The inevitability of endless war. What is wrong with that?

No one wants endless war.

War brings so much death and destruction, and the terrible loss of the world’s youth to the ambitions of the world’s leaders. We all want wars never to begin, and once begun, to end quickly.

But since WWII, the U.S. seldom has unequivocally won a war. Even after wars seemingly are won, skirmishes continue, sometimes flaring up, then cooling, but seldom ending with that familiar formal signing procedure.

With the cooperation of numerous allies, we defeated the Axis of Germany, Italy, and Japan. With that victory — and much money — we made them our allies.

Since then, we have engaged in numerous conflicts, been soundly defeated in one (Vietnam) and still are waging many others.

I was reminded of this by an article that appeared recently in THEWEEK magazine. Some excerpts are illustrative:

The strategic incoherence of Trump’s Syria critics
Damon Linker

Trump’s apparent decision to permit Turkey to conduct military operations against (until now) American-backed Kurdish forces near the Turkish border in Syria has nothing to do with geopolitical strategy or any process of foreign policymaking beyond his personal and business relationship with Turkey’s quasi-authoritarian president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The most common response to Trump’s announced change of course in Syria has been a cry of lament for the fate of Kurds, who may well find themselves the target of Turkish attacks.

How can we abandon allies who fought by our side against the Islamic State and allow them to be crushed by a dictator like Erdogan?

(But) the Kurds aren’t our allies. Allies are defined by mutuality: We promise to defend a given state if attacked, that state promises to defend us if we are attacked.

The Kurds, a stateless ethnic group found in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, has zero capacity to come to America’s defense.

If the U.S. has an ally in the region, it is … Turkey, a member of NATO, an explicit defense alliance. Do those denouncing Erdogan favor ejecting Turkey from NATO, thereby revoking the country’s status as an American ally?

Mutuality is not part of the definition of “allies,” and certainly not equal mutuality. The Kurds have aided us by fighting ISIS. In that alone, they are our allies.

One alternative to ejecting Turkey from NATO, or abandoning the Kurds, is simply to do what we have been doing: Station enough US soldiers there in Syria to prevent a Turkish attack.

Strangely, the author does not mention that alternative, because the implicit belief is that somehow we must preclude endless American involvement.  The belief that we never must be involved in an endless war.

It is a misguided belief. We have endless responsibilities, and some of them require endless war.

When critics of Trump’s policy shift want to sound harder-nosed, they move beyond Turkey and the Kurds and talk instead about how irresponsible it would be to give up the fight against ISIS: If we don’t stay in Syria, terrorists will grow powerful again, threatening the U.S. homeland like they did on 9/11!

The first thing to be asked in response to those making such claims is whether they think it’s possible for the U.S. to win any war anywhere in the world.

The above is based on the false belief that wars must be won, as they often were in the old days, followed by bringing our boys home.

Wars do not need to be won or lost. They can forever be holding actions, or if not “forever,” then for no end in sight.

Consider the police. Is their goal to end all crime, at which time they can “come home”? Or more realistically, will we forever have to wage a “war against crime,” and always be required to station cops around the country?

Can we realistically set a goal for our firefighters to no longer battle blazes? Can we set a goal for our doctors to no longer battle illness? Just cure everyone and get out?

More realistically, should the police, firefighters and doctors plan to engage forever, in endless wars?

If the battle against ISIS is measured against the goals enunciated at the start — the elimination of ISIS’s territorial caliphate — it has been a smashing success. We won. The caliphate is gone.

Yet now the goalposts have been shifted. Sometimes it sounds like the goal is to make sure ISIS or a successor Islamist organization doesn’t arise.

At other times it appears to mean something even more amorphous, like the complete elimination of any person who might aspire to revive the caliphate at some time in the future.

But is that a sensible foreign policy goal? Keeping an American military footprint in the desert of Syria and Iraq in order to exert control over what happens there for fear that it may possibly cause eventual harm to the United States, a continent and an ocean away?

Yes, that is a sensible foreign policy, which the U.S. is well able to afford financially, so long as minimal lives are lost.

There is no realistic alternative to an endless, religious war. Even if leaders of all participating groups came together and signed a peace treaty, there always will remain some faction who is dissatisfied with the outcome.

And that faction will simmer in resentment, soon to begin another conflict.

America, even with our massive armies, never will completely defeat ISIS, so long as there is at least one, hate-filled fighter who, seeking revenge, gathers together yet another guerilla army.

Even assuming this makes sense, for how long should it continue? Five more years? Ten? Twenty? More? And what metrics should we use to evaluate whether it’s really benefiting the country, or is working, or has worked?

Like the cop, firefighter, doctor analogies, it can continue indefinitely, so long as the threat remains viable.

The war against alcohol (aka, “Prohibition”) never was won and never could be won. At best we can fight a holding action by licensing, taxing, and age restrictions.

Similarly, the “war on drugs” was doomed to failure, because the goals and expectations were unrealistic. We never could defeat drug use.

No one wants to say because no one has an answer that makes sense.

It’s enough, they think, to speak gravely and vaguely about dire threats and keep us doing the same thing — always expanding American commitments abroad, never pulling them back, and never even prioritizing among them. Anywhere.

Surely we can and should prioritize them, just as a village may prioritize the location of its cops: Which corners are more important; which speed limits should be set?

The U.S. is committed, all at once, to defending Europe, including serving as a check on Russia’s ambitions in Eastern Europe, and to defending Israel.

It also wants to micromanage regional rivalries across the Middle East in perpetuity. And keep a lid on terrorist activity across North Africa. And win an 18-year-old game of Whack-a-Mole against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

And contain North Korea. And stand toe to toe with a rising China. And determine the outcome of a political transition in Venezuela.

The author complains about our multitude of obligations, but with great power comes great responsibility. The alternative would be a world in which brutal dictators rule everywhere, a world that declines into a dark-ages mentality.

Clearly, America should have better planning than what a government led by Donald Trump can provide. But even poor planning takes us some distance from total dereliction.

Depending on cost and affordability, it is an ongoing job, with no real end date.

That’s a lot for any country to handle intelligently or wisely — because having such control-freak ambitions in the world isn’t intelligent or wise in the first place.

That doesn’t mean that Donald Trump’s acting out in defiance of Washington’s foreign policy consensus makes sense.

But it does mean that those who oppose the president need to do more than run screaming back into the arms of that consensus without reflection on its many unacknowledged problems and confusions.

The biggest problem is the strange belief that the US should pull its soldiers out of harm’s way, and instead surround ourselves with a huge wall, and pretend we now are safe.

Some wars never end. The police fight crime; the firefighters attack fires; the doctors fight illness; the teachers fight ignorance; the U.S. continually must fight to remain safe and free.

Given America’s wealth and military power, we must try to be the world’s policeman. It is our ongoing “forever” job. 

Do not decry endless war. Embrace it as a “long view” that endless war is a better, more realistic than the alternative. It is the price we must pay for security.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Monetary Sovereignty
Twitter: @rodgermitchell
Search #monetarysovereignty Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell


The most important problems in economics involve:

  1. Monetary Sovereignty describes money creation and destruction.
  2. Gap Psychology describes the common desire to distance oneself from those “below” in any socio-economic ranking, and to come nearer those “above.” The socio-economic distance is referred to as “The Gap.”

Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics.

Implementation of Monetary Sovereignty and The Ten Steps To Prosperity can grow the economy and narrow the Gaps:

Ten Steps To Prosperity:

1. Eliminate FICA

2. Federally funded Medicare — parts a, b & d, plus long-term care — for everyone

3. Provide a monthly economic bonus to every man, woman and child in America (similar to social security for all)

4. Free education (including post-grad) for everyone

5. Salary for attending school

6. Eliminate federal taxes on business

7. Increase the standard income tax deduction, annually. 

8. Tax the very rich (the “.1%”) more, with higher progressive tax rates on all forms of income.

9. Federal ownership of all banks

10. Increase federal spending on the myriad initiatives that benefit America’s 99.9% 

The Ten Steps will grow the economy and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and the rest.


30 thoughts on “The inevitability of endless war. What is wrong with that?

  1. With all due respect, Rodger, “endless war” is really not a sustainable strategy. In fact, it is not a strategy at all, but rather a concept. And one that only serves to further enrich the oligarchs who profit from such wars. Major General Smedley Butler once wrote, “War Is A Racket”. It was true back then, and it is true to this day as well.

    While I condemn Trump’s reckless and treacherous decision to appease Putin and Erdogan by abruptly and arbitrarily stepping our troops aside and essentially greenlighting Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria and thus selling our Kurdish allies down the river (after stringing them along for years), and I especially condemn his very basest of ulterior motives in doing so, I do still believe that we should not stay in any country indefinitely and should have an exit strategy for any war we enter. We should have been of Iraq and Afghanistan (and eventually even Syria, at least when the timing and intention is right) long ago, if we should ever even gone at all. In fact, a strong casw can be made that ISIL would not have even existed had we not invaded Iraq in the first place. What a clusterfrack that was!

    Whether it’s a “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” sort of war (like Libya) or a decades-long quagmire (like Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan) or something in-between (like Syria), the ultimate end result is the same: a failing or failed state that becomes a magnet for terrorists and other extremists, or at the very least a disaster over there.

    Though we are Monetarily Sovereign and by definition have infinite money, we do NOT have infinite non-monetary resources, and that is ultimately our limiting factor for us.

    Additionally, truly “endless war” may very well be incompatible with an all-volunteer military, at least if the Ten Steps to Prosperity are implemented and poverty is essentially eradicated. It is politically incorrect and uncomfortable say it, of course, but many poor and near-poor people currently join the military for economic reasons, which is a sort of economic coercion. When that “incentive” is no longer operative, we can of course simply pay our troops more, a lot more in fact, since we are Monetarily Sovereign, and that should be fine in most cases. Especially with today’s technology (think air and drone wars, and even robot soldiers eventually) that requires far fewer human “boots on the ground” than in the past. But if we stretch our troops too thin for too long, and don’t put hard time limits on wars, eventually even that will have its limits, and we may end up having to bring back the draft at some point. I am against it of course, but if we must, we should have “consensual conscription” in which all wars lasting longer than 90 days are put up to a popular vote, and those who vote yes would be drafted as necessary, followed by those who abstained, and those who vote no will be exempt from the draft. That’s fair. (Major General Smedley Butler is of course my inspiration for this idea.)

    The late, great Buckminster Fuller once noted that women would eventually rule the world. And he predicted that they would reject the idea that war and scarcity are inevitable, since they tend to think differently than us fellas who tend to think these things are inevitable (which is of course a self-fulfilling prophecy). The 7000 year gender war is of course the root of all of this war we are seeing–we just call it “patriarchy” to make it sound nicer.

    It is great that you reject the scarcity paradigm, Rodger. Now if only you rejected the endless war paradigm as well, then I would agree with you 100%.

    But back to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., I believe the only solution is to get out and give every *woman* over there an AK-47 and tell them to take over and mow down anyone who stands in their way. Let Allah sort it out. And when we do pull out, be sure to set up a Marshall Plan funded by Monetary Sovereignty. Problem solved. But the powers that be in this country would not be too keen on that idea. After all, they wouldn’t want women in THIS country getting any ideas, now would they?

    It would certainly be better than arming and funding questionable male “rebels” over there that all too often turn traitor. And meanwhile the Kurdish YPJ are showing all the good that women can do in that regard, kudos to them.

    Something to think about at least.


    1. I do not suggest a strategy of going to war with the intention of staying forever, but I do suggest that going to war with the intention of pulling out before a goal is accomplished, just because we don’t want “endless war,” would be self-defeating.

      Wars are not neat. They don’t have nice, tidy end dates. Unless you are willing to kill every last human in a nation, or every member of a religious group or belief cult, you cannot be sure a war has ended, and even then, the day after you leave, the same problems could re-appear.

      Wars also don’t have neat borders. Leaving one area can precipitate a conflict in another area.

      So exactly when do you pull out? What is the trigger that would make you say, “We can leave, now.”

      Women mowing men down and “letting Allah sort it out” would not end anything.

      It is one thing to blithely oppose war – almost everyone claims to oppose war — but quite another to decide when a war should end and when we should pack up and go.


      1. With all due respect, such an outlook is still rather Hobbesian IMHO. Interestingly though, that is all the more reason NOT to be so cavalier about rushing to war in the first place at the drop of a hat like we have been doing for decades now. That includes all the too-many-to-count CIA-induced covert operations to overthrow democratically-elected leaders we disagree with and then install brutal, corporate-sponsored dictators made in the USA, as well as the many official wars as well. The “War on Terror” is essentially “The War on Blowback”, as we create terrorists faster than we can kill them. Of all the countless wars the USA has been in since WWII, essentially all of them have been wars of choice rather than necessity, and only Grenada (and arguably the first Gulf War, though even that is debatable) was a clear-cut victory for the USA, while Korea was a stalemate that never really officially ended. The rest were losses, ongoing quagmires, or short-term Pyrrhic victories that evaporated within a few years (if even that long) afterwards.

        As for when to leave when in stuck in such a quagmire, like the song says, “if we go it will be trouble, if we stay it will be double”. There ultimately comes a point of diminishing returns where staying any longer does not accomplish anything, and staying would at best be a waste of blood and treasure.

        I am not a pacifist anymore, as what ultimately happened to the Minoan Civilization (and many others) is a good cautionary tale against such an overly-idealistic mindset. But I do still think that St. Augustine’s criteria for Just War make sense nonetheless (spoiler alert: very few wars in history have ever met all of such criteria, and arguably none of them have for the USA except WWII, the Civil War and the American Revolution).

        And as John Kerry famously asked in 1972, “How do you ask a man [or woman] to be the last man to die for a mistake?”


        1. Right, we all hate war. Now, having said that, you have to measure the cost of staying vs. the cost of leaving. Each case is individual. You can save money and manpower by cutting your police force. Is that beneficial, overall?


          1. The police force analogy is kind of a disanalogy, since I don’t believe that the USA (or any one country) should police the entire world, but even then cutting it when it is already too excessively bloated can indeed be beneficial. Our military is both too bloated and stretched too thin at the same time (strange, I know).

            Also, I know this is kind of a conservative argument, but by not letting other countries fight their own battles, we are not really helping them in the long run. They just become increasingly dependent on Daddy Warbucks instead of developing their own defenses (Iraq is a classic example of this). National sovereignty, just like free will, and the responsibilities thereof, does indeed have its downsides, but the alternative is worse.


  2. ” So exactly when do you pull out? .. What is the trigger that would make you say, “We can leave, now.”

    To use a sex metaphor, you pull out after the climax; and the climax is the day when we eliminate the need to keep making money and start making sense, perhaps through the introduction of Monetary Sovereignty or ultimately a scientifically designed economy. War as we all should know is NOT coincidentally, a big employer/money maker, from weapons to flag draped caskets.

    Making sense entails the social option of putting people to school-work instead of make-work jobs to justify earning a living. Making sense means COMING TO OUR SENSES..i.e.,.realizing that money is a legal concept, not a physical concept. Therefore we can electronically “coin” as much as necessary within the limits of capacity and demand, just as we can raise/lower the speed limit, eliminate military draft or allow women to fight wars.

    We need to declutter our thinking. There’s a difference between legal and real. The former is limited by unenforceable whims of men; the latter is practically unlimited and only enforced by the General Principles of Nature.

    A Principled abundance-based economy could not possibly fail. It would bring the bottom up without touching the top; however, the “top” would resist all that success and equality, and I say “too damn bad.” Either we all make it or nobody makes it. The future doesn’t have a middle ground.


    1. War makes plenty of money though–for the oligarchs, that is. For the rest of us, not so much. War does not create real wealth on balance, in the long run, in practice it destroys more wealth than it creates. That is where Keynes was wrong. While it does make a temporary economic stimulus perhaps, a faked alien invasion would probably be more effective that a real shooting war with blood and gore.


  3. What this agregious article, which is nothing more than a condonement of CIA narrative talking points, fails to point out is that the United States is directly responsible for the creation of ISIS and Al-Qeada with our endless meddling the past sixty years in the destruction of any Middle Eastern country that dares to be democratic and self-determining. Mr. Mitchell also fails to point out that we are funding ISIS and Al-Qeada ( renamed al Nusra ) with weapons and money to oust Assad in Syria. For Mr. Mitchell to write, “ we have endless responsibilities, and some of them require endless war,” is an outrageous statement that sounds like it would come from the mouth of John Bolton. In his previous paragraph before that statement, he says the alternative of stationing our troops in northeastern Syria to keep the Turks from attacking the Kurds is our answer to abandoning the Kurds. He essentially is saying that he condones the quagmire we will put ourselves in while never addressing the reason we are there in the first place. He ignores the fact that under Obama a CIA coup called Timber Sycamore was ordered to oust Assad from power. He also ignores our recent failed history of these disasterous attempts at regime change in Libya and Iraq.
    Mr. Mitchell seems to be gleefully reveling in our policeman status. When he writes, absurdly comparing our doctors, police, and firefighters endless service to our militaristic hegemony, he is basically saying that our institutions designed to protect, serve, and save lives must first go out and make people sick, commit the crimes, and light the fires to justify their endless saving, protecting, and serving of lives. This is exactly how our military industrial/intelligence empire works. It isn’t designed for defense, it’s to OFFEND.
    If Mr. Mitchell is a believer of MMT and sees through the ultimate Ponzi scheme of the American monetary system, how can he not see through America’s self-interested imperialistic nature driven by a reckless, thieving capitalist system to dominate the world?
    He is sending out the message that America needs to be policing the world, because if we don’t, “ brutal dictators would rule the world everywhere.” After drinking the Kool-Aid from the fountain of American exceptionalism, Mr. Mitchell has grown blinders around his eyes and fails to realize the brutal dictator is the United States of America, and if you don’t capitulate to our terms you will be eliminated.


    1. The post neither condones nor evaluates. It states a simple truth. For whatever purposes the U.S. enters into a war, whether or not you agree with those purposes, the probability is that those purposes will not be met within a limited time.

      So before we go in, we should be prepared to stay in, because leaving prematurely will be worse. A long war neither is more or less evil than a short war.

      America has done good things and bad things. Just like police. Just like doctors. Just like you and me. Even the best of us has sinned. In that sense, countries are people. Same faults.

      The sainted FDR, George Washington, Abe Lincoln et al have some serious skeletons in their closets, but that does not change the simple truth stated above.


      1. Tell me one good thing America has done since WWII in relation to other nations sovereignty and self-determinism?


          1. And no other nation dropped two atomic bombs on anyone except the US, and we did it for the specific reason of showing the Soviets our might. The Japanese only surrendered after the Soviets attacked Japan on multiple fronts on the 9th of August. The United States has been meddling in the affairs of Japan long before the war. When we ran out of indigenous people to kill on this continent we just continued our manifest destiny overseas. Pearl Harbor was an answer to our insufferable imperialism. As for Israel, the United States refused to allow their mass migration to this country from Germany before the outbreak of the war, but was perfectly alright to have them settle in Palestine. And look at that debacle now. Look at the fascist leadership in Israel today and their detrimental influence over policy issues in the US. I don’t think you really grasp the catastrophic consequences that our meddling creates around the world. We aren’t a force for good, we never have been. We are a force for our own self-interests under the guise of bringing freedom and liberty to those we oppress with regime change and our disasterous neoliberal policies of endless austerity measures through IMF and World Bank loans.


          2. BINGO. We should do another Marshall Plan for the Middle East as well, paid for by Monetary Sovereignty. It should be easier this time since we no longer have the gold standard. Money is infinite, boots on the ground are not.


      2. Or rather, we should evaluate whether the goals and scope are narrow enough to be met within a limited amount of time, and also whether they are even worth it at all. I am talking mainly about those gray areas that fall under the “Responsibility to Protect” umbrella. Whether a long war is worse than a short war is really more of a case-by-case basis, but generally longer wars have more casualties than shorter ones. And leaving prematurely is not always worse, though sometimes it is.

        Also, some wars are literally impossible to win or practically achieve anything good in the long run. And please define “prematurely”. There comes a point where we simply need to cut our losses and move on. Afghanistan, for example–18+ years and nothing to show for it that we didn’t already achieve in the first decade there. Same goes with Iraq as well, which we never should have invaded in the first place.

        At least we agree (I hope) that we should not be taking war so lightly and casually as we currently do.


      1. The purpose is to keep the Russians from building a natural gas pipeline through Syria. The goal, dictatorial hegemony to exploit the nations of the world of their resources.There is no cost in entering, only profit for the military industrial/intelligence empire. The cost of not entering? That is never put to question because the lack of cost for entering will always outweigh it. The cost of staying? There is none. The too big to fail offense industry will see to that. The cost of leaving? Again, it won’t be discussed and if it is you will be smeared vehemently by the bought and owned presstitutes in the MSM.


          1. They’re our CIA manufactured enemies. America has to create its enemies to justify its bloviated military budget. Trump isn’t Putin’s puppet and Assad didn’t gas his people. It’s all manufactured consent to keep the military hardware profit rolling along. What Russia and Syria agree upon in relation to pipelines, or any other infrastructure is none of our business.


    1. OMG! The man has zero understanding of Monetary Sovereignty. One sentence from his article says it all: “One reason the plan lacked strong support was lawmakers were cagey about how to pay for it.” States have that problem. The federal government doesn’t.


  4. Well it’s a coincidence[?} this argument is one of several that have aired this’s Umair Haque in Medium;

    I also saw another somewhat different take. But I cannot find it in the 600 emails on my red/un red list.
    In the meantime I endorse your approval of the Marshall plan, but even it had an agenda; To prove social democracies can do welfare etc at least as well can communism.The Marshall Plan would not fund communist states.


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