Warfare has been going on ever since the first group of cavemen took clubs in hand and attacked neighbors who were (pick one or more): a. poaching their game; b. infiltrating their caves; c. stealing their women.
Every generation has people who condemn warfare, bemoan the human and economic cost, as well as the ridiculousness and immorality of it. Of course, every generation also has people who claim we must fight to preserve our liberty, even if this means killing people who are thousands of miles away and of no obvious threat to the aggressors. Guess who has their way.
The hawks are usually old men and women who have the authority to send young men and women to do their fighting and dying. This reminds me of an epigram I wrote:
The old men send the young to die in war,
but if the roles were reversed, what then the score?
Modern technology has made warfare deadlier and a lot louder than it used to be. Let’s focus on the noise aspect for a moment.
At the age of 18 I was required by law to register for Selective Service (ID 308838474). In the spring of 1960, fresh out of college, I was classified I-A, which meant I was subject to being drafted for a two-year term of duty. Not wanting to spend two years in the army, I enlisted in the army reserve (ID BR19666125, 63d Infantry Division).
I had a six-year obligation, during which I attended weekly meetings and went to two weeks of summer camp each year at Camp Roberts, California. I was on active duty for six months of the six years. I went through basic training at Fort Ord in Monterey, California (since closed).
During basic training I learned to fire an M-1 rifle. I lost part of my hearing from the noise. My hearing has deteriorated since then, and I have worn hearing aids for a dozen years. If I had been forced to go into combat, I wouldn’t have lasted a day because I would have gone deaf. If I could have demonstrated my sensitivity to noise before enlisting, I would have been classified IV-F and avoided the military altogether.
My point is this: If everybody were as sensitive to noise as I am, warfare would be different than it is. It would be a lot quieter. Perhaps we would still be using spears and bows and arrows. However deadly these weapons are, they are far less destructive than guns and bombs—to humans and to property. They also have a range of yards rather than miles. The cost per casualty would be higher.
Methods of warfare are adapted to the capabilities of the participants. We aren’t going to get rid of war. People have been trying to do that for thousands of years with no success. But what if it became less destructive and less efficient—and more costly? If the cost to produce the same results in casualties was higher, people might have less incentive to fight, especially since someone said all wars are economic in nature.
Anyway, you’d think this would be the case. Well, warfare is becoming a lot more expensive and less efficient, at least for developed countries. The cost per casualty is skyrocketing. We have to pay our troops more and give them expensive hi-tech equipment. The enemy hides and has to be rooted out, one soldier at a time. Meanwhile, they leave booby traps that kill our troops in which we have invested a fortune. Not to mention the human cost.
In spite of the enormous cost, we go on fighting. Instead of cost-benefit analysis, we get hysterical rhetoric about preserving our freedom. Continuous warfare has helped create a national debt in the U.S. that will never be paid off. It may reduce us from a superpower to a third world country. What will become of the freedom we are supposedly fighting for then?