So says Victor Davis Hanson, quoted in Imprimis 11/09. To his point, war has been a constant companion of civilizations and tribes throughout the past many millenia. If past is prelude, we can expect war to be with us for many generations to come. Hanson doesn't delve into why war is always with us, but goes on to argue why the Western way of war is superior. And under girding his argument is the assumption our way is morally-superior. And under girding that is the obvious: if there is going to be war, the West had better find a way to always win.
What is the Western way of war? Davis summarizes: Superior fighting and defense capability because of our prosperity in times of peace. He lists five factors: Constitutional government was conducive to civilian input when it came to war; it gave birth to a new definition of courage; usage of advanced technology; impatience for victory as well as tradition for dissent within the ranks.
Hanson fails to mention a very very obvious factor of the Western way of war: it is predatory.
Alexander the Great was predatory. The Caesars were predatory. European kings and princes were predatory. Empires of Spain and Portugal, France and Britain, Denmark and Germany were all predatory. The United States of America has inherited a Western way of war that is inherently predatory, whatever else it may be. If war is going to be a constant within our culture, then the key factor will be to limit or subvert the predatory nature of our way of war.
I totally understand the need for armed guards and trained soldiers to protect and defend from other peoples who would steal what is not theirs, to destroy what they envy and cannot attain. And I understand the theory of "preemptive strikes" as a way to deter the "enemy" before they make their intended and otherwise undeterred attack. However, when military and civilian leaders remain blind to the predatory nature of Western war, and when they intend to grow the economy through warfare upon others, their dismissiveness towards those who are anti-war is unconscionable. It's obvious that war is good business for capitalism. The Industrial Revolution and Empire Expansion are at the heart of our modern way of war in the West.
And now the Western way of life is threatened by non-Western peoples who would like to be as powerful as the West. Who are we in the West to deny for others what we have killed to attain for ourselves? Free-market capitalism, constitutional democracy, a Bill of Rights, embrace of reason have all been a blessing to civilizations, especially ours. But we corrupt them when we assume our way of war is always justifiable; our way of war rooted in the expansionism of Greece, the crucifixions of Rome, the genocides by the European knights, the enslavement of Africa by the Empires of the West.
If there is to be war, then the United States of America has an opportunity now in World History to reconfigure how we are to do war. With all the investments being done now to alleviate poverty and hunger in the world, with all the efforts being put forth to raise standards of living and educational levels, with all the global sacrifices being made to end diseases and heal the crippled, now is the time for our nation to revise our way of war. Especially for Christians, now is the time to creatively and realistically reshape the Western way of war. I suppose it could be a way of making amends for all the times the Church has used the sword.
Lastly, there might be elements to our way of life that need correcting - so much so that without a severe adjustment we will provoke non-Western nations to attack us. It might be that America is reaching an age where our way of life is unsustainable apart from war. If this unsustainability is now the way of the West, then our way will descend into the valley of the shadow of death. And there will be no One to comfort us.