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War is an extraordinarily inefficient vehicle for humanitarianism


Classic moments in “your point being?”

Rothman’s tweet has the same energy as Antonin Scalia saying that we’ll be sorry that the Supreme Court ruled that bans on sodomy are unconstitutional because it will also mean that bans on masturbation will be ruled unconstitutional.

It is unusual for a neocon to state things this baldly, however, because if you compare the cost of the Forever War to the cost of virtually any other legitimate government activity is becomes obvious that the alternative is vastly superior. The “humanitarian” case for war always rests on not comparing the costs of war to other things that could be done with the money, whether at home or abroad:

My heart breaks for the suffering we will leave behind in Afghanistan. But we do not know how to fix Afghanistan. We failed in that effort so completely that we ended up strengthening the Taliban. We should do all we can to bring American citizens and allies home. But if we truly care about educating girls worldwide, we know how to build schools and finance education. If we truly care about protecting those who fear tyranny, we know how to issue visas and admit refugees. If we truly care about the suffering of others, there is so much we could do. Only 1 percent of the residents of poor countries are vaccinated against the coronavirus. We could change that. More than 400,000 people die from malaria each year. We could change that, too.

“I want America more forward-deployed, but I want it through a massive international financing arm and a massive renewable energy arm,” Senator Murphy told me. “That’s the United States I want to see spread across the world — not the face of America today that’s by and large arms sales, military trainers and brigades.”

The choice we face is not between isolationism and militarism. We are not powerful enough to achieve the unachievable. But we are powerful enough to do far more good, and far less harm, than we do now.

Of course, the problem with widespread distribution of malaria nets is that it doesn’t provide a big payout to defense contractors or allow people to act like they’re fighting for the Republican Army against Franco from their keyboards.


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