Declaring War is So Passé

One of the easiest ways to identify an anarchist is that they’ll constantly say “the state” instead of “the government.” There are occasional times that an anarchist will say “the government,” usually to avoid repetition, but by that point in the conversation it’s usually clear what the person is talking about, and whether they are an anarchist.

Strangely enough, one of the easiest ways to identify a libertarian is that they talk of declaring war. No, I don’t mean that libertarians are trigger happy and want to declare war on everyone who as much as looks at them funny. I mean that libertarians are very much against the idea that it’s okay to have our military operating in a foreign country without a declaration of war.

I’m convinced, upon observing the rest of the country, that modern Americans think of the idea as passé. It’s outdated and antiquated–an ancient way of viewing the world from a bygone era of gold coins as currency and when imperialism was conducted by states and armies, not states and corporations. In fact, I would wager that there is an extremely high correlation between people who don’t see a declaration of war as necessary and people who think that “gold coins–that’s for, like, ancient Rome and stuff.”

Not us and our modern sensibilities, our modern understanding of how the world really works.

The declaration of war is from that same bygone period of human history where a person’s wealth was measured in gold, not paper–a time that most people have no desire to go back to, or even an interest in considering. As we so often do, though, we’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Just as it would be tremendously helpful to have a return to a commodity-based currency (I can see Americans recoiling from the idea of carrying gold coins in their pockets–how barbaric! “Should we go ahead and make clubs, too, Aria?”)…

It’s strange.

It’s very strange.

You tell people that they could carry around gold in their pockets instead of paper, and they act like you offended them. I once had a guy tell me that we could never return to a commodity-based currency, because there isn’t enough gold to do it. I was just like, “Yes. Yes, that’s the problem. That’s what we need a commodity-based currency to fix.”

Anyway. Declaration of war.

It’s not really true to say that our modern sensibilities utterly reject the notion of declaring war, is it? No, we’re okay with declaring war, as long as we’re declaring war on ideas, rather than states. It seems to be that people consider a declaration of war to be limiting. “If we declared war on Al-Queda, then we wouldn’t be able to fight Isis under that declaration!” they might say. It seems that they totally get that the point of the declaration of war is to define the scope of the war and specifically prevent it from being unlimited.

It’s hard to reconcile these realities any other way. Americans are okay with declaring war on ideas. Americans are not okay with declaring war on nations.

There aren’t many competing explanations for those statements, and the one that makes the most sense is that Americans are, whether they realize it or not, pro infinite war. It has long been observed throughout human history that you cannot kill an idea. I don’t know anyone who truly believes that you can successfully destroy an idea. I’m not saying that they don’t exist, but I’ve never encountered such a person.

Yet when that idea is terrorism? Suddenly they think a “war on terror” could be successful. Never mind the fact that it’s impossible to kill an idea.

You can kill the revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution.

Unless it’s terrorism. Then you totally can kill the revolution.

Moar bombs. We just need moar bombs.

Libertarians and anarchists have been warning since 9/11 that our fear and paranoia was going to cause us to sacrifice too much liberty, and we immediately did so, often with gusto and bravado. “Look how patriotic we are! We’re so patriotic that we’ll betray our own principles! That’s how much we trust our Commander-in-Chief!”

Now we have a presidential candidate who almost literally represents everything that we’ve warned about. “Bill of Rights? Fuck the Bill of Rights. ‘They’ll cry about Free Speech.’ Waterboarding? Do I look like Adam Sandler to you? Bring out the rack! We’re going to get medieval on these bitches! Crucify the journalists! Hang them out to dry! Wiretapping? Yes, please! And more! I’ll tap every goddamned Americans phone! We’ll kill the women, we’ll kill the children. We’ll teach them not to have family members join Isis. And then we’ll drink the blood of their children from their skulls! Yes! America! Yes!”

Une momento, per favore.

can-we-not-do-thatIt’s scary to have Donald Trump running for President of the United States and saying things that make Borat’s speech at the rodeo sound like a well-reasoned treatise on why we needed war with Iraq. I’ll never forget watching that scene where he says something to the effect of “May George Bush drink the blood of their children!” only for the crowd to erupt into cheers and applause.

I was like, “Y’all did hear him, right?”

Of course, Hillary is no better. Everything I’ve seen screams to me that Hillary wants war with Russia. Funnily enough, I do think we would declare war on Russia before we actually attacked them. That doesn’t make me feel any better about it, but the idea of an unlimited war with Russia is surely something that every American who has ever read 1984 would be appalled by?

Granted, this wouldn’t be the first time I drastically underestimated the average American’s tolerance for Obscene and Wacky Bullshit That No One Should Put Up With.

Our modern sensibilities, though, are essentially correct. The problem with declaring war on nations is that it defines a scope of the combat. If we declared war on Afghanistan, it would suddenly look pretty odd to see the news reports of Americans dropping bombs in Pakistan. And Libya. And Syria. And Iraq. And Kuwait.

See, we learned our lesson from Vietnam. In the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong regularly escaped into neighboring Cambodia, but we weren’t at war with Cambodia. Neither Congress nor the American people would have allowed the war to be expanded to include Cambodia, and this was a major issue at the time. In fact, it was because of Congress that we had to withdraw our soldiers from Cambodia when we did finally send them in to chase after the North Vietnamese and burn their supply depots that were along the Cambodia-Vietnam border.

“Never again!” we decided.

Never again would we allow our hands to be tied by the wall of a sovereign nation’s borders! If the enemy went to Cambodia, then we chased them into Cambodia, because we weren’t at war with the nation the enemy came from. We were at war with the enemy and, in modern times, the idea that the enemy represents. This is how we’ve ended up with military bases across the world, with bombs falling in nations that we’re not at war with.

And it’s bad. It’s never-ending.

Through my entire life, there has not been one single day of peace. We have been at war since I was born.

We just never declared it.

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