War! What’s it Good For? Absolutely Everything!

….from the rightwing point-of-view. Consider the following, from the LRB. Labour’s Foreign Policy Quandaries:

The Labour Party has always been split over foreign policy. The Boer War, fought between capitalists and racists, made it difficult to choose a side; likewise the First World War (imperialism v. Prussianism); less so the Second World War, which divided the Conservatives more. The Falklands War was fought against a fascist dictator, but by the hated Thatcher and in defence of a colonial relic. And then there’s the Iraq War and the bombing of Syria.

All these conflicts have posed genuine moral quandaries for ‘progressives’, which is why they have been so damaging for party unity. Suspicious leftists have occasionally wondered whether they might not have been deliberately provoked by the right in order to have this effect, an idea that goes back to the mid-Victorian Liberal Richard Cobden. It seems unlikely, though Thatcher and Cameron have obviously been aware of the benefit for them.

War is always favored by the right for the psychological dividend it pays: nationalistic sadism, surrogate testosterone, war porn. These people are political – and often literal – sociopaths. War is also favored by the right as a means of social engineering. And I’m sure “suspicious leftists” are correct about its tendency to split the left being a permanent part of wingnut political strategy. Wingnuts love war for its own sake; plus, it injures the political enemy – what’s not to like, from their point of view?


Not mentioned, though, is a fact of war just as crucial for, and attractive to, the right: its economic effect. The grocery list of government spending programs acceptable to the rightwing is short; at the top is military spending. The pattern for the last 35 years has been that when the rightwing is in power, it increases “defense” spending while either cutting or maintaining existing tax rates. The result is a ballooning deficit that is either ignored or falsely blamed on social programs. When the right loses power it leaves a fiscal mess for the other party to clean up, often at the budgetary expense of social programs – war as a sort of prophylactic against useful public works, even when the other side is in office. Heads, the right wins; tails, the left loses. Viewed as such, war is an irresistible tool for the right. That’s the real and only reason why its party establishment purged its (relative) peaceniks, the paleocons, while with careful dishonesty publicly stating that the rationale was cultural. They won’t be denied its use if they can help it.

Causality Poop

Political chicken-or-egg questions, one for each side:

Do neocons want war all the time in order to militarize American society, or do they want to militarize American society in order to ensure perpetual war?

Do comfy class/professional activist/media liberals care about identity politics more than class and foreign policy because they can actually see progress being made with identity issues, or does progress only happen with identity issues because such people care about them more?

For what it’s worth I think the former is true in the first question, but I’m less sure than I used to be. I’m absolutely certain that for the second question, the latter is correct.