The phony Wars on anything and everything

Every time I look around the internets. It seems that a person or a group has declared that a series of events constitutes a “War on (insert noun here)”.
When I further look into the series of events, I find that in some cases it is not even a series of connected events, and in some cases it is a production of fevered imagination rather than analysis.
When the word “war” starts to be used in a conversation, I get worried, unless there is really a war. War involves an existential struggle for survival by nations or allies against a common enemy. The choice is usually fairly binary – win or be eliminated.
None of the current “wars” meet that criterion. Some of them do not even belong in the same continent as that criterion. War On Poverty? Yes, poverty is a pervasive issue, and the less poverty the better. However, the existence of the USA is not contingent on winning a war on poverty. (If it was, we would probably not be hearing people pissing and moaning about the money that the USA disburses in foreign aid every year).
War On Drugs? We know how that is panning out. Billions of dollars spent every year, drugs still available at all levels of society, and entire nations under the control of narco-terrorists whose existence is fuelled by drug revenues. One would think that the USA had learned the lessons of Prohibition, but it seems not.
War on Religion in the US? Nope. Pointing out to a segment of the population that they are not uniquely privileged, and that they do not get to direct how others should live their lives, is not persecution, as people claim. The United States is the most-religion friendly country I have ever been in. Anybody can start a religion or a cult here (see Hubbard, L. Ron). The tax advantages alone make it a worthwhile endeavor.
One thing I learned a long time ago is that privileged groups in societies do not like (a) being reminded of their privilege, they think it is normal, and (b) they react to any attempt to reduce or eliminate their privilege as if it is an existential threat. Hence the massive amount of light heat and sound being generated as obvious events like the granting of marriage rights to people of all sexual orientations are allowed by the legal system. None of this rises to the level of a war on either side.
Now we have the War On Coal. Apparently, the existence of whole areas of the USA is threatened by this evil phenomenon.
The War On Coal is a classic example of a strawman. It implies the existence of groups plotting to eliminate the use of coal from the world, by any means possible, including violence. This is nonsense. Yes, there are a whole collection of groups who would like to see coal usage dramatically reduced. This is because coal is an environment pollutant. Coal mines leave spoil heaps, pollute streams and rivers, and disfigure the landscape. Burning coal also releases pollution into the atmosphere. However, campaigning in favor of reduced coal usage is not a war. It’s being conducted peacefully without recourse to weapons of destruction. To people living in areas where coal extraction is an employer, it might feel and look like a war, since there are communities that may exist in their current form only because of coal extraction. However, that by itself does not justify the “war” label. The move away from coal is occurring mostly because other sources of power such as natural gas are cheaper and easier to use, and create less pollution. Renewable energy sources are also becoming more important.
There is an inherent romanticism in man working on, in and under the land and sea. It is what permits many governments to disburse billions every year in farming and other agricultural and industrial subsidies. There is also a sound electoral imperative driving the subsidies. These industries are labor-intensive, so perpetuating them keeps people employed, expanding them always creates employment, and politicians are always sensitive to the idea that they should create jobs, even if those jobs are economically non-viable. In the UK, governments subsidized losses from extractive and smoke-stack industries for decades (principally the coal and steel industries), until the truth dawned that those activities were never going to be economic in the modern economic climate in the UK, and the coal mines and steel plants were closed. It was a disruptive series of events, with significant ongoing social consequences, but it was not a war.
War tends to result in all manner of destructive activities. Most importantly, it leads to a mindset that the end justifies the means. When the end is pure survival, that makes sense. In a kill-or-be-killed scenario, legal niceties disappear. However, if the end is merely some societal evolution or improvement, any extra-judicial (or illegal) measures adopted to assure a favorable outcome by the government or authorities soon cease to look justified, and start to look like state-sponsored abuse of the legal process, which is what has been happening in the War On Drugs. It has also happened in the War On Terrorism (which, as the grammar experts have pointed out, is an even sillier construct, since it is waging war on an abstract noun). The PATRIOT Act, nodded into existence in the dark days following 9/11, drove a coach and horses through all manner of protections in the Constitution against government overreach. We The People allowed this to happen, because we failed to learn the first rule of responding to Terrorism – Do Not Allow Yourself To Be Terrorised. We also, in our fear and loathing, made the fundamental mistake of treating all dissent as disloyalty, a monumentally stupid trap that ensured that any dissenters could be dismissed using almost exactly the same language that Hermann Goering divulged in his post-war Nuremberg interrogation. In that context, describing attempts to eliminate ISIS as a “war on ISIS” is yet more extravagantly useless framing. There is no publicly available evidence that ISIS currently poses an existential threat to the USA. As an organization built on the principles of asymmetrical warfare, classical military responses are not the answer in any case, unless the USA wants to enter the genocide business.
Re-framing every campaign for improvement in the world as a “War on XXX” is a dangerous and juvenile approach to problem-solving. It trivializes real war, which is a horrible and messy event, and it allows all manner of actors to justify actions and tactics which are not only ineffective, but in many cases, illegal and damaging to the perceptions of fairness expected of authorities and legal frameworks. In short, these phony wars bring both governments and the law into disrepute.


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