Humanitarians Should Love War

Earlier this morning, the front page of Reddit had a TIL Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin voted against WWII thread. The comments made me go insane. Unsurprisingly, the thread attracted a large anti-war crowd. It shocked me how untenable their general position is.

On the surface, the logic seems fine. These pacifists appear very pro-humanitarian, and the argument is straightforward:

Premise 1: War kills.
Premise 2: Killing people is bad.
Conclusion: Therefore, we should never go to war.

Premise 1 is trivially true, so no complaint there. Premise 2 is frustratingly trivial–killing people is obviously bad. The only people who disagree with this are psychopaths or soulless war profiteers. Both groups are such a small percentage of the population that they may as well be irrelevant.

But that conclusion? Dear goodness, how absurdly naive!

We do not live in a vacuum. Our choices are not “war” or “no war.” International relations is strategic. We can only control our own actions. If we don’t fight, there is no magical button we can press that stops everyone from fighting.

Yet, as far as I can discern, the anti-war group lives in a fantasy world in which this is possible. And that makes me bang my head against the wall. Repeatedly.

What are we supposed to make of this? Should we be ashamed of our actions in the Persian Gulf War? Yeah, we killed a lot of people. But the alternative was let Saddam Hussein takeover Kuwait, which seems even worse.

What about our intervention in Libya a couple years ago? We killed people, sure. So what? Are we just supposed to let Mummar Gaddafi kill civilians relentlessly?

In fact, if you are a true humanitarian, you should be advocating more war, not less. The world has no shortage of bad dictators that the world would be better off without. Currently, we could be in Syria working to remove Assad from power.

The only reason we don’t is because we are selfish. War with Syria would be costly to us. Even though the Syrian people’s gain would probably outweigh our loss, we don’t fight because…well, we just don’t give a damn.

Thus, no-war humanitarians live in a fantasy world of false dichotomies. In reality, the world presents us with three options: (1) wars against everyone, (2) wars only against bad people, and (3) no wars.

Very few people think option (1) is a good idea. But a true humanitarian should fall decisively into the option (2) camp, even as most of us fall between (2) and (3). And that’s why a humanitarian should be more pro-war than the average person.

War sucks. I get it. I’d like to be the benevolent dictator of the world, fix all social injustice, and end all conflict. But we live in a world of harsh realities, not idealistic fantasies. Life is a tradeoff. Sometimes, we cannot reach humanitarian outcomes in any reasonable length of time without fighting.

If you think we should never go to war, then you need to accept the fact that you just don’t care about people in far-flung areas of the world dying because they have an evil government. Most of us already do–even if we don’t admit it to ourselves–and that’s why we don’t have troops on the ground everywhere and higher taxes to fund those efforts.

ratwar3d

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