To End War

Gavik

Registered Member
#1
This is a passage from General Smedley Butler's piece, War is a Racket. Well worth reading the whole thing, but here's the part I find most interesting.

Please Note: Below the passage I will list several easily foreseeable counter arguments, so don't go responding right away with a typical partisan response or assume that I agree 100% with this.

*And a note to our international posters, this thread will mostly be about America.

CHAPTER FOUR

HOW TO SMASH THIS RACKET!

WELL, it's a racket, all right.

A few profit – and the many pay. But there is a way to stop it. You can't end it by disarmament conferences. You can't eliminate it by peace parleys at Geneva. Well-meaning but impractical groups can't wipe it out by resolutions. It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.

The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labor before the nations manhood can be conscripted. One month before the Government can conscript the young men of the nation – it must conscript capital and industry and labor. Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted – to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.

Let the workers in these plants get the same wages – all the workers, all presidents, all executives, all directors, all managers, all bankers –

yes, and all generals and all admirals and all officers and all politicians and all government office holders – everyone in the nation be restricted to a total monthly income not to exceed that paid to the soldier in the trenches!

Let all these kings and tycoons and masters of business and all those workers in industry and all our senators and governors and majors pay half of their monthly $30 wage to their families and pay war risk insurance and buy Liberty Bonds.

Why shouldn't they?

They aren't running any risk of being killed or of having their bodies mangled or their minds shattered. They aren't sleeping in muddy trenches. They aren't hungry. The soldiers are!

Give capital and industry and labor thirty days to think it over and you will find, by that time, there will be no war. That will smash the war racket – that and nothing else.

Maybe I am a little too optimistic. Capital still has some say. So capital won't permit the taking of the profit out of war until the people – those who do the suffering and still pay the price – make up their minds that those they elect to office shall do their bidding, and not that of the profiteers.

Another step necessary in this fight to smash the war racket is the limited plebiscite to determine whether a war should be declared. A plebiscite not of all the voters but merely of those who would be called upon to do the fighting and dying. There wouldn't be very much sense in having a 76-year-old president of a munitions factory or the flat-footed head of an international banking firm or the cross-eyed manager of a uniform manufacturing plant – all of whom see visions of tremendous profits in the event of war – voting on whether the nation should go to war or not. They never would be called upon to shoulder arms – to sleep in a trench and to be shot. Only those who would be called upon to risk their lives for their country should have the privilege of voting to determine whether the nation should go to war.

There is ample precedent for restricting the voting to those affected. Many of our states have restrictions on those permitted to vote. In most, it is necessary to be able to read and write before you may vote. In some, you must own property. It would be a simple matter each year for the men coming of military age to register in their communities as they did in the draft during the World War and be examined physically. Those who could pass and who would therefore be called upon to bear arms in the event of war would be eligible to vote in a limited plebiscite. They should be the ones to have the power to decide – and not a Congress few of whose members are within the age limit and fewer still of whom are in physical condition to bear arms. Only those who must suffer should have the right to vote.

A third step in this business of smashing the war racket is to make certain that our military forces are truly forces for defense only.

At each session of Congress the question of further naval appropriations comes up. The swivel-chair admirals of Washington (and there are always a lot of them) are very adroit lobbyists. And they are smart. They don't shout that "We need a lot of battleships to war on this nation or that nation." Oh no. First of all, they let it be known that America is menaced by a great naval power. Almost any day, these admirals will tell you, the great fleet of this supposed enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate 125,000,000 people. Just like that. Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only.

Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific. For defense. Uh, huh.

The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous coastline on the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes, perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.

The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the united States fleet so close to Nippon's shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles.

The ships of our navy, it can be seen, should be specifically limited, by law, to within 200 miles of our coastline. Had that been the law in 1898 the Maine would never have gone to Havana Harbor. She never would have been blown up. There would have been no war with Spain with its attendant loss of life. Two hundred miles is ample, in the opinion of experts, for defense purposes. Our nation cannot start an offensive war if its ships can't go further than 200 miles from the coastline. Planes might be permitted to go as far as 500 miles from the coast for purposes of reconnaissance. And the army should never leave the territorial limits of our nation.

To summarize: Three steps must be taken to smash the war racket.

We must take the profit out of war.

We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war.

We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes.
Alright, straight to immediate concerns (no, I'm not copying this from some other site):

-"The government doesn't have the right to limit income and profit like that." This is a very valid concern, and not just for conservatives. However, American wars driven by profiteering would never happen with this system. I 100% support the idea of imposing this on the politicians, but it might need some tweaking for industry. Obviously, the bills for war material production still need to be paid. However, I don't see that as necessarily in contrast to the effort to remove personal profit from war.

-"If the profit and competition were removed, free enterprise would have no incentive to develop better technology to help win wars." If that's true, then the defense contractors that spend billions to advertise their patriotism don't deserve to be in the country.

-"This requires a draft." Yes, part of it is dependent on a draft. And this may be out of character for a pacifist, but I support the idea of bringing back the draft. Of course, for war time only. If the war is not vital to the survival of the nation, then those affected by the draft would vote no on the war.

-"You can't end war. People will always be violent. This isn't possible in modern America." Then there is no hope. Give up on life. Of course there will always be conflict, as the causes of conflict - scarcity and ignorance - will almost certainly remain with humanity. And no, I don't believe the implementation of such a plan is feasible right now, nor would it be compatible with a lot of other aspects about modern America, but that doesn't make it a bad idea.

It's not a perfect idea, and the specifics need major tweaking, but I believe the General was on the right track.
 

Wade8813

Registered Member
#2
Some issues I see with this -

At least the way the military works now, there's a fairly wide range of pay. An E-1 with less than 2 years of service makes $1447 per month. An E-7 with over 16 years experience makes $3970 per month (I get the impression that E-7s still readily see combat duty. I'm less sure when you get much higher than that). So would the factory owner make $17364 per year? Or $47640? (Technically, those numbers are higher for Combat pay, and they're tax free for the soldiers in combat, and soldiers also get Basic Allowance for Housing sometimes). Would the factory owner then get access to the GI Bill and Tuition Assistance? That's an important financial incentive soldiers get. Of course, many CEOs already have a Masters (or more), so maybe they get the equivalent in pay? And what about the signing bonuses that soldiers get - which vary from year to year, and vary depending on what your military job is? How do you handle that?

Would we impose these restrictions of industry on all military spending? Look at Boeing - if we only impose it during wartime, they'll just make most of the fighter jets before we get into the war. If you impose those restrictions all the time, then many companies would suffer drastically. Boeing still makes civilian planes. But I read an article recently about a mom & pop type store near Ft Lewis that did uniform alterations/sewing/etc. They went out of business (ironically in large part because of the war - a lot of their customers were overseas). Small businesses can be risky enough as it is; limiting their profits so drastically could cripple them.

Also, it seems likely that lowering the maximum profits just means that they would make less planes/ammo/etc. They would charge the same amount per plane, but would just have to stop selling planes once they'd reached their legal maximum. So then what would the military do?

The problem with voting for the war is that voting tends to take a long time. It would still be a matter of politicians trying to sell the war to the soldiers. And what happens if the soldiers agree to the war at first, but later want to back out? Would there be some system for a later vote? And what if we back out too soon, as a result, leaving a country destabilized?

BTW, I don't think this would require a draft.

Overall, I think I like the concepts, but I'm not sure if it's feasible.
 

Gavik

Registered Member
#3
At least the way the military works now, there's a fairly wide range of pay. An E-1 with less than 2 years of service makes $1447 per month. An E-7 with over 16 years experience makes $3970 per month (I get the impression that E-7s still readily see combat duty. I'm less sure when you get much higher than that). So would the factory owner make $17364 per year? Or $47640? (Technically, those numbers are higher for Combat pay, and they're tax free for the soldiers in combat, and soldiers also get Basic Allowance for Housing sometimes).
No idea, and that's why the specifics are shaky when they're even present. Perhaps an average of enlisted mens' salary, though to be honest specific wages isn't a huge issue right now.

Would the factory owner then get access to the GI Bill and Tuition Assistance? That's an important financial incentive soldiers get. Of course, many CEOs already have a Masters (or more), so maybe they get the equivalent in pay? And what about the signing bonuses that soldiers get - which vary from year to year, and vary depending on what your military job is? How do you handle that?
Presumably no, since they own the factories already. It's meant to bring the effects of war directly to them, not simply pay everyone the same.

Would we impose these restrictions of industry on all military spending? Look at Boeing - if we only impose it during wartime, they'll just make most of the fighter jets before we get into the war.
A government that would adopt this policy would most likely have a very small peace time defense budget, so far fewer planes/other war things would be ordered.

If you impose those restrictions all the time, then many companies would suffer drastically. Boeing still makes civilian planes. But I read an article recently about a mom & pop type store near Ft Lewis that did uniform alterations/sewing/etc. They went out of business (ironically in large part because of the war - a lot of their customers were overseas). Small businesses can be risky enough as it is; limiting their profits so drastically could cripple them.
The solutions are aimed at large industry. America is broke largely due to a military industrial complex that pushes overpriced, unnecessary weapons on their bought and paid for politicians. Small businesses such as what you described would be an exception as they have no such influence.

Also, it seems likely that lowering the maximum profits just means that they would make less planes/ammo/etc. They would charge the same amount per plane, but would just have to stop selling planes once they'd reached their legal maximum. So then what would the military do?
The cost of manufacturing would still be paid in full by the government. However, the price of the weapons would be sold for just a fraction above whatever it cost to produce since only profits would be cut.

The problem with voting for the war is that voting tends to take a long time. It would still be a matter of politicians trying to sell the war to the soldiers. And what happens if the soldiers agree to the war at first, but later want to back out? Would there be some system for a later vote? And what if we back out too soon, as a result, leaving a country destabilized?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but this scenario seems to relate to an Gulf War 2 style war. If this system worked, such wars would never be waged to begin with. Only wars of pure defense - cases where an organized army launches an attack against the country.

BTW, I don't think this would require a draft.
It's a mechanism that would force people to be directly involved and care.
 

Wade8813

Registered Member
#4
A government that would adopt this policy would most likely have a very small peace time defense budget, so far fewer planes/other war things would be ordered.
Well, depending on how the law was put into effect, people would find loopholes.

The solutions are aimed at large industry. America is broke largely due to a military industrial complex that pushes overpriced, unnecessary weapons on their bought and paid for politicians. Small businesses such as what you described would be an exception as they have no such influence.
Is there some way to prevent some companies from just creating small sub-companies, as a loophole? Or to prevent them from suing over what seems like a very illegal practice?

The cost of manufacturing would still be paid in full by the government. However, the price of the weapons would be sold for just a fraction above whatever it cost to produce since only profits would be cut.
But since the maximums are against their profit per month/year/whatever, they would just charge full price and make less of them, rather than charge a reduced price and make less profit per unit.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this scenario seems to relate to an Gulf War 2 style war. If this system worked, such wars would never be waged to begin with. Only wars of pure defense - cases where an organized army launches an attack against the country.
Not necessarily - soldiers might back out for other reasons, such as if they feel it's not going well, or drags on too long, or whatever.

It's a mechanism that would force people to be directly involved and care.
A draft might be helpful, but I don't think it's necessary.