One Man's View


Warren Baldwin

here is a psychology to war, and whoever is powerful enough to control the use of that psychology can profit handsomely. The profit may be money, more power, or increased control of the thought processes of the populace.

Our nation has seen four major wars in this century. Technically, only two of them have been wars. The other two, Korea and Vietnam, have only been "police actions." While military purists may make that distinction, I doubt it makes that much difference to the tens of thousands of Americans who died in Korea or Vietnam if we call it a "war" or a "police action." They are just as dead by either term. But the fact that we play around with such a distinction in terms makes me wonder if someone is trying to sell a war that isn't needed or wanted but is sold anyway because they understand the psychology of war, and they use terms that are sellable. Certainly "police action" (now add "defensive action") is not as fear-provoking as "WAR!"

"Patriotism!" That is a powerful term. It is packed with potential for the person/persons who can control the use of it. It is a very popular term around wartime. Or "police action" time. A whole populace can be made to forget all kinds of domestic problems, like rampant immorality, government lies and treachery, national interest payments to private financiers to the tune of billions annually, and the resultant inflation explosion bound to follow, simply by hollering, "PATRIOTISM! Let's go fight the international enemy" And a new insight into the psychology of war emerges. Though we rarely know much of what makes the "international enemy" tick, whether he has a just cause or not (we only hear one side), none of us wants to be unpatriotic. "So let's go! Let's teach them not to mess with America!" And now, quite surreptitiously, the focus and intensity of our people's concerns has been shifted from legitimate domestic issues that MUST be addressed for our national health, to concern for our sons fighting another man's war in another man's part of the world. Shades of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four?

I heard a long time ago that one should watch the man who is always crying "thief". What better way to be a thief than to cry "thief" about someone else to draw attention away from self? War serves that same purpose. Just as restoration can hide a multitude of sins, so can war. Domestic sins. Didn't King David know that war can hide sin? Why else send Uriah to the front lines? Have politicians changed so much since David that they now act only with a noble and saintly purpose when it comes to war? Have we seen the last of the scheming politician, the public figure who would send the cream of a nation's young men off to a foreign soil to die for a "patriotic cause," while at the same time that politician is harboring his own private motive for sending the young men? Remember David.

Does all this sound cynical? Well, just observe the wars or police actions of this century. Our young men have been sent off by the millions to fight on foreign soil. Hundreds of thousands have not returned. We have borrowed billions, and as a nation we are still paying on those debts as far back as WWl (remember what I said about profit in paragraph one?) We fought to make the world safe for democracy, and the world is far from safe for democracy. Perestroika and Glasnost mean more in a newspaper article to an American than they do to a political or religious prisoner still locked up for his beliefs. Ah, but the crumbling of those hard communist walls is nice for us to think about isn't it, even if not quite totally true. Remember what I said about controlling the thought processes of the people? We fought, and our young men went off, because they were going for their country. Just as Uriah went for his country.

I have only the utmost respect for the American in uniform. He has been called upon numerous times in this century to risk death and maiming on a foreign soil. He deserves our respect.

It is the politician I question. The politician who manages to avoid scrutiny at home because attention is now focused at the never ending "over theres" our young men are sent off to. I question the private lenders who are still making money on the men who have been buried since 1918. I question the super industrialists who just happen to turn a profit in time of war that is 200-600 times greater a year than it is in time of peace.

A great American general, Smedley Butler, has said "War is a racket" for the benefit of the profiteer. He wrote a book to prove his assertion. Did you know that Henry Ford returned WWl wartime profits of $29,000,000 to the federal government because he didn't want blood money?

I suspect some will judge me "unpatriotic" because I call into question the motives of some of our national power brokers. Also, because I question the necessity of our being continually called forth to ever new and noble causes to die for, and always on a foreign soil. But am I unpatriotic because I want to preserve the life of our people? Yet maybe this discussion offers us another insight into the psychology of war: it is only patriotic to go, unquestioningly, to one's death; it is never patriotic to question the voice that says, "go." Whoever engineered that understanding of patriotism and can control the use of it will certainly profit handsomely in all three categories I listed in paragraph one. Is it really patriotic to go without asking questions? Some would call it "mind control."

Smedley Butler, a veteran of numerous conflicts, asserts that wars are fought for the personal profit of a few rather than for the national good. But, propaganda and lack of information confuses and misleads the public. The historian Harry Elmer Barnes used to say that the first casualty of war is truth. How can you tell if a war is really for the national good or not? One simple test is to ask the politicians, the supra-national financiers, and the international industrialists if their sons will be wearing uniforms in the trenches (as opposed to in a safe, comfortable office). If not, why should your son? (See Smedley Butler, War is a Racket).

In a letter to Edmund Pendleton on February 14, 1799 Thomas Jefferson wrote:

The fate of this country, whether it shall be irretrievably plunged into a form of government rejected by the makers of the Constitution, or shall get back to the true principles of that instrument, depends on the turn which things take within a short period of time ensuing the present moment. The violations of the Constitution, propensities to war, to expense, and to a particular foreign connection, which we have lately seen, are becoming evidence to the people... (From Jefferson: Magnificent Populist).

Thomas Jefferson penned those words after he was instrumental in preventing our country from being plunged into a war with France. War was averted and the nation was spared massive debt, thousands of casualties, and government encroachment upon the liberty of the people. And the nation survived!!! Is there a lesson in that for us today?