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The Delusional Meaning of War
Published on Thursday, February 9, 2006 by
The Delusional Meaning of War
by Daniel Schwartz
In military state capitalism, military activities—building and operating armed forces and their industrial base—is the primary activity of government. -Seymour Melman, 1991

Any coherent meaning for modern warfare is a delusion. The costs and consequences of violence with the current technology of weapons systems should make war obsolete. It is an exercise in necrophilia for the earth and all life forms. The war in Iraq points to the progress of destruction for the U.S. Empire. Seymour Melman, late of Columbia University has written extensively on the evolution of military state capitalism and the permanent war economy which underlies some rationale for the empire pursuing war. Militarists like war because wars remind people they need militarists, military leaders and a war machine. Only with war and waste can the continuity of the military industrial machine be rationalized. The permanent war economy becomes justified by war even as the damage and death caused by war makes it insensible.

What specifically makes the damage and death of war insensible?

Collateral Damage—This is the unintended and intended wholesale killing and wounding of civilians. Generally thought to be unintended, the dirty fact of intentional killing and wounding occurs because imperfect weapons are made by imperfect human beings. Weapons of mass destruction malfunction on a normal basis either through design and/or human error and military planners know this. The number of non combatant Iraqis killed and maimed is genocidal.

Public Health Damage—These are direct deaths and injuries attributed to the physical and emotional wounds of solders both during war and for the survivors. This includes the long term physical and emotional damage incurred by the civilian population. A war zone is full of toxic and poisonous liquids, solids and gases. Depleted uranium is only one of the toxic chemicals that blanket all life in the war zone. A synergistic effect magnifies all toxic materials that are breathed in or ingested through water or food. Physical and emotional wounds interact and intensify long term disabilities, pain and suffering.

Environmental damage—Ecocide includes the long term negative effects on the integrity of the ecosystem. A toxic war zone immediately diminishes and destroys the conditions for animal and plant wellbeing. The soil and air become contaminated along with rubble and bomb craters. This promotes pathogens and disease among all living things.

Moral and political failure of violent means and ends to solve social and political problems. The message of non-violence, conflict resolution and statesmanship are made invisible and contribute to historical amnesia.

Damage to democracy by secrecy, surveillance and media manipulation of truth, as well as the revocation of American ideals of justice, liberty and First Amendment rights.

One would think that the above conditions would make modern warfare irrational and meaningless—but that clearly is not the case!

The war in Iraq is not about resources, ideology or economic control. War makes the world safe for war for a number of self serving reasons which include the following: 1) justifies the existence and continuation of the entire military-industrial complex, 2) justifies the continued need for research, development and upgrading weapons, 3) justifies university partnerships with military-industrial complex, 4) justifies need to replace weapon systems, 5) justifies need to spend money on military and security apparatus, 6) justifies restricting the social contract, democracy and civil rights, 7) justifies militarizing civilian society and strong militaristic civilian leaders.

We are left with a prophetic Orwellian legacy of perpetual warfare, secrecy, political corruption and totalitarianism. The democratization of terror is also taking place when have-not nations spend money and resources in their quest for modern weapon systems.

The evolution of technological society and the progress of destruction lead to the pacification of human experience. This is greatly accomplished by mass media trivialization and the omission of history. The current Administration promotes a militaristic consciousness which stresses peace through strength and the nobility of war. The President invokes the divine right of kings in his appeals for support and never shows a generosity of spirit nor does he want anyone to show a generosity of spirit! The nation is supposed to follow his “strong” leadership and believe that things are as they should be and there is no alternative. The cheerleading media generally echo this. John Dewey warned that “fascism may come to America in the name of protecting Democracy form its enemies.” A culture out of balance makes nature out of balance and compromises the entire planet.

Where does a road poorly chosen take us? A movement is in place to begin the great reversal and great refusal towards those leaders who are delusional. There should be non cooperation with “business as usual.” Decommissioning, disarmament, conversion, biophilia and restoration should be the order of the day. The political system needs an infusion of non-violent conflict resolution and statesmanship. Nurturing the spirit of life will lead to the demise of necrophilia and renewal of a world in balance. And I suspect nature will have the final word in reality.

Daniel Schwartz is a semi-retired faculty in Sociology and Anthropology, presently at the University of New Mexico, and has been teaching for 35 years. Email to:


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