "me", I was just offering a plausible side. But I agree it is a difficult question. There is the point you make, but there is also the point made by asking "cui bono".


What measure of proof do you require?

One would have to be fantastically incredulous to imagine the USA invaded Iraq for anything other than the loot.

As @yesenadam notes, there's mountains of evidence, readily visible to anyone choosing to notice.

On your point of commercial interests, as though there's a distinction from trade policy, Saddam and Gadaffi had the poor sense to seriously propose abandoning petrodollars, sealing their fates.


That reason is mostly presumed by those who do not sign up. Among those who do, the reasons are varied. Many sign up simply because they need a job or as a way to procure technical experience or funding for college. And many in the infantry and other combat arms jobs sign up because they want adventure or see it as a kind of initiation into manhood. Many feel a sense of responsibility to "do their part", but that isn't the primary motivating factor and is almost never explicitly stated. The scene in Black Hawk Down where Josh Hartnett's character is mocked for saying "I was trained to make a difference" is quite accurate.

Every generation has a supply of young men who go to war simply because they want to go to war. That's a human universal as far as I can tell. The reasons for the war are unimportant. It isn't until they become older and more introspective that they consider the big-picture morality of it. Smedley Butler was in his 50s when he made that speech.


Same way people genuinely join the police to make things better. They think they can make a difference, even if the system is all fucked up. Sometimes they're right.

Two Marines two medals! Dan Daley and Smedley Butler!

War is still a racket [0]. Interesting closing reflections from the article:

... not enough Americans know or care about what happens in other countries or what their government and military is doing in their name. Do many Americans know that there are at least 1000 American military bases around the world, or that there is a fast growing Africa Command branch of the military that is involved in almost every country in Africa? Certain politicians would like to cut “discretionary” spending for such unnecessary things as education, health care, infrastructure, and protecting the environment, but over $1 Trillion a year in allotted to the military, secret intelligence, and “homeland security” in order to continue such unholy activities we have seen for over 100 years.

It is telling that such a high profile person like General Butler could give such influential speeches in the ’30’s, and that even a president (who was also a general, perhaps not coincidentally) could warn against the military-industrial complex in 1961. Such a thing has been unimaginable since the Carter presidency. With the possible exception of Bernie Sanders, there are no politicians today brave enough to take on this problem, and certainly none with as high a profile as president. Maybe it’s time for less money in the hands of arms producers and war profiteers. It’s time for less war and weapons in general. Sadly, this means that it must be time for new politicians. Only a citizenry which not only votes, but is also informed and involved, can do this.

[0] https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/01/15/war-is-still-a-racket/


I firmly believe that it is our responsibility (the ones with at least half a mind) to communicate and convince our fellow citizens that oversea wars should not be supported, and protested against. So many lives have been lost for profit of others. It's truly a shame of humanity.

I think this is most effectively done offline. Attempt anything online and suddenly the haters come out of the woodwork and shout you down.

According to CBO analysis the total cost of Afghan & Iraq wars is going to be something like $2.5 trillion for the US.

Imagine if this sum would have been used mostly nonviolently for bribing and buying influence in the region. Depending how the money is distributed, it would have been:

* $35k per each person in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you divide it into households maybe something like $100k - 150k per household.

* 2.5 million millionaires, or

* assuming you need to just bribe 20,000 most influential persons/families/groups in Iraq and 10,000 in Afghanistan that would be something like $80 million each.

corruption >> war, almost every time.


The CIA absolutely bribes local officials. The issue is you need to bribe the right people:

1. People who will change their opinion, reliably, when bribed. 2. People who won't backstab you (aka: take the money, and attack you anyway).

Figuring this out is an intelligence problem. To get good intelligence, you need boots on the ground. To have boots on the ground, you need to protect them. Etc. etc.

With regards to Afghanistan culture: they have a different way of thinking than us Americans. Sure, some can be bribed with money, but a history of being a warzone for... I think 200 years at least... has made their culture strange and alien to us.

--------

IIRC, Afghanistan culture is about accepting and protecting of strangers, even when they are under attack. But as soon as the stranger leaves, you're allowed to shoot them or otherwise kill them again. So this makes #2 more difficult, you need to understand the local's religion, their culture, their legends and their stories. (I'm probably butchering the concept, but I read about the details a long time ago...)

In the case of Afghanistan, if US Troops could take advantage of the "accepting of strangers" culture, then US Troops will be protected by the locals. Diplomacy leads to better war-fighters and safer people. Play your cards right, and you don't even need to bribe people. You'll be a good-guy in their culture and they'll protect you.


They do and they do have success and make allies.

In fact CIA and SOF had pinned Taliban and Al-Qaeda combatants into Kunduz in November 2001. Then came the order to stand down let them fly into Pakistan unharmed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunduz_airlift#Revelation


This is a move very easy to explain: they thought they would be useful for them in the future. They feel no difference who kills whom, for as long they do so for their benefit.

Western overtures with Saddam Husain would be a great example. Second to US granting asylim to all batshit insane military mutineers in hopes of using them any time the new freedom fighters don't dance their tune: Haftar Khalifa, Husain Altaf

The West has adopted a very orientalistic concept of war as of late, as of it being purely symbolic bloodshed and ritualised sabre rattling just to compel "tribal elders" of another side to talks on your terms.

Bitter lessons from European genocidal, uncompromising warfare to the last drop of blood has been largely forgotten.

The next time the West will encounter an opponent who treats the war seriously will be its own 6 day war.


Like Iran for example

Much of the money for war flows right back into the American economy.

You pay American soldiers and contractor salaries. You buy weapons and technology from American companies.

Bribes don't have the same economic effect.

For these large dollar amounts, how you spend it matters as much as how much you spend.


> You pay American soldiers and contractor salaries. You buy weapons and technology from American companies.

While there are wealthy individuals who profit from the military-industrial complex, it's hard to shake the impression that the majority of our bloated military budget is a federal make-work jobs program (with deaths of American troops and foreign civilians as a negative externality).


> it's hard to shake the impression that the majority of our bloated military budget is a federal make-work jobs program

The majority of it is precisely that. It's the only jobs & wealth redistribution program Republicans are willing to fund (though they never call it that). Pity it's so inefficient for that purpose.


It is, and you have whole communities being completely reliant on it for survival. But listen to Eisenhowers speech about the military-industrial complex. This reliance is created by design, and it is making some people extremely rich.

I think it's something of an open secret how much public policy (military and otherwise) is manipulated by wealthy donors and corporate lobbyists. What perhaps goes underexamined, is the extent to which Congress members (even those who grandstand on "fiscal conservatism") are extremely reluctant to cut any federal expenses that would result in a loss of jobs in their state/district (be it a closed military base, or a reduced contract with Lockheed Martin).

Middle-class voters may not actively be lobbying for the perpetual [Military/Prison/etc]-Industrial Complex; but the mere fact of who writes the checks for those voters' salaries and benefits makes the racket extremely difficult to unentrench, above and beyond the already problematic influence of the 0.001% who are shamelessly fleecing the taxpayer. It's a truly wicked problem.


This. That’s exactly what it is.

That's the point of the whole War is a Racket we are discussing.

If the choice is between immeasurable human suffering, domestic corruption and jobs or just solving the problem, the war racket wins. Removing the profit motive is the key suggestion in the War is a Racket.


That is the wrong way to look at it. By this token digging holes in America is a profitable enterprise. If you pay hole diggers in America, hey all the money goes the American economy.

Whenever talking about an economic issue people have to stop thinking in terms of money and start thinking in terms of goods and services made.

The point of an economy is not to circulate money for kicks and giggles. Money is just to facilitate exchange of goods and services.

A working economy creates a large number of goods and services which the inhabitants wants and needs. You pay a worker to build a car and he makes something people benefit from. You pay a worker to make a missile and he makes something which does not improve the lives of anything. It is a complete waste of time and effort.



Sure, I would rather us spend $2.5T on American infrastructure, but the comparison I responded to pitted bribes vs warfare.

The money will funnel back into the US eventually anyways. Unless you have some reason to prefer giving defense contractors the money, the money might as well go to whatever middle eastern people like to buy from the US. The advantage of this scheme is that fewer lives need to be lost, the regions in question can become more stable and productive, and US interests are better promoted.

A bigger question is who did it flow back to and how can we track that? Certainly we have contractor operations that are US based, but it is not always clear if what they are doing aligns with American interests. Giving them more money may actually be increasing corruption.

The largest single line-item is salaries and compensation (including healthcare). Most people getting those salaries are lower-middleclass.

Last I checked the lower middle class wages and wealth have been stagnant for years, healthcare not improved either. I see no strong indicator of this flow you mention (not saying it doesn't exist).

There is ample evidence of defense contractor stock values appreciating, including a network of contractors that are hard to fully track, so not always assured they are US based, and same for the investors in those companies.

Ex. Mercenaries from other countries, airplane wiring from India, etc.


but what's the ROI on money for weapons and military contractors?

Government doesn't measure ROI. It measure impact on policy goals. A government is not a business.

I find it helps to think of the military as a socialist style make-work jobs program. That's not it's only function, but it is an important one. For the poor (boots on the ground types) it educates them, feeds/houses them, teaches them self discipline. During peace time it's an important economic ladder. For the middle class, it's about creating work for engineers, programmers, and scientist types.

During peace-time, I think there's a lot to be said about the ROI for the military, if the military is at some reasonable scale (which I think it is not).

With regards to the many Middle East (ME) wars, I think a lot of that is about maintaining and enforcing the petro-dollar. If the ME decides to start selling their oil in Euros or gold or some other currency, it will mean the end of the USA as we know it. The dollar will collapse and China or Russia will take over as the world hegemon. Many people really have a distaste for US hegemony, but unfortunately the real options on the table are not US vs nobody. It's US vs probably China. So the ROI is much more complicated in that regard.


The military has and will continue to be the politically-correct [to them] means of implementing a welfare state for republicans. I mean you get free high-quality insurance via tricare, free college via the post911 GI bill, subsided home loans via the VA — all the trappings of the welfare state but politically acceptable to most Republicans and centrist Democrats. The military-industrial-congressional complex is alive and well.

IMO there is no reason we should be killing people outside our borders or even have military outside our borders when there are much larger domestic problems that are unaddressed. I walk by homeless people shooting up right next to million+ dollar houses (yay Seattle + AMZN/MSFT) every day and fixing this shoes not seem to be the priority as the defense contractors and American people themselves are from this porkbarrel.

Yes, war is a racket.


Of course war is a racket. And I agree with you that the US has been fighting wars of aggression and generally behaving in a despicable manner. Now, let's imagine what happens if/when the US decides to stop being so aggressive. I believe the Middle East begins to trade oil in Euros, gold, Yuan, or some other currency. Demand for the dollar collapses. The US economy collapses in a spectacularly violent way. Like a Venezuela/Zimbabwe kind of spectacular economic collapse. Then China, who is already putting Muslims (Uyghur) men in concentration camps and assigning rapists to live with their families and educate them into being good Communists. China who is committing mass murder to fill the market for human organs. China who is already colonizing Africa. China which is an etho-state with a dictator for life. China is going to start really flexing more around the globe.

What is your hypothesis on what happens across the globe in the absence of US hegemony and crazy wars. Do you believe a loss of the petro-dollar would lead to US collapse? Do you believe Chinese hegemony would happen, and if so, would it be better or worse than US hegemony?


If we are going to do opportunity costs, imagine where America would be if it spent that kind of money on its own damn people. Like education, healthcare, infrastructure, and the economic "cost" of enforcing clean air and water regulations, increasing fuel efficiency targets, and phasing out fossil fuels.

China has been using the last 19 years to do just that, building out their infrastructure and R&D (and in other countries, too, see the Belt and Road initiative) while the US has bogged itself down in the middle east. In 2003 when the US went to war in Iraq, the US GDP was 8 times the size of China's. Today the US GDP is 1.4 times China's. The Chinese economy has grown 24 times over in the last 25 years. The US economy has about tripled (a little less) in that time.

> According to CBO analysis the total cost of Afghan & Iraq wars is going to be something like $2.5 trillion for the US.

Since the US just adds this to its national debt, there is no actual cost for the US. The cost is paid by holders of US government bonds (e.g. non-US central banks).

The US is literally paying for its wars with bonds. That’s why the US is so powerful — no other country can pay for wars using paper with stuff written on it (i.e. a bond).


Corruption is not dependable. There's always the option to simply just take your money, and not hold up to your end of the bargain. War ensures the outcome you desire.

(Read my comment in the context of the article. War ensures the cycle perpetuates, and our modern version of this article is maintaining the current status quo with the military industrial complex, ala the desired outcome of more wars.)


Except it doesn't. Every war the US has engaged in since WWII has had rather poor outcomes and cost a fortune. I would have risked failed corruption instead.

Anyway you don't have to dump a trillion in Iraq in one go. You would have bribed people with individual amounts over longer time and measured progress and outcomes.


Unlike good ole' bombing, raiding and shooting, which has clearly been so effective over the last 19 years?

I’ve thought about this as well... probably the “best” way to do it is the first, give everybody the money equally. It’s not a bribe, it’s a UBI, and it lifts the whole country out of poverty, which generally means the curtailing of whatever issues we probably had that was driving us to conflict with them in the first place.

kneejerk thought : total _dollars_ cost is $2.5 trillion, whereas other dimensions have costs too, lives lost, morale, reputation. Not sure how to think about any of that.

There is a poem by Julian Tuwim, "To a simple man" (pl. "Do prostego człowieka"), 1929.

There are a few translations, but I like the most one by Marcel Weyland (https://www.antiwarsongs.org/canzone.php?lang=en&id=36782, see also ones into German and Italian).

More on Tuwim in general: https://www.cjnews.com/perspectives/features/the-20th-centur....



His statements seem clear but upon further reflection they are not clear.

There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights.

Okay, so this was written in 1933. The obvious question to me is, would the author have supported US involvement in World War 2?

I guess with Pearl Harbor, the US was attacked. But the Japanese at the time might have said that the US really started the war because the trade embargo on Japan was destroying Japan's economic plans.

So was World War 2 about protecting American homes? Or was it about enabling the US to enforce a trade embargo on Japan to reduce the size of the Japanese empire?

I am not a history expert and I don't claim that these questions have simple answers. I am just saying, I don't think there is any clear-cut answer of when a war is really for self-defense or not.


Why did we embargo Japan? Because they were invading China. It's not like Japan was just peacefully sitting there, and we slapped a trade embargo on them for no reason.

So our options were to ignore that Japan was invading China, and continue to sell them steel, rubber, and gasoline, or to embargo them, or to declare war on them. We didn't declare war, which is consistent with the article's viewpoint. Should we have embargoed them (even at the risk of eventual war), or should we just continue to sell stuff to them that helps them attack China? To me, it's pretty clear that the embargo was the moral thing to do.


I think the words are not meant to be a comprehensive list of rules for exactly when war is justified. He's giving a broad overview of when he thinks it's justified. Of course one can get bogged down into particulars and wonder where Butler would stand but I think the misses the overall point he is making. Namely, that war is rarely the answer. When it is necessary then fight it but try not to make it a racket.

> I think the words are not meant to be a comprehensive list of rules for exactly when war is justified.

I disagree. I think his words are pretty clear. From the article:

> There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.


Do you believe that such a simple statement can possibly constitute a comprehensive list of rules for exactly when war is justified? By way of comparison consider the fact that just about everyone believes that murder is wrong and the legal definitions of the various types of “murder” is quite long. Even so the definitions are murky enough to require judges, lawyers, and juries to settle matters in some individual cases.

It’s hard to argue that Smedley’s single sentence can possibly constitute a comprehensive set of rules when “defense of our homes” is so vague and can reasonably be interpreted to encompass so much.


If you read the piece OP linked (I highly recommend it, it is outstanding), or the whole book, the entire point is a warning about the looming threat of WW2, and his idea of the 3 practical steps to keep the USA out of it. So he was indeed very much against the US involvement in WW2. That's the main point of the book.

>don't think there is any clear-cut answer of when a war is really for self-defense

In many cases, there is.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_Wars


The United States should not have embargoed Japan. The United stars should not have been involved in any of the world wars. Sweden has been neutral in all conflicts since 1814 and that has worked out quite well for them.

You are correct in that there were no soldiers fighting from Sweden for either side, but in Sweden it is also known: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transit_of_German_troops_throu...

If the USA hadnt gotten involved in the European theater of WW2, and invested the required resources in the Manhattan project, its very likely that the Nazis would have gotten the bomb first and used it to beat the red army. This would have allowed Hitler to consolidate power throughout the continent before eventually invading England. Although Im a stanch opponent of the modern military adventurism of recent administrations, getting involved to cut down the rise of Hilters power was a huge positive for generations of Europeans (and probably the rest of the world).

Interesting topic. Thanks for the mention.

I don't think it's that difficult to extrapolate eventual difficulties for the Bill of Rights in a world dominated by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan as the two super powers.

That assumes either Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan would have remained stable enough to matter as world powers. Either or both could just as well have collapsed from within.

That's entirely besides the point, though.

It's not entirely besides the point. If neither Japan nor Germany were likely to ever pose an existential threat to the United States, then there would be no "eventual difficulties to the Bill of Rights" to worry about.

It is, because we know how unstable Germany and Japan were primarily from hindsight - information unavailable to someone evaluating a threat to the US in 1933.

The soviet union induced as much suffering as the Nazis and remanded stable for the better part of a century.

Just in case you want a nice pdf printout read.

https://github.com/frankMilde/interesting-reads/blob/master/...


"One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket."

What about your allies' homes? If an aggressor can pick off victims one at a time, you won't have any allies left when they come for your home.

It also assumes that there is no form of dramatically assummetric attack that is hard to defend against. That may have been true when this was written, but nuclear weapons changed the game.


The fact these these comment threads are only about WWII, ignoring the dozens of other wars the US started, should tell people something.

The US military is killing people in, what, 7 or 8 countries right now, today? Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger? I feel like I'm missing some.


We seem to be discussing WW1 and 2 while looking past the drumbeat to war in the Middle East. Are we missing the relevance of the posted content to current times?

Also referenced in this article posted a few days back: "War is still a racket" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21990298

This is mostly about the WWI era, and WWI was indeed a racket, fought for elites at the expense of everyone else.

I'm curious if he would write the same article after WWII.


Iraq definitely was a racket. At the same time the war went on , defense companies reported record profits and upper incomes received big tax cuts. So for upper management of defense companies it was a huge win to go to war. I am always thinking we should make sure that when a country goes to war everybody suffers. In most wars young guys have to die for something they don’t understand, most population suffers, but upper class and leadership usually still lives in splendor.

Yes. War is a racket ESPECIALLY in the post-WWII era, when America became both the world’s armory AND the world’s bank. Every single conflict that America has been in since has been a war of choice designed to pursue capitalist interest. Our wars are imperial wars designed to perpetuate American hegemony. That hegemony is designed to continue/enable the pilfering of global wealth by a relative handful of elites. It is all about centralizing power & wealth.

When I was growing up in the 90s this was pretty fringe thinking. Now, though, 20-30 years later, multiple combat tours & a military career under my belt I realize we should have been listening to Butler all along. It’s painfully, agonizingly naive to think that WW2 of all things would somehow be a counterweight to Butler’s point.


I have exactly the same feelings you do here, but I struggle with one thing in particular. What is the real alternative to American hegemony? I believe it's likely Chinese hegemony. China, on the one hand, is an ethno-state which is rounding up the Muslim (Uyghurs) men, tossing them in concentration camps, and assigning rapists to live with their families to re-educate them into being good Communists. On the other hand, the Chinese are also committing mass murder to fulfill orders for human organs. That's just what they're willing to do to their own people. I wonder if it's possible to thread the needle such that we temper the US while not letting China take over. I think that will be difficult, and China is likely to win in the long run anyways. What are your thoughts on the real alternatives to American hegemony?

That question is essentially impossible to answer, IMO.

The world we live in, our perceptions of it, the language we use to describe it, is deeply anchored in the technocapitalist empire America was empowered to establish in the unsettled world order left in the aftermath of WW2.

So, what are the alternatives to American hegemony? I don't know. What are the alternatives to capitalism? What are the alternatives to accumulating and hoarding wealth? Not doing that, I guess, right? So, the only answer I'm equipped to provide is that the alternative to American hegemony would be not American hegemony.

(Note: I could definitely articulate a market socialist position here that might reflect my political views but that could and would be picked apart in an Internet forum. The point is that we are all so institutionalized to this hegemonic world that any alternative will be seen as inferior. It will take revolution.)


I would like to draw an important distinction between what we might like to happen vs what we think will actually happen. Particularly in a world where the two other world powers are annexing territory and/or colonizing Africa. Just imagine that we unilaterally stop. What do you think will happen next?

Aliens land? Monsters emerge out of the ocean? :P

There'd be a big war and after that who knows what the world would look like. The fact you still see the world as necessarily dipole, a tension between great powers vying for control over "the little people" kind of makes my point.

There is no difference between an American and a Chinese hegemony. The problem isn't that the hegemony we have is American. The problem is hegemony.


Read the linked excerpt, it's excellent. It is specifically a warning about the impending WW2, and an argument to keep the US out of it.

The article and comments about Hitler's plan to (or not to) attack America [1] are interesting. Wa-a-a-y down at the end of the comments, there are a series of interesting threads with bibliographies on the possibility Stalin had an outsized covert influence upon American foreign policy. And lots of other interesting threads; software isn't the only endeavor where it gets fractally more complex the closer you examine it.

[1] https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/32084


Indeed. I've wondered if the 'great filter', and the reason why we don't see aliens is because evolution, with the inevitable struggle for power, is self destructive, because, uhh, war.

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." Jimi

Or, it won't.


I wonder what on earth could have prompted this to raise to #1 just now :)

It's a lot of paragraphs that can be summed as "War is expensive and suppliers can earn a lot of money", but he doesn't really discuss the strategic or ethical value of war until the very end with this blurb:

> Well, eighteen years after, the world has less of democracy than it had then. Besides, what business is it of ours whether Russia or Germany or England or France or Italy or Austria live under democracies or monarchies? Whether they are Fascists or Communists? Our problem is to preserve our own democracy. And very little, if anything, has been accomplished to assure us that the World War was really the war to end all wars.

Which is a very dismissive viewpoint that America can simply wash its hands of everything outside its borders. Surely anyone who knew about the Holocaust saw our involvement in WWII as a moral imperative and more broadly John Donne put it very well that "No man is an island". Certainly a lot of wars have been fought on dubious grounds, but it's an overly cynical point of view to try to give such a pat answer to such a huge question.

I'd also argue that there's a huge fallacy in his premise. Yes, war is profitable for many industries. I think it's inarguable that peace is vastly more profitable for even more industries. Friendly international relations, stable supply lines and prosperous consumers are far more valuable than anything else.


> Surely anyone who knew about the Holocaust saw our involvement in WWII as a moral imperative

To be fair, we didn't go to war for this reason.


Well, consider it a hypothetical red line. I can see how Butler would be salty about the US fighting to protect some arbitrary monarchical power structure, but surely there are things worth fighting for outside our borders.

> Which is a very dismissive viewpoint that America can simply wash its hands of everything outside its borders. Surely anyone who knew about the Holocaust saw our involvement in WWII as a moral

This is nonsense we allied with one murderous dictator and fought another, our involvement in that war was in no way righteous.

> I'd also argue that there's a huge fallacy in his premise. Yes, war is profitable for many industries. I think it's inarguable that peace is vastly more profitable for even more industries. Friendly international relations, stable supply lines and prosperous consumers are far more valuable than anything else.

His point is that it is vastly profitable for a _few_ people, and also implicitly that what you are saying is true because he wants peace.


That's pretty cynical. Yes we had to enlist Stalin but I don't think anyone foresaw how bad he would be. Only that the current situation was dire. And we probably saved more people than we condemned.

And my point isn't that he wants peace. My point is the wealthy industrialists and plutocrats also want peace. Some of them make money off of war and would lobby for more war, but 100X as many make money off of peace and would oppose war.


Thank you for posting. I’ve read this before, but I feel like this deserves an annual reading.

Laws are written and wars are waged to protect money.

History repeats. Teaching history does not help.

Conclusion of the internet Era : information is not enough. Will to act is necessary.

Just like club of rome report, this text is old news. Yet it pops up regularly and it means few.


I thought he was going somewhere besides conspiracy theory-ville until he said "The trend is to poison us against the Japanese." By 1933 Japan needed no one to make them look bad. The invasion of Asia was well underway, and only those not paying attention were shocked by the Rape of Nanking.

If this guy was carrying water for the Imperial Japanese by 1933, he was making excuses for genocide, torture and horror on a scale impossible for a single person to take all in.


So you just conveniently forget Japan has always had an immensely violent history, and only care that someone "made excuses" in the midst of war? Or the innumerable atrocities historically committed on behalf of the US MIC too much for your blind patriotism?

Are you now making excuses for Japan invading Asia in 1931 and proceeding to average something like 180,000 innocent civilians murdered per month until the end of WWII? And your excuse is they were also bad some other times, and anyone who disagrees with you is a blind patriot?

>War is just a racket. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

I'd add one more, when a genocidal meglomanic is intent on wiping out an entire race of people that I would say qualifies as one more reason.

War is terrible tragic and should be avoided at almost any cost, but there is also evil in the world that needs to be stopped.

I think part of our problem in today's society is that the anyone born after 1990 has spent the majority of our lives with the country at war. If a war is worth fighting it is worth winning, if it isn't worth winning than it isn't worth fighting.


I would agree that it qualifies. The problem is that none of the Allied countries in WW2 got involved for that reason. That a full-fledged genocide was going on, much less the true scope for it, became known only fairly late in the war.

And then you can look at events such as the Evian Conference before the war, where those same countries could have averted the worst of said genocide without firing a single bullet. But didn't, because they were hella racist themselves - as the famous quote from that conference went, "as we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one". Or you can look at the polls - one such in US in 1939 had 53% of the respondents saying that "Jews are different and should be restricted". I don't know if there are any stats on how many American soldiers in that war were KKK members, but it would be an interesting study.

WW2 was a war over state interests, which themselves boil down to economic and political power of the elites. It was retconned into this glorious crusade of the Free World against the Evil Empire, and it was spectacularly successful because the Evil Empire turned out to be even more evil than the war propaganda painted it; but we should never forget that it is a post hoc justification! WW1 actually had very similar propaganda (https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/otheringat...) - it just didn't hold up in retrospect, which is why our perception of it is so different today.


>I'd add one more, when a genocidal meglomanic is intent on wiping out an entire race of people that I would say qualifies as one more reason.

Has the US ever gone to war for that reason? No. They've supported some of the worst dictators through out the world.


I think it's also crucial to ask who financed these endeavors.

"There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket."

By that logic, six years later, were Britain and France wrong to declare war on Nazi Germany when it attacked Poland? Should the U.S. not have joined them in 1941 in declaring war in Germany, which had not attacked the U.S.? And even regarding our fighting Japan after Pearl Harbor, American homes in the continental U.S. were not under threat. So was Allied participation in WWII a "racket"? If not, why is this piece getting so many up votes?


Germany declared war on U.S., not the other way around. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_declaration_of_war_agai...

WWII would have been far easier if the USA actually attacked Japan first. If the USA declared war when Britain / France did in the late 30s, then France may have not been overrun by the Germans. Maybe we wouldn't have needed to land in Normandy Beach.

I don't think anybody would look at the events of the next 10-years after 1933, and consider that war to be a "Racket". Nazis were evil. Imperial Japan, was evil.

By delaying our entry into the war for years, France was wiped out, and Japan sunk many battleships in a surprise attack. USA got lucky that our carriers were out on a training mission: if we lost our Carriers at Pearl Harbor, Japan may have very well won the war.

US had 3 carriers stationed there: USS Enterprise, USS Lexington, and USS Saratoga. All unharmed in Pearl Harbor, because they were elsewhere. And critical to the battles to come. USA won by the skin of its teeth, shear luck that our best ships were elsewhere during the surprise attack.

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US Pacific Fleet was composed of ~200 ships, ~18 of which were lost in the Pearl Harbor attack. The singular attack wiped out 10% of the US Pacific Power, WWII would have been far easier if US Declared war on Japan.

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If USA helped defend France in 1939, then the incredibly deadly Normandy Beach invasion would have been unnecessary. It was due to our failure to fight against the Nazis / Japan that France fell, and many more lives were needed to reclaim that territory.


> If the USA declared war when Britain / France did in the late 30s, then France may have not been overrun by the Germans.

Uh, no. The US wasn't capable of getting its troops to Europe fast enough in 1939, let alone supplying its troops. The Liberty Ship program only started in 1941. Hitler was already extremely dismissive of the capabilities that the Americans can provide, so any potential future threat the US might bring to bear would have been ignored in his plans.

> if we lost our Carriers at Pearl Harbor, Japan may have very well won the war.

If the Japanese had sunk the entire US Navy (Pacific and Atlantic) on December 7, 1941, and magically completed every vessel that they planned to construct for the remainder of the war on that date, and never lost another ship, and the US did not attempt to refloat or salvage any ship it lost in the magic death of the navy, by 1943, the US would have a larger navy than Japan.

Furthermore, how could Japan have turned even a decisive naval advantage into victory against the US? It lacked sufficient logistical capacity to contemplate holding Hawaii, let alone the US west coast.

> shear luck that our best ships were elsewhere during the surprise attack.

Yeah... no. In 1941, even the most enthusiastic carrier advocates would not have argued for carriers being the backbone of the navy (it's really not until the Battle of the Coral Sea that the value of carrier task forces over battleships is demonstrated). The Lexington and Saratoga were converted battlecruisers (admittedly, the best conversions, in large part because they were terrible battlecruisers), and were rather outdated by 1941.


> Furthermore, how could Japan have turned even a decisive naval advantage into victory against the US?

Erm, by conquering the Philippines, China, and Korea. Japan had no reason to invade the US proper, its only goal was conquest of the Asian continent. Japan did conquer the Philippines for a short time, before the US counter-attacked to recapture it.

Japan had no reason to conquer the USA. Japan wanted to build the Greater East Asia Co-Propserity Sphere: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_East_Asia_Co-Prosperit...

Japan absolutely had a crushing victory vs United States Asiatic Fleet, and WON in Philippines. It was the pesky Pacific Fleet (and its carriers) that came in later and saved the day. Atlantic-fleet was busy with the German front.

If Japan won the Battle of Midway and finished off the US Pacific Fleet, Japan probably would have created its imperialist dream. US would have retreated from the Pacific, lost the Philippines, and focused on fighting Germany (winning at least in the Atlantic). Allied efforts would have been on defending Australia from the imminent Japanese threat (but Australia was far outside the scope of Japanese imperialism, and probably safe from attack).

Of course, in real history, Japan lost the Battle of Midway in a crushing defeat. Japan lost important ships (all four carriers committed to the battle) and its most experienced admirals. From there, the USA was able to stall out the war, win in Europe, and then swing to the Pacific for a finishing blow.

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EDIT: Consider how a "reverse Midway" timeline would have occurred. Instead of losing 4-carriers in the Pacific, Japan would have destroyed nearly all remaining US Pacific Carriers. (!!)

The USA would have to enter 1942 with ONE carrier remaining in the pacific. It would have lost Midway, Australia would be threatened (but likely not taken, as it wasn't part of Japanese imperialism plans). Britain / Dutch / America would have pooled resources into defending Australia while retreating from the greater Pacific.

The Pacific Theater was extremely close. USA would have done far better, and had far less risk if we just attacked Japan first.

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With only one or two capital ships left in the Pacific, why would the USA even decide to attack Japan anymore? Especially when the Allies were pursuing "Europe First" strategy? It was far more likely for the USA to give up in the Pacific and let Japan keep its new empire.


> If Japan won the Battle of Midway and finished off the US Pacific Fleet, Japan probably would have created its imperialist dream. US would have retreated from the Pacific, lost the Philippines, and focused on fighting Germany (winning at least in the Atlantic).

You're making the same mistake the Japanese made in 1941. The Japanese assumed that they could kick the US really hard enough, steal a few things, and the US would just go "oh, guess I can't do anything." But in reality, as long as the US had the capability to continue the war against Japan, it would. Even if it had to delay the war with Japan until after Germany was defeated--which was the actual war plans of the US in the 1940s, it just turned out that the US had such insane capacity that it could fight both Japan and Germany--the US still would have brought its inexorable military capacity to bear on Japan.

Wars don't end because the victor has achieved its objectives and want nothing more; they end because the loser has decided not to continue the fight (or, more often, because it finally realizes that it has lost). Britain continued fighting its war against Germany, even when it had no prospects of defeating it (during the Battle of Britain), and it was suffering greatly by continuing the war. Why would the US have decided to quit the Pacific merely from losing its carriers, especially since it would have gained as many carriers as it lost within a few months?

Another point to make: the other two US carriers at Midway were damaged, and the US had four operational carriers in total in the Pacific, even after the Wasp was transferred to bolster the Pacific fleet. Two of these carriers (Wasp and Hornet) would be sunk before the year was out and Essex commissioned. It wasn't until the US started churning out an Essex-class carrier (or two) every month in 1943 that the US had a decisive advantage in the Pacific.

Midway (rather like Gettysburg) is vastly overrated as a crucial turning point in war. It marked the first decisive victory for the winning side, and the start of a seemingly inexorable march to war. But the losing side in both engagements was already dangerously overstretched and would have been unable to actually press its advantage even had it won.


A well reasoned post. I think that's a fair argument.

This misses the part where the US had split opinions about the war. If entering early, the US could have instead joined the fight with the Nazis rather than against them.

Are you saying what the US has been involved in for the past 70 years isn't a racket? This man called it first, and he knew what he was talking about.

All articles need to be read in their historical context.

In 1933, the "next war" to come was WWII, roughly 1939 through 1945. Was WWII a "racket" ?


Yes, of course it was.

Hitler was bribing many of his own military leaders to keep them on side. The German corporations gained monopolies and power under Hitler. The rich sent Hitler to spy on a small political party because they feared the workers might stand together to gain political power and they stood behind him even after he took control of it and turned it into the Nazis.

Some historians think Germany's wars were obviously suicidal, even without the benefit of hindsight, but at the time a lot of people were living very lavish lives while it lasted. All the while casting the blame for everything on poor immigrants that they caged near the borders.


Germany declared war on the United States.



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