*War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.
-William T. Sherman, United States General
War is supposed to be bloody. It is supposed to be gruesome and make us sick to our stomachs. Because when it is, we think twice about engaging in military conflict.
War is supposed to be blood. One of the problems we have in modern times is the ability to dehumanize war. If Alexander the Great wanted to kill 1000 enemy soldiers, he and his men had to get close enough to use their swords. A modern general can accomplish the same objective by deploying missiles with a press of a button a thousand miles away.
War is supposed to be bloody. The bloodier it is the more incentive there is for both sides to end the conflict as quickly as possible. When wars are fought and the effects are not seen, it becomes easier to continue them – if we can’t see those who are getting hurt then the war can’t be so bad.
War should be bloody enough that the decision to go to war is not taken lightly. Troops should be committed only when absolutely necessary. The Constitution gave the ability to declare war to the legislature so that such a decision could be contemplated and decided by the people’s representatives. But instead we have a system in which the President sends troops all over the world without Congressional approval.
Since 1901 when President Roosevelt promoted Panamanian independence, the United States has ignored all 3 of these truths regarding war. Since 1901 the United States has gone further and further away from the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. Since 1901 the United States has become more and more imperialistic.
Not only is imperialism contrary to our founding principles, but it is also expensive. Maintaining a standing army large enough to engage in multiple theaters of conflict drains the national budget and prevents funding for more worthwhile domestic issues.
Not only is imperialism expensive, but it creates enemies where negotiation would create allies.
I am not arguing that the United States should not have or use its army. I am saying we use it incorrectly. We should strive to utterly destroy any military opponent with all deliberate speed. But because we should be so aggressive in war, we should also be reluctant to go to war.
Let’s get away from our imperialistic mindset that treats war lightly and as another tool in the kit. Let’s get back to thinking of war as cruel, war as something to be avoided except in dire circumstances.
Our military is a state of the art hammer. But that doesn’t mean we should see every problem as a nail.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. You can reach him at [email protected]