World War: It's Not a Bug, It's a Feature
it's not just kings and princes that like war
If you are a Schmittian, and think that politics is all about demolishing the enemy — any enemy — you start to look upon our magnificent educated ruling class in a different way.
When you start to think of government not as a beneficent Oz, but as the scourge of its enemies, the world looks different. At least it does to me.
Because then you start to think that the job of government is not to preside over a land flowing with milk and honey — not that there is anything wrong with that.
No, you start to realize that the only thing that matters to a politician or a king or dictator or anyone in politics is making war on the enemy.
Now, of course, we have all been taught to believe that the old days of tribal warfare and quarreling kings is over. Today we are ruled by enlightened and educated people who rise above the petty squabbling of the kings of old.
But if the analysis of Carl Schmitt is correct then nothing has changed. Political leaders, whoever they are, still need an enemy. They need an enemy because the fear of the enemy is in the human genes; they need an enemy because otherwise we don’t need government; they need an enemy because otherwise what do we need all those taxes for?
And so I have come to believe that the need for politicians to find an enemy is greater today than formerly. In the old days any fool could understand that unless we protected our food-growing territory from the dastardly tribe next door, our own tribe was doomed. And that truth obtained, let us say, right up until the modern industrial era. Back then almost all humans were involved in growing and consuming their own food. Today, we just buy food.
So I say that modern governments have to seek out and demonize the enemy in a new and intensive way that was inconceivable in the olden time.
Let us say that the break occurs with the French Revolution. In the olden time a monarch like Frederick the Great of Prussia could have his nice little wars over Silesia. But the first thing that happened after the French Revolution was a war that consumed all of Europe. It ranged from the lines of Torres Vedras in the approaches to Lisbon in the west, to the gates of Moscow in the east, to India in the southeast, and Egypt in the south. It was war on a global scale never before experienced on this planet.
In fact, I would argue, all of the wars since the French Revolution take the characteristic of a World War, a total mobilization of human societies that experience themselves in existential peril unless they act now.
So let’s call the Napoleonic wars, World War Napoleon.
World War Napoleon was such fun that eager beavers soon came up with another threat. It was capitalism, the economic system that accompanied the industrial revolution and its rapid increase in prosperity. But whatabout the workers? wouldn’t they be immiserated by greedy capitalists?
Let’s have a World War Workers to save the workers from a fate worse than death.
And if we are going to save the workers, whatabout the African slaves in Brazil and the southern United States?
Let’s have World War Negro, to free the slaves and then, in due course, give them civil rights, and then brand them as permanent victims of the foul racists of the world.
Slaves are all right, but whatabout women, oppressed since the dawn of time by the patriarchy. Only one thing suits.
World War Patriarchy.
Then we get to the 20th century and the hegemony of the educated class. What happens?
First off, the first world war. Was it all the fault of the German Kaiser, or was it France and Britain and Russia feeling threatened by a united Second Reich that was rapidly industrializing?
Let’s call it World War Kaiser.
Then, after a punitive Treaty of Versailles, Germany was humiliated and burdened with reparations. But a veteran of World War Kaiser promised to end that humiliation and restore Germany to its rightful place among the nations and unite all the German-speaking peoples together. It ended in another World War.
Let's call it World War Hitler.
After World War Hitler the victorious powers imposed another punitive peace on Germany, and the victorious Russia imposed its Communist system on eastern Germany and the rest of Eastern Europe. The western nations of Europe and the United States felt threatened by the Russian Soviet Union. Another World War got started, but this one a Cold War without actual conflict between the principals, but plenty of military campaigns on the periphery.
Let’s call it World War Commie.
Of course, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire in eastern Europe there was a need for a new war to keep the educated rulers on their toes. And the threat now was the Islamic Middle East, grown powerful on oil money, and unhappy at playing second fiddle to the western industrial democracies. Clearly the oil kingdoms needed to be taught a lesson, in the Iraq wars, the occupation of Afghanistan and sanctions against Iran.
Let’s call the troubles in the Middle East World War Islam.
Really, war against second tier nations doesn’t really provide the total commitment from the leaders and the led that are needed when an enemy is required. So the leaders of the western world have discovered a new existential peril: climate change caused by the use of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. There is a danger, scientists agree, that temperatures may spiral upwards out of control. Only an all-hands effort to transition to clean energy can save the world.
Let’s call the war on fossil fuels World War Climate.
Whatabout the existential peril of disease, a global pandemic? Good point, so let’s shut down the world economy to stop transmission of a suspicious virus, SARS-CoV-2, or COVID for short.
Let’s call the war on COVID World War COVID.
But even a war on climate and a war on a virus are not enough to satisfy our leaders. They need a war on the middle class, and what better reason for war than the age-old oppression of gays, lesbians, and transgenders.
There’s only one solution: World War LGBT.
There is only one remaining question, and it is an old one that goes back to the question of how many angels fit on the head of a pin.
How many World Wars can fit into the 21st Century? Your guess is as good as mine.