Why We Fight-A Response to James Altucher

On Memorial Day, James Altucher wrote a blog post asking if there was a single war that was worth it. I think to ask that question is to set up a straw man that can easily be torn down, but it’s the incorrect question and way to view war.

The better question is this one: Is there a war that we fought that we didn’t try and avoid, and defending the cause of freedom and our Constitution?

Our confederation of independent states won a war against England and became a country. The ideals elucidated in the Constitution turned into the greatest country mankind has ever seen. People are free. There are no dictators. There is peaceful transfer of power. America went from a nation simply trying to survive to the richest nation in the history of mankind. We sought to avoid that war, but were left with no choice-remain subjects of the English king, or fight.

No nation has spent more money, or spent more lives in the cause of freedom.

Since that first war, we have fought many more. Initially, they were wars that fought to preserve the independence that we gained from the first war. The War of 1812, the Barbary Coast War. In these wars we were left with no choice, fight or lose freedom.

But then, we fought with ourselves. Certainly the Civil War was a war that we tried to avoid. It could have totally been avoided if the forefathers ended slavery in the formation of the country. Unfortunately, that was the only blemish on the incorporation of our country. The Civil War began a theme in America. Sometimes we fight to free people when they can’t fight that fight themselves.

James doesn’t talk about these wars, but instead focuses on the 20th Century and our recent engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq. In every one of those conflicts, America tried to stay out of it. In World War One, we stayed out until the Lusitania was sunk. In World War Two, we helped Great Britain out, but stayed out of armed conflict until December 7, 1941. A full two years after Germany invaded the Sudatenland. In Korea, we fought to preserve the freedom of a nation that couldn’t defend itself against communism. Check out this photo. Ask a South Korean if they were happy the US fought for them? Ask them if it was a waste.

Vietnam started out as a repeat of Korea, but we botched it horribly. Might agree with James on Vietnam. But, I’d ask the people from Vietnam that became a Vietnamese diasapora, free in other countries all over the world if it was worth it.

In Desert Storm, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we tried to avoid them. If Hussein would have left Kuwait peacefully, we would never have invaded in 1991. If the terrorists that are hell bent on destroying our way of life would just quit, our guys could come home and we could stop worrying about them.

James also pointed out that the US interned Japanese in World War 2. We did. It was a huge mistake. He points out that civilians die during wars unintentionally. They do. Although in the Iraq War, there has been far less civilian death than in any other war we fought. World War 2 was horrible for deaths of civilians.

In some cases, it’s very difficult for the soldier to know the difference between a person who is trying to harm them and a civilian. If anything, in this war American soldiers have passed up shots rather than shooting, and gotten themselves wounded or killed in the process. I would suggest anyone wondering about that to view the movie Restrepo.

I would also argue when a bunch of terrorists can commandeer a plane and blow up buildings on American soil, our way of life is threatened. It could be argued that we are taking the fight to them, rather than the other way around. I’d much rather not have things like the Patriot Act, airport pat downs and worry every time I got on a bus or subway that some Muslim Extremist was going to blow them up.

Is the loss of human life a waste? It sure feels like it in hindsight. Every one of the 2500 that were killed in the rush to the beach on D-Day could have been saved had Hitler just stayed inside the borders of Germany. But had Hitler prevailed, James wouldn’t have had the chance to invest in the businesses he invested in.

Are we left with wounded? Yes we are, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. we can always do more for our wounded vets.

But, when I speak with them, do they think it was a waste? No. They were grateful for the chance to serve.

When I speak to survivors of war, do they think in terms of whether it was worth it or not? No, they never want to fight in a war again. Furthermore, they never want anyone else to fight again. Yet, they know that wars are inevitable.

In the heat of battle, I don’t think that soldiers think about their country. I have been told by them that they only think of saving the one on their right and their left. It’s not about your country at that point, it’s about survival.

James, and people like James will never be convinced that fighting any war is just, or worth it. But, when you look back on human history, certainly many wars were worth it. I cannot think of a time when we went to war without at least thinking seriously about it, and the consequences surrounding it. America doesn’t start battles, it enters them with trepidation. 99.9% of the time it finishes them, and the people that are left have their freedom.

I agree with James sentiment, war is a wasteful thing. We should avoid them at almost all costs. But sometimes, they are unavoidable.

Ask yourself that question. How much would you pay for your own individual freedom?

Hope you had a good Memorial Day.

Tip of the hat to Josh Brown of The Reformed Broker.

  • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

    Nice post. I still never think its good to ask 18 years to do some of the things they end up doing. And to ask them to have done to them some of the things that are done to them. I also think we’ve been horribly lied to by propaganda machines so many times its hard to know sometimes which way is up. I get confused. To be honest, I was scared: i was in favor of the Gulf War II. But I was lied to.

    I can’t conceive anymore in my wildest imaginations asking any kid to do any of these things that we ask of them. But your post is passionate and you are a good guy for your beliefs.

  • Jason

     “I cannot think of a time when we went to war without at least thinking seriously about it, and the consequences surrounding it. America doesn’t start battles, it enters them with trepidation. 99.9% of the time it finishes them, and the people that are left have their freedom.”
    Really Carter? Does this mean the Iraq war qualifies as the .1%? Did we really think about that war and the consequences?

    • http://www.pointsandfigures.com pointsnfigures

      I disagree. While the intelligence behind the decision to go into Iraq was faulty-the decision was carefully considered. Hussein was warned. He also didn’t cooperate with UN inspectors.

      I would say the escalation of the Vietnam War was not carefully considered, perhaps the action in Libya currently…

      20/20 hindsight does a lot of monkeying with the decision to. For example, the way Nixon ended the war is debated, but at the time it might have been the best way to do it. No one has a crystal ball.

  • Pingback: Hot Links: | The Reformed Broker()

  • http://twitter.com/dfstone32 David Stone

    Yes we enjoy a relative amount of freedom in the U.S. but Altucher is entirely correct about the endless propagandizing of war and warfare. It’s important to remember that while largely lower and middle class kids are shedding blood capitalists are back home cashing in on the government largesse that comes with a war economy (what ever that means in todays world). Money determines your relative amount of freedom even in America and by that measure, those with the least end up fighting for those with the most. These facts are not easily discussed and people that do point them out are labeled “haters” and “communists” in favor of the feel good sanitized version above.

    “Sometimes we fight to free people when they can’t fight that fight themselves.” was not really why they fought the Civil War. No one marched to Richmond to free slaves, they would have refused to take one step. Lincoln emancipated the slaves to put more economic stress on the Southern War machine.

    If you analyze any war it is always ends up being the result of some age old diplomatic compromise that never was satisfactorally resolved ending in a gigantic clusterf&#% (to use a military term) which cannot be resolved any other way. I can provide many examples if you can’t think of some yourself.

    Also we need to come to terms it means when we say we must defend our way of life, because currently our way of life is driving cars that are expensive to drive and demanding prices that result in exploitive business practices abroad. Yes, we’ve done a good job of defending that way of life. As a trader how would you feel if you were on the other side of that trade, watching billions of dollars being pumped out of the ground right next to the field you graze your goat herd on. Might make you want to do something extreme!

    The “greatest country mankind has ever seen”  rehtoric is becoming hollow. I must read or hear that 5 times a week and I often find myself thinking “what does that really mean”. By what standard are we judging our collective greatness and is the constant need to reassure ourselves of this only a symptom of some national insecurity.

    • http://www.pointsandfigures.com pointsnfigures

      the very wealthy fought the revolution, civil war, ww1, ww2, korean war. Some in vietnam. Ironically, that’s when the elite private institutions got rid of ROTC. Now its back.

      Much of war is propagandized. That is a part of being human. If we are going to fight, we might as well fight for something we believe in. But much isn’t. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense for example. Certainly WW2 had lots of propaganda, but there was some truth to that too. The Rape of Nanking, Bataan Death March, and the Holocaust were truths behind the posters.

      I think your argument about exploitative business practices abroad is another straw man. I have a friend setting up a cement company in Asia. It’s cheaper to hire coolies to haul cement off barges than it is to buy heavy equipment. And the coolies are glad for the job. We have to be careful when we imprint our cultural values in both war and the reverse in business.

      In the case of Afghanistan and Iraq-they attacked us and want to destroy our way of life. Not the other way around. They(extreme Muslims) are already tearing up Europe.

      Appreciate your comments. I agree with James on some points, neither of us is a war monger. Hate wars actually because they destroy so much culturally, humanly, and monetarily. But, sometimes you have to fight them.