Why do we go to war?

Since the beginning of mankind, leaders have urged their citizens into war with words of righteous goals. Usually it is to right a terrible wrong. Here in the United States we like to say that we fight other nations because we have a responsibility to bring democracy to the suffering people of the world. Iraq? Afghanistan? We’re helping them establish a peaceful democracy and making life better for their citizens.

Did you ever wonder: If that’s true, then why aren’t we invading places such as North Korea? Those poor people live under a dictatorship that starves them both literally and metaphorically. Or how about all the other places around the world that are potential democratic states? Why are we doing nothing for Darfur?  What about Haiti? It’s close by, and it’s such a small nation — we could invade and pump in some good old American democracy in a fraction of the time — and money — that we’ve spent in Iraq.

And here’s what the World Bank says about Haiti:

During the summer of 2004, with only 20% of the Haitian roads passable and 10% of its population having access to electricity, Haiti’s interim government is targeting roads, ports and airports for immediate rehabilitation. In addition, over the next two months, it plans to double electricity services in Port-au-Prince to 12 hours per day. Long-range plans call for 50% of the population nationwide to have electricity by 2013.

The country’s principal health indicators are alarming:

  • Average Lifespan: 53 years
  • Infant Mortality Rate: 80 deaths per 1,000 births
  • Medical personnel attend to one-quarter of births
  • HIV/AIDS affects 5% of the population

Historically, a large portion of the population has been excluded from the political process. This has led to internal division and conflict which has hampered development efforts. The fragile socio-economic situation and rampant poverty confirm the need to establish local administrative centers and enable people to participate in decision-making.

Sounds like the perfect place to help a democracy take foot, if you ask me. Except, there’s also this:

  • Export commodities:  apparel, manufactures, oils, cocoa, mangoes, coffee
  • Oil reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)

You see, other than the occasional cheap garment, they’ve got nothing we want. The ugly truth is, we only spread democracy to people who happen to live in a land with natural resources — number one being oil.

How much oil reserve does Iraq have?

  • Iraq: 115 billion bbl (1 January 2009 est.)

We know this, of course, but we forget. We get caught up in the patriotic rhetoric. We want to believe out cause is noble and selfless, but every once in a while we need to stop and question the real reasons behind our mission. Our friend Sara over at the always insightful Suburban Lesbian Housewife wrote an excellent post recently about a visit she made to the memorial to the Arizona battleship in Pearl Harbor. Sara wrote:

I was stunned by the indifference, the laughter and the chatting at the memorial. Maybe I was raised differently, maybe all those battlegrounds I visited as a small child, mostly just fields, described in hushed voices made me more sensitive to the countless lives lost.

We were the greatest nation in the greatest war, most say of WWII. The truth is, we avoided entering the conflict as long as possible. The truth is, we fought Japan over natural resources- and they attacked us because we cut off their oil supply. Even as they slaughtered people in China, we sent them oil. It wasn’t until the Pacific islands came into question- rich with resources- did we get nervous.

There are some who say we knew about the concentration camps and turned a blind eye, not willing to enter the fight.

We are still at war over oil. Watching the small bubbles expand into a hue of bright colors on the water, I wondered what we have learned. Nine years into a war, what have we learned? We can say we care about Afghan’s women and girls, Iraq’s democracy but it’s all bullshit.

We care about the oil.

On the back of each ticket for the Arizona memorial, there is a serviceman, his picture and his story on the day of the attack. How will we remember the men and women who have lost their lives in this war? Where will their stories be told?

Or have we gone so numb we point to a grave and say, “Boat” to our children?

Have you gone numb?



  1. It takes a disaster to pump money into Haiti.

    I have been contemplating your question since this post. Numb is not how I would describe my feelings, especially concerning obtuse respect of a memorial. It is more a frustration. Frustration of our government’s disregard to humanity. War, occupation of other countries (i.e. bully), global warming, education, health care… I feel we are on a downward spiral. It seems as if other countries know this of us and are shaking their heads. The individuals in charge here are putting band-aids on the problems and the individuals with real solutions are not given a voice. The frustration is borne out of the feeling that money only talks; not values, not character and surely, not what is right. I believe that Obama was elected because the people of this country were ready for someone to have the balls to stand up and do what is right. Band-aids, not solutions, equal frustration for me and I am tired of fighting the ignorance and greed.

  2. The news from Haiti breaks my heart. And because we have ignored the suffering in our own backyard, this country has been even less prepared to sustain the damage than it could have been. This is a country that has been successfully working toward a peaceful and stable government, but we’ve given it not much more than lip service because it has nothing we want.

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