War is a racket

Book review of War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier by General Smedley D. Butler

We open our scene in a seedy pub in a disreputable south-east Asian city.  I’m not the kind guy who just sits around and drinks all day but for two or three days that’s what I’ve been doing, justifying myself on the grounds that I’m meeting some interesting people, and that I feel like it.

This long-haired ginga yank comes in and we get talking, he’s ex-marine, was in Iraq II but eventually quit that life, moved abroad, got himself a foreign bride and some halfie kids and now lives on less that 15 grand a year out in the burbs.  Not a dirty old man like most of them there, just my age.  Maybe even a bit younger.

He seems pretty cool and I ask him what I’m wondering, which is: how do you feel about that whole war now, in hindsight?

He looks at his hands for a while but when he answers it doesn’t sound like he just thought of it, more like he’s thought about it long and hard and already has it figured out.

“It was all bullshit.”

He tells me some stories about how the locals he worked with hated rival tribes who were supposed to be on the same side, and how when he told them he needed to go over to the others to fix their radios, his offsider would say, “Fine!  And while you’re there, tell them I spit on them!”

I ask him why he thinks the US got into it in the first place.

“Because people made money out of it.”  Then he recommended – no, repeatedly insisted I read this book, so I did.

General Butler is not the first person in history to suggest that war is a racket.  He may, though, be one of the finest warriors to ever say it: at the time of writing in the 1930s he was America’s most decorated soldier, having been awarded two congressional medals of honor and a distinguished service medal.

This is no dribbling hippie ranting and raving.  This is a man one would expect to be extolling martial virtue.  But as he demonstrates over and over in this very short book, war is a scam from start to finish.

It’s not necessarily about the oil, which they didn’t get much out of Iraq I or II anyway, nor about territory, but it sometimes is, or about scoring political points, though that can come into it, too.  Rather, Butler explains that big business makes YUGE profits in wartime by winning military supply contracts, sometimes to both sides.

Big business loves, loves, loves war.  They make the gains but do not suffer the costs.

Until 1898 we didn’t own a bit of territory outside the mainland of North America.  At that time our national debt was a little more than $1,000,000,000.  Then we became “internationally minded.”  We forgot, or shunted aside, the advice of the Father of our country.  We forgot George Washington’s warning about “entangling alliances.”  We went to war.  We acquired outside territory.  At the end of the World War period, as a direct result of our fiddling in international affairs, our national debt had jumped to over $25,000,000,000 . . .  It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements . . . the cost of operations is always transferred to the people – who do not profit.

And how big are these profits for the war-mongers?

The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten and sometimes twelve percent.  But war-time profits – ah! that is another matter – twenty, sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent – the sky is the limit.  All that traffic will bear.  Uncle Sam has the money.  Let’s get it.

Normally consumers will carefully dole out their money where they might get the most benefit.  When governments are pursuing war, (a) they are spending others’ money like sailors on shore leave in Subic Bay and (b) they think that any price will be worth victory as they imagine they are fighting for some noble good, like freedom or peace or security.  So you get situations like these:

International Nickel Company – and you can’t have a war without nickel – showed an increase in profits from a mere average of $4,000,000 a year to $73,000,000 yearly.  Not bad?

And he provides dozens more examples.

The costs, meanwhile, are borne by killed, maimed or maddened soldiers, by their suffering families, by future taxpayers.  Never by patriotic outfits like the International Nickel Company.

Butler proposes a few remedies.  First, he suggests, we should not just conscript soldiers but also bankers and executives, just for their services in funding and outfitting the war effort, and at the same rate – $30 a month.  Would they then be so keen on the wars?  It’s one of those ideas too beautiful to ever see the light of day.

Another of his proposals is a plebiscite to decide whether a given war should be fought, voted upon only by men of fighting age.  Unlikely, given that in the US the President is already supposed to get Congressional approval for wars and rarely bothers, and that in other western countries various checks and balances also fall flat on their faces during wartime.

Finally, Butler suggests that navy ships not be allowed more than 200 miles from the coast, and planes 500 miles for reconnaissance.  For those weak in geography, that would not put them within cooee of Iraq, Iran, North Korea, or even Haiti.  Again, a great idea that would never happen.  To those claiming all sorts of terrible things would happen if a major power limited itself so – how about Japan?  Their military is tightly limited and has done bugger-all for decades and they’re all right.  They are protected by the US, but don’t need to be.  They could build a nuke in a few weeks and the ChiComs know it.

As for ideology:

. . . what business is it of ours whether Russia or Germany or England or France or Italy or Austria live under democracies or monarchies?  Whether they are Fascists or Communists?  Our problem is to preserve our own democracy.

Or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Syria, or Libya, or Vietnam, or Venezuela, or . . .

Butler doesn’t spare other countries in his analysis: in all of them, cynical companies profit one way or another by spurring them on into conflict.  He only seeks to convince his own nation to withdraw from the whole bloody mess.

He’s right, but what difference does it make?  The US seems stuck in a state of permanent, and very expensive, warfare.  It cannot extricate itself from a conflict, and even if it does it will have already got itself stuck in another two in the meantime.  The western allies follow her lead.  China seems to want in.  No doubt CCP-affiliated arms companies stand to make a killing, and they’ve a glut of young men they need to get rid of anyway.

If, for a century, the woken man has known that war is a racket, how is it we keep on getting into them?  The best answer I can find is: people are stupid.  Just tell them the other guys are evil, hate our values, want to destroy our way of life, and that is enough to get 40% of the population on board for starters.  Another 30% will be skeptical but unwilling to be so unpatriotic as to argue against their own nation in a time of war – Support the Troops! – so they reluctantly go along with it.  The threat of ostracism will quieten down most of the rest and hey presto!  Shock and Awe will turn the Greater Middle East into a freedom-loving, trannie-worshipping, Israel-supporting, yoga-pants wearing bunch of latte-sipping Atlantic readers within a week or so.  A month at the outside.

Trust us.


  1. dickycone · April 13, 2019

    “The US seems stuck in a state of permanent, and very expensive, warfare. It cannot extricate itself from a conflict, and even if it does it will have already got itself stuck in another two in the meantime. The western allies follow her lead. China seems to want in. No doubt CCP-affiliated arms companies stand to make a killing, and they’ve a glut of young men they need to get rid of anyway.”

    This describes every empire that’s ever existed. Every country, really. Tolstoy thought the course of history was inevitable, impossible for even major players like Napoleon to change. Machiavelli observed that all nations are in a constant state of dominating or being dominated by other nations. I suppose the reason is that people are evil and stupid, as you point out. It will always be this way while human beings are in charge. It’s our nature, and this world is Satan’s kingdom. The only hope for real change is a benevolent dictatorship under Jesus Christ some day.


  2. Pingback: Obvious false flag is obvious | SovietMen

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