Periscope Depth

I’m so sorry but the motorcade will have to go around me this time


Is there any cheaper source of gravitas than saying, “Strangers must be dispatched to kill foreigners” with a slight frown? You never need to put your money where your mouth is, shouldering a rifle and volunteering for the next troop ship. You don’t even need to shake a tin cup for Liberty Bonds anymore. You don’t need to document that you’ve weighed the costs and benefits; you don’t even need to suggest that you’ve considered them. War is serious business (what with the dying and all); ergo, the people who advocate for War are serious people.

Occasionally I see a writer lament that the pundits who were wrong about the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, and NATO’s mission in Libya still have jobs. But we will never run out of these people! If I want to establish myself as a respectable expert in any other profession, I have to dress well and make credible arguments and sink some time in the farm leagues and work my way up to the C-suite, the keynote speaker, the honored emeritus. Not so in foreign policy! I can propose war as a solution to any crisis and be given a platform. I can suggest war with one of the U.S.’s largest trading partners, with a stagnating, homophobic kleptocracy, or with our nearest neighbor, and do no worse than a Sunday op-ed column. Hell, I can suggest war to resolve crises that were caused by the last war I suggested. Not only will my fellow panelists on Face the Nation not hold that against me, it would be considered gauche to bring it up!

The only reason this strikes me as funny is because, in literally every other field of human endeavor, ruinous violence is seen as the least serious reaction. A coworker badmouths me in a meeting, so I break into her office and shit on her desk, and I am (with cause) prescribed medication. A driver cuts me off in traffic, so I ram his car into the concrete barrier and slam his head in the door when he staggers out, and I am not applauded for defending my honor. But twenty men kill a hundred people in Paris and injure hundreds more, and of course NATO is going to invade Syria. There is no other sensible response. We’re not children.

(See also: “But what about World War 2?“)