Friday, January 17, 2014

The Weekly Standard's War Monger William Kristol Does Not Hear the Guns of August When Thinking About World War One. Instead, He Worries That We Have Forgotten the Glory of War

Continuing with our earlier discussions of the 100 year anniversary of World War One, I came upon the following essay from Right-wing pundit William Kristol by way of Charles Pierce who writes for Esquire. I read it. I was disgusted. I wanted to share it with you.

The trumpets of war call to Right-wing commentator and pundit William Kristol.

He cannot resist their siren song. He is ready and prepared to spill blood. For him, the anniversary of World War One is not a caution about the futility of industrial warfare. No. The United States, the greatest of all nations, must be reminded of how war does in fact make one great. To Kristol, only cowards and the weak are fearful and cautious of it.

Such wisdom and yearning for war, from a man who helped to launch one of the greatest foreign policy debacles in American history, and who also dodged serving in the military during Vietnam (while supporting the conflict), deserves mocking.

Kristol leads men into battle from the rear. He is so far in the rear that words and newspaper columns are his ammunition. Kristol's heroism consists of war mongering pithy in print and on TV; he quite literally has no skin in the game. Such sacrifice is for "those people"--the poor, working classes, and professional soldiers who are offered up for death so that others can feel masculine, tough, and strong.

Phallocentrism coupled with the human ego are murderous implements. I wonder, perhaps the two of them together have killed more people than the machine gun?

To point. The Weekly Standard's William Kristol wrote:
This year, a century later, the commemorations of 1914 will tend to take that rejection of piety and patriotism for granted. Or could this year mark a moment of questioning, even of reversal?
Today, after all, we see the full consequences of that rejection in a way Owen and his contemporaries could not. 
Can’t we acknowledge the meaning, recognize the power, and learn the lessons of 1914 without succumbing to an apparently inexorable gravitational pull toward a posture of ironic passivity or fatalistic regret in the face of civilizational decline? No sensitive person can fail to be moved by Owen’s powerful lament, and no intelligent person can ignore his chastening rebuke. But perhaps a century of increasingly unthinking bitter disgust with our heritage is enough.
He continues:
Besides being the centennial of World War I, 2014 also happens to be the bicentennial of the Battle of Fort McHenry, a minor battle during a conflict of infinitely lesser significance than World War I, the War of 1812. The bombardment of the American fort near Baltimore produced a poem. “Defence of Fort McHenry” is far less likely to appear in anthologies of the greatest poems of the English language than “Dulce Et Decorum Est.” But the greater work of art is not always the better guide to life. 
Francis Scott Key’s poem, composed within hours of the American victory and set the next day to a popular melody, was within days a popular song and within weeks “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Its first stanza is what is usually sung today, and it ends in a question: 
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
It’s perhaps fitting and proper that the national anthem of a nation dedicated to the question of whether societies of men can govern themselves by reflection and choice ends not in a boast but in a question. 
But the last stanza, less often sung, does in fact end with a confident assertion: 
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
A century after World War I, two centuries after Fort McHenry, do we dare take our bearings not from Owen’s bitter despair but from Francis Scott Key’s bold hope?
World War One was a global trauma which caused a crisis in meaning for human civilization. Britain and France saw their young men disappear. Germany was also eviscerated of its populace. Russia was broken by the war. Hundreds of thousands of men from Europe's colonies in Asia and African were also sacrificed both on the battlefield, and also as support troops and labor around the world. The bodies of those lost one hundred years ago during World War One are still be discovered.

And none other than J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the Lord of the Rings books, commented on how World War One killed all but one of his friends by the year 1918.

I doubt that an American political commentator such as William Kristol, writing in the year 2014, can even imagine such a loss of life.

World War One's barbarism helped to create an existential crisis among those who lived during the first part of the twentieth century.

One of its lessons was how industrial war should be avoided at all costs. I am no dove. War between nations and people can be necessary. War is indeed--to borrow the overused and often misunderstood quote--a continuation of politics by other means. However, war is not a game. War is not to be played with in a casual manner. A nation ought to spend treasure and blood for definable and achievable strategic goals. Moral claims have purchase as well. But, they must translate into a type of strategic--and if possible--ideological goal as well.

When I was a teenager and seriously considering joining the United States military, my father, a World War Two combat veteran, told me to go to the VA hospital and ask to see the "basket cases" and the "shell shock" ward. He explained that many of those men had been there, forgotten, for decades. If I wanted to be a good little soldier and come back home mentally broken, and/or without my arms and legs--or both--then I should take a sojourn to the VA hospital and chat with its permanent residents.

I made no such trip fifteen minutes away and one town over. I was afraid. I am glad my father's challenge kept me from being throw directly into America's imperial misadventures. I was blessed by his wisdom. Watching Red Dawn and Rambo at the local movie house is a fantasy. Too many policymakers are drunk on action movie irrealities.

When we grow into adulthood, childish things should be discarded. Why then do conservative chicken hawk war mongers such as William Kristol continue to hold on to immature understandings about the realities of war?

What sort of person is capable of pivoting off of World War One, and somehow salvaging military conflict as a type of glorious enterprise?


George Smith said...

People like William Kristol can always depend on the fact that 98 percent of his readers don't know anything about Verdun. It's been a good long while since even the movie Gallipoli was a subject of any entertainment discussion.

chauncey devega said...

An ignorant audience for sure. But here is a puzzle--one would think that Red State America and rural white America sends many of its children to the military and off to war. They come home broken, homeless, and not taken care of. One would think they don't want to hear such nonsense from their "intellectuals". Another puzzle, the Right-wing is anti-intellectual but they have a bloviating faux intellectual class.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

For many, joining the military is a rite of passage. It's an honor to 'defend the homeland' (I would say that our most recent engagements have hardly been about defending the homeland and more about protecting the far flung reaches of an Empire).

It's beyond me why people choose to willingly be the cannon fodder for our corporate class, but I suppose we truly are wedded and embedded to them in such a way that coming to their defense abroad is truly an act of patriotism.

I think many of those who truly are affected by the negative impact of war do tend to reform their views regarding such, but I don't think they are very common. 40% of the homeless veterans are African American and Latino, while they make up only 15% of actual servicemen. When children are signing up for the Armed Forces, they do not think in such forward themes as psychological trauma and life after service.

kokanee said...

While I'm not a pacifist, I'm dead set against the US's countless wars of aggression. The second we're invaded, I'll enlist.

The poor, and often minorities, see the military as the only way to get an education or a decent job. Our depressed economy and high unemployment doesn't help the situation - one more reason we should just pay people $10 to $15/hour to stay home or to persue his or her dreams.

I too have my father to thank for my anti-war sentiment. All he said is that war is hell - you never want to be in a war. He too was in WWII - just the wrong side!

Bill Krystol, the neocon chick hawk, is unconscionable for spewing such nonsense.

Gable1111 said...

Its telling how these chicken hawks never partake in all that glory when they have the chance to do so.

AkronRonin said...

Krystol is little more than a fool coward masquerading about in the guise of a bloodthirsty zealot.

T said...

Kristol is simply carrying the flag for the elites, just keeping the little people amped up for the next endless war.
The U.S. $ is the cash reserve currency of the world; woe to any leader who tries to sidestep the almighty dollar in doing business with another country. Kaddafi tried it, Saddam tried it. Iran is next. But to get to Iran, we have to go through Syria (ahem).

T said...

No, cuz they're standing behind the curtain with the bankers who started it all.