How to Start a War

bombing of Baghdad

Shock and awe: Bombs for Democracy

For thousands of years, powerful men have met and decided to go to war, almost always for economic reasons. In olden times, they were more honest about it. “Uberland has fertile soil and/or gold and we want it,” was once a good enough reason to sharpen the axes and ride off to subdue Uberland.

The Romans included demonization of the enemy for further motivation; Uberland, you see, was filled with barbarians. Barbarians were like terrorists in that they were less than human and obviously less than the noble Romans who had aqueducts and bathed frequently. The fact that Romans also entertained their freshly-washed  selves by watching fellow humans being  torn apart by lions didn’t seem to raise any barbarity issues.

After many years associating with politicians, I saw that they truly don’t care about doing good. To present do-good projects, no matter how passionately, does not move them. But they very, very much want to look good. When I figured this out, I simply arranged a do-good project and allowed a politician to show up and take credit for it. Worked every time!

Nations truly don’t care about doing good either. But nations very, very much want to look good. When powerful men meet and decide to go to war now, they try to keep it secret, because the public doesn’t think war is a very nice thing to do. They have to convince the public that in this case, the war is necessary and justified and “good.” There are certain steps the powerful men must take before they actually get their war, but they are fairly simple and they are quite effective.

1). Express “concern:” Uberland has unrest, or the ruler of Uberland is violating human rights, or Uberland is threatening the Homeland’s “interests.” The concern is expressed many times, in many ways, and the media cooperates with this “growing concern” narrative.

2). Demonize the enemy: The leader of Uberland is a brutal dictator, arrests and tortures those who disagree with him, the people have no freedom, he is corrupt, he makes women wear burquas, he kills children. The media also cooperates with this narrative.

3). Fake diplomacy: When the outrage against the ruler of Uberland is sufficiently high, the patient Homeland issues a diplomatic warning. “You’d better shape up Uberland, or we will be forced to step in and correct your immoral and repressive activities for the good of all mankind.” This diplomatic ultimatum has to be one Uberland can’t actually comply with; otherwise Uberland might say, “OK, we’ll stop,” and that screws up the whole war plan. The media reports this very fair diplomatic effort.

4). Identify a crisis: A bombing, failure to meet the diplomatic deadline, an attack on anything to do with the Homeland (real or faked) and voila! Off to war with full public support. Anyone who questions this is a bad citizen, is for the enemy, and is possibly a traitor.

The result is the same as it’s always been. Innocent people are killed, the Homeland goes into debt, and the fake goals are presented as met (regime change, freedom, democracy) while the powerful men maneuver furiously behind the scenes to make sure the true goals are met. The trues goals almost always relate to the powerful men becoming richer and more powerful.

It’s a simple and elegant and time-tested process. It will keep working as long as the public is gullible. We saw the process working smoothly in the War with Iraq and we can see the process working, with some interruptions, in the war some men want to have with Iran. We are running up to war with Iran. Their leader is crazy and dangerous, they might be thinking of making nuclear weapons, they are supporting terrorists, they are full of radical Islamists who want to take over the world.

In May 2011 we are about half-way to war with Iran. We need the Fake Diplomacy and then The Incident. From the mess in Iraq, we see that the incident can be as flimsy as that Iraq would harm us if they could. On that basis, we could go to war with at least half the nations on earth.

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