The Major Contributors to War

by Nile Stanton

March 6, 2023

      In a thought-provoking article titled "At the Brink of War in the Pacific?" published on March 2, 2023, Alfred W. McCoy, Harrington Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, pointedly reminds us that,

Reviewing recent developments in the Asia-Pacific region raises a tried-and-true historical lesson that bears repeating at this dangerous moment in history: when nations prepare for war, they are far more likely to go to war.

       Think about that. Professor McCoy is right about it. Susan G. Sample and colleagues meticulously examined vast empirical evidence and concluded,

[A]rms races are not spuriously associated with war. They are not simply an artifact of rivalry that has no independent impact on war; they are a step toward war.

       Military buildups make conflicts more, not less, likely to take place. That is, a major step toward unnecessary conflict is preparation for war.  The Fundamental Attribution Error comes into play here and readily creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Allow me to briefly explain how this works.

      Two days ago I took Bing-Chat up on its challenge to "Ask complex questions" and asked the uber-powerful AI this: 

What is the Ooda Loop, and how can that lead to a fatal death spiral if used as a decisional model in view of the us versus them problem in the Fundamental Attribution Error?

       Bing-Chat replied:

The OODA loop is a decision-making cycle developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd. It stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. The fundamental attribution error refers to an individual’s tendency to attribute another’s actions to their character or personality while attributing their own behavior to external situational factors outside of their control.

However, I couldn’t find any information about how the OODA loop could lead to a fatal death spiral if used as a decisional model in view of the us versus them problem in the Fundamental Attribution Error. Could you please clarify your question or provide more context?

(Citations omitted.) 
I provided the following additional context:

What I mean is this: If we view a person (or country) as suspicious or even an enemy, we have a tendency to interpret ambiguous acts as more hostile or negative than an objective observer would and react accordingly and in a negative way, prompting the other party to become even more hostile. We have a natural human tendency to reciprocate, and if we think others act badly to us, we are more likely to act badly toward them. And, if I am nice to you, you are more likely to be nice to me. So, it is best not to act like someone is your enemy.

Bing-Chat replied: 

Thank you for clarifying your question. Yes, it is true that if we view a person or country as suspicious or even an enemy, we may have a tendency to interpret their actions in a more negative way and react accordingly. This can create a cycle of hostility and mistrust that can escalate and lead to negative outcomes. It is important to try to remain objective and avoid making assumptions about others’ intentions.

In this context, a human might say that it’s best to treat others with respect and kindness, even if we don’t always agree with them or see eye-to-eye. By doing so, we can help foster positive relationships and avoid misunderstandings.

      But politicians and pundits too often engage in fiery hostile rhetoric, make wholly unwarranted assumptions and allegations, and present misleading or false information in order to psyche people up, to create war-sparking policies and foment increasingly bellicose tensions. And, all this goes hand-in-hand with innumerable lobbyists hawking weapons of war  to lawmakers and the Pentagon's purchase officers while they simultaneously support tension-creating military policies.

    And, regarding this juncture -- the Iron Triangle of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex -- the conclusions made by the Nye Committee are clear and instructive. Sixteen years after World War I, a Senate committee headed up by Gerald Nye held several hearings and heard numerous witnesses before concluding that the arms industry had encouraged the promotion of tension-creating policies before the war and made massive profits during it. (See also the
pamphlet War is a Racket, by Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, a career solder who was twice bestowed the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor. His pamphlet is a mea culpa and details the war profiteering he aided and abetted over the years.) Yes, people eventually learned that the horrific madness that World Ward I entailed had in part been spawned by the quest for profits. 

      Companies devoted to the war business generally do quite well, and it is not just the weapons industry that profits from threats of or the waging of war.  (Several well-known American businesses were happy to make huge profits from doing business with the Nazis.) And, yet today, it is clear that war is the biggest money-making business in the United States. The annual federal budget makes that crystal clear. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, Boeing, etc., suck hundreds of millions of dollars from the corporate
warfare welfare teat every year.

     So, why is it that nations spend such truly massive sums of money on weapons of war, practicing and preparing to fight future wars, and paying for the consequences of prior wars?

      Political and military leaders at times insist that war, i.e., the use of armed force, is necessary against a group or country because of various real or imagined reasons and build passionate nationalism, xenophobia, and ethnocentrism
to solidify in-group loyalty and thereby gain more power.

      On April 18, 1946, Gustave M. Gilbert interviewed Hermann Goering (Göring) in his cell in the Nuremberg jail and later quoted him in a book. Goering was a Special Reich Commissioner, head of the Luftwaffe, and one of the most popular and powerful of Nazi leaders, both among the German people and foreign diplomats. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg ultimately sentenced him to be hung. However, after his request to be shot was refused, Goering committed suicide by eating a capsule of poison shortly before he was to be executed. Here is part of what Gilbert wrote about his interview with Goering:

We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

"Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."


Nuremberg Diary
(1947) at p.278-279. (Original emphasis.)

       "[T]he people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy." Those comments by Goering proved all too true regarding the U.S.A.'s invasions of both Vietnam and Iraq. The people, more specifically, Members of Congress, were easily brought to do the bidding of the military and the executive branch. And, many ordinary citizens were easily persuaded as well. As is regularly the case, gross distortions, fabrications, and outright lies were repeatedly advanced by those who could only conceive of war as the best method to achieve the results they wanted. Sadly, the war hawks won out with their lies, and two horrific wars followed.

      Lies, BIG LIES, are usually required to start major wars. In my next post, I will specifically detail some of the whoppers that gullible people bought into when leaders told them.

      The major contributors to war are hate, fear, and greed. Without the exploitation of these, reasonable people can readily resolve their disputes without resorting to the threat or use of armed force.  


      Meanwhile, consider this, one of my favorite Aesop's Fables.

  The gods were getting married. One after another, they all got hitched, until finally it was time for War to draw his lot, the last of the bachelors. Hubris, or Reckless Pride, became his wife, since she was the only one left without a husband.

 They say War loved Hubris with such abandon that he still follows her everywhere she goes. So do not ever allow Hubris to come upon the nations or cities of mankind, smiling fondly at the crowds, because War will be coming right behind her.

Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.



* Nile Stanton lives in southern Spain. He was a professor for the University of Maryland University College for 20 years, where he taught U.S. active duty service members on U.S. military bases in Spain, Italy, Bosnia, and (mostly) Greece as well as online to troops throughout Europe and Asia. The course he taught most often (32 iterations) was the upper-level government course called “Law, Morality, and War.” Thereafter, he taught for the University of New England at its Tangier, Morocco, campus for two years, where his signature course was “War and Public Health.” He was born and raised a Quaker and tends to examine the excuses for war and lack of diplomacy more carefully and from a different perspective than many people.

Nile |@|