Collage of images taken by U.S. military in Ir...

Photos from the war in Iraq. Image via Wikipedia

UPDATED MARCH 21, 2011:  After eight years of war in Iraq and 10 years in Afghanistan, the U.S. has decided that two wars in that part of the world are not enough.

On Saturday, French warplanes and U.S. and British missiles attacked Libya.

Forget a “no fly zone.” The Allies went to war. We aimed modern weapons of destruction at Libya, and pulled the trigger.

It’s another undeclared U.S. war in a Moslem country. A third war. Another war without a plan, a goal, or an exit strategy. Would it be cynical to ask which Moslem country will be fourth? Do you suppose war in Libya will raise the esteem of the U.S. in the Moslem world?

The words of Admiral Mike Mullen Sunday morning were strange and surreal.

He spoke of “humanitarian” goals! The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff talked of  “limited” mission, and “minimum collateral damage.” How many human lives are “minimum?”

France, Britain, and the U.S. intervened in a Libyan civil war for the humanitarian purpose of preventing a bloodbath in Libya. Presumably, coalition bombs and missiles will not spill any Libyan blood. You might say we’re making war against war, or fighting for peace.

Also, Libya has oil.

If it makes you feel any better, the U.S. insists it is not “leading” the attack on Libya. the U.S. insists it will hand over leadership of the attack on Libya to other members of the coalition, sometime soon.  And President Obama promises there will be no U.S. ground forces in Libya.

* * *

War is an old, old story

The colonial powers of Europe, especially England and France, have a long history of foreign conquest for natural resources. Usually, the U.S. has preferred to play a supporting role. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, England and France took the lead, plundering for oil in north Africa and the Middle East.

How many wars in the bloody 20th century? World War I and World War II, the wars to make the world “safe for democracy” and “to end all wars,” from the American perspective. From the perspectives of the aggressor, Germany, they were wars for domination and for resources.

They were also the wars that changed war. WWI and WWII modernized war from the age of horses to the age of killing machines.

The great historical novelist, Herman Wouk, wrote these words for Capt. Victor Henry, Wouk’s leading character in “War and Remembrance,” to say near the end of World War II:

“”Either war is finished, or we are.”

Another of Mr. Wouk’s characters, a naval aviator and a student of history, wrote these sentences in his last letter home to his mother before his death in the Pacific:

“I certainly hope that by the time [my son’s] a man, the world will be getting rid of war. This exercise used to be fun, and maybe even profitable for the victor. I don’t know. But mine’s the last generation that can get a kick out of combat, Mom, it’s all getting too impersonal, and complicated, and costly, and deadly. People have to figure out a saner way to run this planet.”

Prophetic words about the modern, high-tech wars of the 21st century. But few people, least of all Nicolas Sarkozy, David Cameron, and Barack Obama, have heeded Herman Wouk’s message.

It makes me wonder how serious their predicaments might be, back home. Do President Sarkozy, Prime Minister Cameron, and President Obama need a foreign war to distract their people from other problems?

One stinking war after another.

The ashes of World War II had barely cooled when the U.S. and the Chinese went to war over Korea. The purpose of Korea was . . .

Before long, the U.S. was caught in another war in Asia, the long and deadly Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was fought because . . . I forget.

In this incomplete accounting of wars, we come eventually to the First Gulf War, in 1991. The “War to make the world safe for oil,” is what I called it, then and now.

At the beginning of the 21st century, after the attack on the World Trade Center towers, the U.S. entered Afghanistan, a warlike country that Russian invaders had recently vacated. Afghanistan was the war to make the world safe from terrorism. A noble goal, to be sure . . . 10 years on . . .

Soon, the U.S. attacked Iraq, because President George Bush and his belligerent advisors didn’t like the dictator of Iraq.

Oh, and because Iraq has oil. (So much oil that this short and easy war would pay for itself . . . That’s what U.S. leaders thought . . .)

Eight years later, President Bush is retired; the U.S. is trying to figure a way out; the U.S. economy is a shambles; and the U.S. government faces a war-debt crisis.

Meanwhile, the wars continue in Iraq and Afghanistan. And now, war in Libya. This is NOT a saner way to run the planet. Just my opinion.

Wars rarely resolve anything, of course. These oil wars are the logical next chapter in a long and bloody history of imperialism. If you want to know what this modern imperialism has done to the U.S. economy and the American Dream, read Jon Taplin’s essay, “The Cost of Empire.” It’s a brief and brilliant accounting of more than a half-century of U.S. “imperial overreach,” from Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, to Presidents Bush and Obama.

* * *

Now we have three wars. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya.

Some people claim that Muammar al-Gaddafi, the leader of Libya, is a madman.

And the benighted leaders of France, Britain, and the U.S.? Sane leaders would respond to attack. But would sane leaders be the aggressors, without first being attacked?

You could make a case that they’re all madmen.

— John Hayden


  1. Yes John it stinks alright of that smelly Black Stuff!…. I have just also put a post together not as in-depth as your excellent script here… But History repeats and the reason is oil and Profit for those who make the Arms.. to get richer.. All wars are orchestrated and even I know nothing is ever as it seems behind the statements of Humanitarian reasons..
    If the UN were that concerned why didn’t they put pressure other than sanctions in Africa where similar Mad tyrants terrorised their people, Killing, torturing them and taking their lands from them.. Why? Well nothing to be gained but dried up fields of dust.. Millions died, who were either killed or starved.. in Somalia, Uganda, Zimbabwe.. For Years they were suffering… Now in a few short weeks the UN are going in Guns Blazing to protect the people.. ..
    I agree people have to figure out a saner way to run this planet… I think though John the Planet will sort that out for us…. The only way to stop us all fighting over material possessions is to take the material away.. And if we are all busy trying to survive then we shall have to at some stage learn to rely upon each other and pull together.. This Planet will sort us out of that I am sure..
    And then the only fight we will be doing is for our everyday survival..


  2. Thanks, Sue. That is a sobering thought about materialism and surviving. We have, already, a worldwide shortage of wheat. Prices of food are going up. That’s partly the reason for the unrest in the Middle East, I think.


  3. Hi John,

    You know I can’t talk world politics, but I do enjoy learning from your blog.

    I’d like to share something my son wrote in his diary when he was about 13 years old. I found it a few days ago. It is simple without any explanations or… understanding??? –about war.

    His notes titled, “Daily” –(I gather his teacher asked his opinion on war) —

    “No, I don’t think it is appropriate to bomb civilians. Truly, I think it is wrong to bomb anyone or anything at any time no matter what. I think it was ignorant and stupid to create the first bomb. Warfare altogether is inhumane and immoral.”

    I wish we all believed that. Sigh…


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