Sunday, May 29, 2011

War as Theft by Louis Evan Palmer

It is instructive and eye-opening to view war as theft. That is, to consider that theft is its main purpose. War being more than a few armed skirmishes but not necessarily on a massive scale. As Gwyn Dyer pointed out in his book "War", long-duration low-intensity attacks can tally up to substantial losses over long spans of time like 10-20+ years. In some cases, almost permanent war.

The acquisitive side of war manifests itself in things done to avoid it like the paying of tribute or taxes or the giving of gifts or hostages or slaves or goods. It can appear as the right of passage through territory or across a river or over a mountain pass. It might seem like less than what a war victory might deliver but it would be quicker and cheaper than war and given the potential destruction of goods and people in a serious war, it's likely that there would be more wealth and property to apportion as well.

So, if we see or pursue policies that impoverish our neighbours, we should also see that this is laying the foundation for future conflict. On the other hand, we can definitely see instances where one side will deliberately engineer a confrontation with the express purpose of appropriating wealth and property and people to itself. This is why the winner in a war should not take land and people from the losing side as it denies potential aggressors a primary motive for the war.

We can thus look at a conflict like the American War for Independence as a means for colonial leaders and ambitious followers to seize British land and houses and goods. The land in turn was seized from natives who themselves over time may have dislocated others. This highlights a risk in claiming a given stretch of lands - your claim has to be reasonable and enforceable. A small band of people can't claim a vast tract of land and expect to maintain that claim uncontested. A small band of people may not be able to even hold onto a small tract of land but that leads us into the arena of jurisprudence and our attempts throughout history to substitute means other than war is settling disputes. Especially, but least successfully, regarding territory and people.

Using theft as our barometer, the wars in Iraq and Libya are attempts to steal oil. The war in Afghanistan's purpose is to steal rare elements and a right-of-way. And there are also wars to neutalize those who might stand in the way of our thefts and planned thefts. "Thou shall not steal", "Thou shall not lie" and "Thou shall not kill" are straight-forward commandments but we can't seem to follow them for any length of time.

War as Theft, Louis Evan Palmer, The Way It Can Be, http:/
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Copyright 2011 Louis Evan Palmer lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications.