11A096 The Cost of War by Jim Davies, 4/7/2011    

"War is the health of the State" said Ralph Bourne. He was dead right: government people are never happier than when making war on someone. They can vent their frustrations (about being the inferior creeps they are) and satisfy their lust to bully and destroy - and by clever use of propaganda they often even gain in popularity, which is quite a trick. They do it by making generous use of that old refuge of scoundrels, "patriotism."

There's another shade of meaning to the word "health" however, and it has to do with overall fitness, harmony, wellbeing. It concerns how well the State performs, when it carries out its favorite activity. Does it win? Always? Usually, at least?

So I thought to draw up a list of prominent wars the American State has been waging, during the last century, as a score card to answer to that question.

Date Enemy Outcome Cost
1917-18 Germany Won 117,000 US dead
Triggered WW-II
1941-45 Germany, Italy, Japan Won 405,000 US dead, ++*
1951-89 USSR Won? 45,000 nuclear warheads
1953- North Korea Drawn 37,000 US dead
1963-75 North Vietnam Lost 58,000 US dead
1965- Poverty Lost Many trillions of dollars
1965- Drugs Lost Trillions of dollars
Families ruined, tens of
thousands dead
1990-91 Iraq (1) Won Minor
2003- Iraq (2) Lost $1 trillion
4,400 US dead
2003- Afghanistan Lost $500 billion
1,400 US dead
2001- "Terror" Lost Uncountable loss of
US good name

* Note: US intervention cost many millions of non-US lives

Not a pretty picture, right? Only three of these wars can be said to have been "won", and two of those were won at an utterly appalling cost. The "cold war" against the USSR might also be considered won, but the victory came as a surprise; it was not so much a victory as a collapse of socialist economics. It left enough WMDs around to destroy humanity several times over. The one that was "drawn" might resume at any time, and has brought a terrible cost so far. All the others have been, or are being, lost. The wars on povery, drugs and terror are not necessarily military wars, but the govenment calls them wars so who am I to argue. All three are disastrous failures.

If war is the health of the State, the State (and the whole society that it drags along with it) is desperately ill and perhaps moribund. If war is what government does best, its performance at everything else must be abysmal. There is no rational alternative to a zero government society.

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