When War Becomes Policy

HOW EVERYTHING BECAME WAR AND THE MILITARY BECAME EVERYTHING:  TALES FROM THE PENTAGON by Rosa Brooks

When the military is the only government institution that people find reliable, then the military gets asked to do more and more both domestically and overseas.  “If your only tool is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.”

“War is simply the continuation of policy by other means.”

A complicated world:  First the US military kept the peace and protected the vulnerable.  Then came the “global war on terror.”  Then came “collateral damage.”  Then came “enhanced interrogation techniques” and the Geneva Conventions are complicated.


Is there nothing kinder than perpetual war?  In the US, the “War on Terror” is linked to 9/11, but it should also be linked to today’s date, 3/19.  We have been in Iraq for ten years and things have only worsened for the Iraqi people overall.   Further more, the justification used to start the war was really an excuse exposed as deception.  An extended article on the invasion of Iraq is available from the Atlantic Part OnePart Two Part Three

According to Ms. Brooks, there are two competing philosophies at work in the world:

national sovereignty vs. human rights

The ostensible purpose of the League of Nations, was to provide collective security in order to defend national sovereignty and “self-determination” after WWII.  Likewise, the “sovereign equality” of all nations is supposedly a bedrock principle of the United Nations.

Both the League and the U.N. have always been ambivalent toward state sovereignty.  (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18 proclaimed by the UN in 1948).  Strong support for minority human rights seemingly guarantees the infringement of the sovereignty of nations that do not comply.

Unfortunately, the world has difficulty deciding when and where one outweighs the other.  I think civil war should fall under sovereignty and sectarian violence and genocide opposed regardless.  When ideological and economic justifications take precedence, sovereignty has precedence.  When fanaticism of any kind (especially religion and ethnicity) are dominant, then human rights become more important than borders, especially when seen as genocide and ethnic cleansing.  Ms. Brooks explains the concepts and traces them through history  I enjoyed her book and clarified my own viewpoint.  I recommend it.

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