“War: What is it good for?” soulfully sang Edwin Starr back in the Vietnam era.
“Absolutely nothing,” he dissed.
Alas and alack, the facts are otherwise. Perhaps the proper approach is the old admonition “all things in moderation.”
The digital age was spawned by World War2 when computers were invented to do quick calculations for aiming artillery barrages.
The atomic age spawned a lot of worthy science and a lot of worrisome destruction which still haunts us today. Czar Vladimir the Last has thus far stared down the west because of it. Ukrainians are paying the price.
War brings benefits but are you willing to pay the price? We ended slavery in our Civil War bloodbath but the conflict never ended. More than 700 cancerous monuments to the Confederacy still infect our country as does much of its legacy.
Edwin Starr asked the question: “Peace, love and understanding, Lord, there’s got be a better way. War can’t give life, it can only take it away.”
America has largely forgotten, no thanks to Hollywood, that the “heroic” stand at the Alamo by Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie et al. came in defense of slavery. Mexico made slavery illegal so Tejano slave owners went Lone Star and seceded, setting the template for the southern states to do the same a generation later.
Self-destruction is the most worthless pursuit of what e.e. cummings called “this monster mannunkind.”
We are still so tribal, so superficial, so judgmental, so fearful of anyone not sharing our complexion or religion. Or somebody who just talks funny.
A pro-Russian moon-howler may well be elected the next president of France. Czar Donaldov the Futile could not fulfill his bud Czar Vladimir’s dream of neutering NATO, but flaming, anti-semitic, freedom-loving racist Marine Le Pen may do just that in a couple of weeks. She has French President Emmanuel Macron on the ropes.
Like many wannabe dictators, she has mellowed her Confederate image by concentrating on inflation and general unfocused anger to the exclusion of all else. Her followers have actually used the slogan “you will not replace us.” Sound familiar?
Back in the 1980s, the latter day equivalent of a Pax Romanum happened.
The Pax was a rare interlude of peace in the Roman empire, fulfilling the forecasts of some prophets that the Messiah would be born in a time without war.
I remember a short-lived moment 40 or so years ago when lack of war made news for perhaps the first time in more than 2,000 years. “Peace is breaking out all over” marveled conservative commentator John McLaughlin.
It all depends on how you define war. The Korean War started in 1950 and is still technically ongoing.
The world today suffers 54 wars according to Wikipedia.
Here are the top five in the last calendar year, ranked by fatalities: Afghanistan, Tigray-Ethiopia-Sudan, Myanmar (aka Burma), Yemen and (drum roll, please) the newest member of the greatest hits parade, Russia-Ukraine.
I built a whole section at NevadaLabor.com featuring the late worldclass economist Pierre Rinfret. In his final years, he actually found it and we corresponded.
Back at Fresno State in 1966, I noticed a Look Magazine article tacked to a bulletin board. “Peace Is Bullish” was the title of a long Rinfret interview.
“I’m the highest-paid economist in the world and my clients don’t pay me to be wrong,” he told Look
“Don’t know if I was the highest,” he wrote me decades later, “but I was up there.”
We all mellow a bit with age.
Rinfret said that spending money on war was the equivalent of throwing dollars into the ocean. Build a tractor and it will return its cost many times over in productivity. Build a tank and, other than the jobs created making it, the beast either just eats taxpayer maintenance money or goes out and destroys.
The inflation of the 1970s was correctly blamed on deficit spending for the Vietnam War.
So here we are, still in the midst of The Terminator Plague, with the virus-disrupted worldwide economy still wreaking havoc, and now we have to skyrocket the war budget thanks to Bad Vlad.
He and the Trumpinator were not alone in the recent springtime for strongmen. Most countries in the world today are some version of autocracy. Only 21 of 167 are full democracies. The largest chunk, 59, are dictatorships.
Democracy is an endangered species. India, once the world’s largest, today slides into dark ages Hinducentric theocracy. The Taliban are not alone.
I like Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, an inspiration to us out-of-work comedians. On “60 Minutes” last Sunday, his chief of staff called his boss “the leader of the free world.”
No diss to President Biden, but the guy was absolutely correct. How bad are things?
Not only is France, the country that saved the American Revolution, in danger of slipping toward Trumpian autocracy but we still move in that direction.
Harper’s Magazine recently reported a Grinnell College (Iowa) national poll which found that 15 percent of Americans — almost one in six! — “do not believe it is very important for the country to remain a democracy.”
Were anti-NATO Trump president today, Ukraine would have Russian flags flying on every pole, flapping above hanging corpses. If pro-Putin Le Pen wins in France, Czar Vladimir will have once again cracked the western alliance.
The infamous paraphrase of H.L. Mencken seems in order: Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
Mainstream punditry predicts that Mitch McConMan et al. will regain control of Congress this fall to join the Supreme Court on his trophy shelf.
Like an old IBM ad offered, people want simple solutions to complex problems. Blame the guy at the top for your gripes, then elect someone worse. Like Hitler’s general Hermann Goering advised, just make people think they are being attacked.
Jimmy Carter’s Federal Reserve created a monster recession that broke the backs of both Vietnam War inflation and Carter’s re-election. Reagan turned it into a triple-dip depression but got his slump out of the way early. Biden may share the same luck. But what are you willing to pay?
Only you can decide if Bitchy Mitch will become the de facto president of the United States in November. He offers only more depredation at the hands of his wealthy patroons and penurious poltroons.
What are you willing to pay?
Pray for Ukraine. And 53 other war-torn lands.
Take care of each other and be careful out there.
Be well. Raise hell. / Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Quarantino Barbano is a 53-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor. com, MississippiWestNV.org, CesarChavezNevada.com and SenJoeNeal. org/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.