War Is A Racket – General Smedley Darlington Buttler

Smedley Darlington Buttler

Smedley Darlington Buttler

About General Butler from Wikipedia:

Smedley Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940), nicknamed “The Fighting Quaker” and “Old Gimlet Eye”, was a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America during the Banana Wars, the Caribbean and during World War I, he served in France. By the end of his career he had received 16 medals, five of which were for heroism. He is one of 19 people to be twice awarded the Medal of Honor, one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor, and the only person to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.

In addition to his military achievements, he served as the Director of Public Safety in Philadelphia for two years and was an outspoken critic of U.S. military adventurism. In his 1935 book War is a Racket, he described the workings of the military-industrial complex and, after retiring from service, became a popular speaker at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists and church groups in the 1930s.

Excerpts from his book “War is a Racket”

“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China  in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

Here is a re-enactment of a speech he gave.

Afghanistan, the Graveyard of Empires – Really?

AfghanistanIt is sometimes claimed that Afghanistan is the ‘graveyard of empires’ and as a justification of why this is so, one usually hears that this was because no occupying power had ever ‘won’ in Afghanistan, or something similiar. The examples that are normally given to make that case are the Soviet Union and the British Empire. So let’s takle them first.

I realise that is not a scientific work, but nevertheless is quite conclusive as to whether the above claim holds any water. In short, it does not.

a) The Soviet Union (1917-1991)

In an 2009 article on the BBC website named “Reform, Coup and Collapse: The End of the Soviet State”, Professor Archie Brown writes (emphasis mine):

The Soviet Union on the eve of Gorbachev’s perestroika (reconstruction) had serious political and economic problems. Technologically, it was falling behind not only Western countries but also the newly industrialised countries of Asia. Its foreign policy evinced a declining capacity to win friends and influence people. Yet there was no political instability within the country, no unrest, and no crisis. This was not a case of economic and political crisis producing liberalisation and democratisation. Rather, it was liberalisation and democratisation that brought the regime to crisis point. There were five interconnected transformations in the last years of the Soviet Union which are too often conflated into one ‘collapse’ or ‘implosion’. It is especially important to distinguish between the dismantling of the communist system and the disintegration of the Soviet state, for the former preceded the latter by between two and three years.

This view is shared by others. From Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

East-West tensions increased during the first term of U.S. President Ronald Reagan (1981–1985), reaching levels not seen since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis as Reagan increased US military spending to 7% of the GDP.[citation needed] To match the USA’s military buildup, the Soviet Union increased its own military spending to 27% of its GDP and froze production of civilian goods at 1980 levels, causing a sharp economic decline in the already failing Soviet economy. However, it is not clear where the number 27% of the GDP came from. This thesis is not confirmed by the extensive study on the causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union by two prominent economists from the World Bank- William Easterly and Stanley Fisher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “… the study concludes that the increased Soviet defense spending provoked by Mr. Reagan’s policies was not the straw that broke the back of the Evil Empire. The Afghan war and the Soviet response to Mr. Reagan’s Star Wars program caused only a relatively small rise in defense costs. And the defense effort throughout the period from 1960 to 1987 contributed only marginally to economic decline.[2]

In my view, it’s thus safe to conclude that the Afghanistan War (1979- 1989) was not the cause of the demise of the Soviet Union. It was a combination of factors other than the war that brought the Soviet Union down.

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