The Balance Sheet Of War


America no longer declares war; instead, we “budget.” The last war that America declared was World War II. And yet, today, we are bogged down in endless conflict. The United States has been involved in no fewer than 13 conflicts in the 24 years of the 21st century. That’s a new war every two years.

This week, the US Congress reduced the pursuit of war to a mere budget. Under the yet-to-be-designated bill, titled:

Making emergency supplemental appropriations to respond to the situation in Ukraine and for related expenses for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2024, and for other purposes.

The US House of Representatives rushed through a $95 Billion stop-gap appropriation principally to support the War In Ukraine but also funding the Israeli-Gaza Conflict and military aid to Taiwan.

It was a remarkable piece of legislative legerdemain, which saw Speaker of the House Mike Johnson completely flip from anti- to pro-Ukraine funding. Declaring himself to be a “wartime” speaker, Johnson said that we must spend $61 billion on Ukraine to be on the right side of history.

“My philosophy is you do the right thing and you let the chips fall where they may…History judges us for what we do. This is a critical time right now—a critical time on the world stage..”

While no one would argue that we’re living in a “critical time,” that tells us little about funding for Ukraine. It’s an assertion, not an argument. Johnson mumbles that he’s seen classified information that leads him to believe the financing of Ukraine is warranted, but he declines to reveal what those classified documents say.

That’s how a “Wartime” Speaker prepares a “Wartime” supplemental appropriation, aka budget—a budget that drags the nation further into debt and further into commitment to Ukraine.

Of course, Speaker Johnson is joining President Joe Biden, whom the Wall Street Journal noted six months ago: “…Looks Like A Wartime President.”

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Washington is gearing up for war. Duh!

In the short three years of Biden’s Presidency, we’ve seen a disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Proxy War in Ukraine, the Proxy War in Gaza, an emerging conflict with Iran, and Operation Prosperity Guardian (the war with the Houthis). No matter how you look at it, it is a remarkable display of American military aggression.

It’s a roll-up of the sleeves, bare knuckles, approach to foreign policy that we’ve never seen before. The foundation for this new American militarism is based on two concepts. First, that war is good for business, and second, that war is acceptable as long as no Americans are dying.

War Is Good For Business

This first foundational premise, that “war is good for business,” is remarkable in that it is the complete inversion of what the American people used to believe. In the 1960s, many of us argued that the very fact that nations might enter into war to make a profit was, in itself, immoral. It has been a Western tradition going back to Thomas Aquinas’ “Just War Theory,” in which he argues that war should only be fought to defend the homeland. He would certainly not justify war as a pursuit of profit.

In his famous “Day of Infamy” speech, President Franklin Roosevelt reflects this tradition when he declares:

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.”

It was clear to Roosevelt that America was entering the war with Japan, and later Italy and Germany, not to make money but to defend the United States, which was at that point under attack.

Within that context, millions of Americans volunteered to serve in defense of our country. The lines at the local draft boards stretched around the street. Future soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen were willing to risk their lives to protect this country.

Regrettably, that’s no longer the case. Draft boards nationwide are empty, recruitment goals for all the major services are not met, and the American military is progressively understaffed. It seems that men and women are not willing to die for the profitability of our Defense Contractors.

And yet, that’s just how this latest supplemental appropriation was pushed through Congress: “It’s good for business.” “It will mean more jobs.” As Lindsay Graham, Senator from South Carolina, likes to say: “It’s the best money we’ve ever spent.” Profits, jobs, and a roaring economy for America.

No American Lives Lost

However, there is another side to this War-Business-Bonanza, a side that includes misery and death, not American deaths, but other’s deaths nonetheless. You see, while the US turns out the most advanced military equipment, bombs, guns, and missiles, those weapons are being used to maim and kill.

It is generally accepted that there are over half a million Ukrainian casualties in the war with Russia, with more added each day. It is a demographic catastrophe for a country that, at the beginning of the conflict, only had a population of about 25 million. Ukraine is losing an entire generation of child-bearing age people.

And that’s how America has reduced war to a balance sheet—a profit and loss statement of “what’s good for American business is good for the World.” Today, the White House released a document extolling the benefits of promoting war (passing aid to Ukraine). It included a list of all the states that will have more jobs because America is making arms for the world.

It hasn’t always been like this. There was a time when a US President talked of making peace, not war.

In the Commencement Address at American University on June 10, 1963, President John F. Kennedy said:

I have, therefore, chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds, and the truth is too rarely perceived–yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace.

What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.

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