To understand why countries engage in warfare, it’s important to understand the ideas that lead to this kind of thinking and behavior. Today, Connor and Brittany discuss the ten deadly ideas that lead to war.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi, Connor.
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: So, foreign policy is an issue we’ve talked about quite a bit, I think, on this show. Even more so lately with everything going on in Afghanistan. And I’d like to hope that by the time this airs, everything will be solved but it’s been, what, 20 years, and actually it’s been hundreds of years. I don’t think that’s gonna happen, unfortunately. But war, you know, is very destructive when it comes to protecting our individual liberty. And it’s war is a racket, as we’ve said many times. So in the next episode, we’re gonna start diving into the world wars. But before we do that, I wanna talk about, this thing called the 10 Deadly Ideas that Lead to War. I’m a huge fan of this guy, Richard Mayberry. You know, he, you know, you’ve read some of his books.
Connor: Yeah. He writes the whatever happened to Penny Candy. Yes. Uncle Eric Justice. Yeah,
Brittany: The Uncle Eric, series. It’s really cool cuz he writes as if he and his nephew were like pen pals. And so he writes like you’d ever read what his nephew says, but he’s responding as if his nephew’s asked questions about all sorts of stuff. So he has this great series. Again, it’s for probably a little bit older kids, I’d say maybe 10 and older. Yeah. Tackles a lot of complex topics, you know, foreign policy, economics. But he has a great book about World War I that I actually read as an adult and I don’t think I ever understood it more than I did when I read that. So great books for all ages. But he introduces this whole thing about what he calls the 10 Deadly Ideas that Lead to War. And today I wanna run through some of these ideas. There’s one we’re gonna skip over just cuz it’s, kind of a restatement of the other one, but, all right. So let’s just jump into that. and I’ll link to the book for if listeners wanna check out more detail. So let’s start with the first one, which is something I learned about from this book. It’s called the Pax Romana. I think it’s Romana is how you would say it. So let’s break down this word a little bit. Pax is actually the Latin word for peace. So you’ve just learned a new Latin word, which is exciting. And Romana is shocking Rome. So there is this myth that they call the Pax Ramana that, basically says that for two centuries, beginning in 31 BC so a long time ago, that the Roman Empire just had this like complete peace. Nobody was fighting with each other, everything was peaceful. And it was all because they had this big powerful government that kept everybody in line. And because of that big, strong government, like everyone lived in peace. And I think you, Connor, and our listeners probably know enough to know that strong central governments are not, usually the most peaceful. In fact, they’re usually the ones that get us into war. So this thing that Mayberry talks about, he’s like, it just didn’t happen. Like there’s this myth and a lot of historians wouldn’t perpetuate it, and it just didn’t happen. So during this time, there was actually extreme tyranny and assassinations of all sorts of different political leaders. Or every time somebody was scared of someone else, there was a lot of, rebellions, there was a lot of civil wars and foreign wars. Yet this, you know, this big lie continues that this thing happened. And this caused many European countries to push the narrative that we need strong central governments because it’s through strong central governments that you know, that you get peace. It’s almost, what is the thing, it’s either in V for Vendetta or 1984 where it’s like unity through peace, peace through strength, or whatever it is.
Connor: Yeah. 1984 by George Orwell.
Brittany: Yes, that’s right. Where it just kind of, it’s this belief that you know, if you just listen to your government, then everything will be fine.
Connor: The second idea I think is kind of connected to that. You mentioned a kind of collectivism and so forth, and it’s this, the second deadly idea that leads to war is fascism. So what is fascism? It’s kind of a funny word.Now you have groups called Antifa, which is like anti-fascism, which is kind of odd because they kind of become fascist themselves.
Brittany: So they are fascist.
Connor: It’s like the Patriot Act that isn’t really patriotic. You, get these names that sometimes is like you were just saying with George Orwell mean the opposite. so what is fascism? Well, fascism is centralized authority. It’s very authoritarian, which means you have strong authority, strong, political authority, but you also have this kind of capitalist business, market system. But the government is very much kind of in control. they’re dominating everything. it really stresses the importance of like national interest over the rights of individuals. So, nationalism would be kind of a related term to fascism, where you kind of have these strong leaders who want to do things that are in the national interest. Well, of course, when you say something is in the national interest, it typically means it’s in some people’s interests, but not other people’s interests. It’s not like everyone in the country is unanimous, right? Or they all benefit the same way. but, that’s how these ideas are spread by fascists is they claim that what they’re doing is for the greater good. They’re using a kind of strong authority, they’re imposing their views on other people. and it’s this very kind of collectivist approach. And of course, when you have collectivism, when you have authoritarianism, those things lead to war. Why? Well, because you know, anyone who stands in your way, anyone who’s, preventing you from getting what you want can be branded as the enemy and can be branded, as going against your interest. And so if the fascists want a certain outcome or if they want a certain product, or they want, you know, to kind of, control and another group of people, then that’s what they’re going to do. That’s what, they deem is in their interest. And so they’re gonna move forward. And if the group they’re trying to dominate or have authority over says, yeah, no, we don’t want you to have that authority over us, then obviously that leads to conflict. That leads to war. So fascism is this kind of deadly idea that can definitely, and has in the past certainly led to war as well.
Brittany: And I’m glad you said the greater good cuz Emma and I actually just did an episode talking about the thread of the greater good. So that might be a good one to go back and listen to if you haven’t heard it already. All right. So Mayberry says, the next deadly idea is this love of political power. And this one we won’t spend a whole lot of time on. Cause I think this one is also a little bit self-explanatory. So people love power to know, what is it? Absolute power corrupts absolutely is the quote. I think it’s.
Connor: Yep, by Lord Acton.
Brittany: Yes, that’s right. By Lord Acton. And so when people get a taste of this power, or, even, and we’ll talk about this with World War I and World War II with Germany if their pride has been hurt or if they feel that they’re not getting what’s owed to them, they’re gonna seek this political power and it becomes this really weird game. What’s the game that takes like 12 hours? Is it risk? Risk, yeah. Yeah. Where it’s people like competing for power. There’s a whole board game about it. It, it’s funny even I think the most, maybe like for, well, let me back up here. So part of the reason that I am, you know, a libertarian is because I even think that if I was given power, I would probably abuse it. And so that’s why I don’t believe in one person having power because I think it’s an intoxicating thing. You know, once you get a little bit of it, you want more. So I think that’s probably one of the most obvious of the deadly ideas. I keep going to say deadly sins. I don’t know why.
Connor: They are sins as well.
Brittany: They are sins as well. That’s true. So that is the, I think third or fourth one. So Conar let you tackle the next one. Yeah.
Connor: The next one is this idea called global protection. Okay. What does that mean? Global protection. This is the idea that European countries and mostly Americans, have this belief that they can go anywhere in the world. And if they run into trouble that the military should come to rescue them. At the time we’re recording this, we’re seeing this happen in Afghanistan where all these people were left behind. There’s a lot of people who wanna send the military back into Afghanistan cuz there’s, you know, some American citizens who were there. And now the Taliban is trying to, you know, prevent them from leaving and they’re trying to harm them. And so anywhere there’s an American, for example, the military ought to, you know, go rescue them. The example that Mayberry uses comes from I believe 1975 when there was this American merchant ship, a ship carrying goods to other countries for trade. And, the ship sailed into pirate-infested waters.
Brittany: There are still pirates.
Connor: Near Asia, right? And so like, you know, we have pirates in our stories and whatever, but there are actual pirates who out on the open sea, where there is no like one country that has, you know, law over you. You’ll get them, you know, raiding your boat and stealing, you know, your stuff. And in years past and in centuries past, you would have enslavement of people. there were the barbary pirates that were very, infamous for centuries operating off kind of the north coast of Africa. And they would harass and pirate ships from Europe, all over, the seas in the European area. And primarily it was to capture people and put them into the slave trade. you know, so here you had these Africans like we think of the African slave trade where Africans were being taken to America. But for a millennium you had, you know, Africans and Muslims out there, enslaving other people, Christians, Jews, you know, everything in between. and that’s what was very popular. So in 1975, you had this merchant ship that was carrying these goods. They sailed into these pirate-infested waters. The crew was captured. And as a result of this one crew, President Ford, who was president of the United States at the time, sent in military reinforcements with Marines and navy ships coming to the rescue. You know, in the end, the crew was saved. But this came at the expense of the 42 military members who were killed and the 50 who were injured while saving them. You know, this crew, they made the decision, I mean, they were following orders, but they were taking this risk. The military came to their aid. It was this huge debacle, which means just this horrible outcome, this horrible circumstance. And, so it rests on this notion that the military should protect any American, right, or, you know, the Spanish or the French or the, you know, Italian military should protect their citizens wherever they are, anywhere around the world. as you know, your personal security detail. And this ends up making really poor decisions because why, should other taxpayers, why should soldiers have to lose their life? Cuz you made the decision to engage in risky behavior, to enter, you know, to someone other country or, pirate-infested waters, you’ve made the risk. You should bear the consequences rather than risking other people’s life to come and save you. And so that’s unfortunately, we’ve seen that lead to war as well, this notion of global protection.
Brittany: Yep, absolutely. And the next one, a lot of these kind of tie into each other. The next one you kind of mentioned, so we hear a lot when we get into foreign entanglements that we’re doing. So, and I’m saying this in Square scare codes, is to protect our interests. But the funny thing about this is no one really ever defines what those interests are. You never hear, you know, a president go, and here’s the list of our interests. You hear things like, we’re protecting our freedom, but when you go abroad to fight somebody, what does that even mean? Right? We don’t really know what those interests are. So whatever the government may believe them to be, military members are sent off to die to protect them. So protecting our interests is Mayberry’s fifth deadly idea. And the next one, we’re not gonna go and do cost externalization. We’re not gonna dive into that one. I’m gonna put some of that in the show notes because I really wanna focus on the next one, which is Manifest Destiny. So Manifest Destiny is something I remember learning about in history, but I don’t think there was even this is good, this is bad. It was just something that happened. So in 1845, an editor from New York, his name was John L. O’Sullivan, he coined this idea called Manifest Destiny. Basically, he believed that God had given the United States the right to capture and rule all the land from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. So basically because we are American, we have the right to, you know, attack and displace meaning, you know, push aside whoever was there first. And this is obviously a very dangerous idea. It’s one that continues to prevail. I think, you know, nation-building is unfortunately something America does all the time. So that’s the other Dead lady. And that’s, again, it’s something you still see and it’s so cringe.
Connor: It, it’s very cringe. It actually, as you say, these kind of tie into one another. The next one, Mayberry calls it Anglo-Saxonism. do you remember The Jungle Book? Have you ever watched that movie? Yeah, yeah. I think it was much different than the book. The book was written by Rudyard Kipling. And, it was this poem. he also wrote in, I think 1899 called The White Man’s Burden. And
Brittany: Just the title alone is like, oh, okay, we.
Connor: Yeah, I mean, you talk about cringe. Yeah. this, this poem was about the duty he called it, of white Europeans specifically, you know, like Americans, Europeans as well, to rule over people in native lands, to civilize them, to basically go to faraway islands and, you know, jungles and everything else. Find these ignorant people and civilize them and rule over them. And not only is this, I think a bad idea, an evil idea, but Kipling, he referred to these individuals as Solan people, which means like dirty half devil, half children, you know, and I mean, imagine thinking that someone who’s different from you is dirty or half devil. And because of this, that you have some kind of right or responsibility to rule over them. It’s really a slap in the face for I think individualism, for self-determination. But his idea was popular governments used it to justify war. I mean, you look at what we’ve done in the Middle East, you know, we’re gonna spread democracy. Well, you know, maybe democracy doesn’t really work in their society for x number of reasons. And yet there’s this idea that we need to go civilize these, you know, barbaric people in the Middle East. And that type of mentality has led to a ton of war just in recent decades, but certainly in centuries past, kind of this conquest mentality of using military force to impose your culture, your lifestyle, your way of life on other people. And so then you have this next idea, that Mayberry brings up called alliances. And this one’s actually pretty simple to explain too often governments enter war because they’re allies, they’re friendly countries have engaged in their own war, and therefore because they’re our friend, we must join them. But I mean, this is like a silly idea in my mind. It’s great to be friends with other countries. We should get along, we should trade, we should be amicable or nice, but we shouldn’t jump into a war that has nothing to do with us just because one of our friends does. I mean, if my, you know, a neighbor who I consider a friend as being kind of an idiot, and, you know, gets into a fistfight with someone else, it would be silly for me to just go jump in and start helping, you know, punch the other guy. Just because my neighbor is my friend, it doesn’t mean my friend is right. You know, it doesn’t mean my friend has a good case or is defending himself. So why should we go into wars just because our friends, you know, start wars or are involved in wars? Just because we have an ally doesn’t mean we should be committed to war. And yet again, this is how people and countries often get into wars because they have these alliances and therefore feel kind of obligated.
Absolutely. So this last idea is the glory of war. And this is when you’re going to notice a lot when we go through World War I, World War II. So, you know, even in our own society, there’s this idea that the military or our warriors, you know, that they’re strong people, that they’re going over to protect our freedoms. You see movies or even read stories like The 300, which was a fun movie, but not for kids probably. But you know, they’re portrayed as these, Romana soldiers who were willing to die for a forgotten country. And, you know, war makes men out of boys and there’s this whole thing about how great war is, but that’s not what war is. War is ugly, you know, people die. The people who even, you know, do survive, still have to come back with all the awful memories there. Nobody is okay after war nobody comes out unscathed. So there is no glory in war. You know, there’s only death and destruction. So that’s the last one. But I want you to keep all of these different deadly ideas in your head as we’re going through the world wars and maybe even pick out where you see them stand out. Because again, as we dive into the world wars, I think you’re gonna see these themes repeated over and over again. And even modern day. Unfortunately.
Connor: It’s definitely true. This is not something for centuries past. We see it over and over again. And it’s important. I mean, we’ve said it before, we’ll continue to say it, right? Those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. And if we don’t, if we want war to stop, if we want to overcome these things, we have to learn lessons. We have to, you know, pick out some of these patterns that you’re talking about, Brittany. So I look forward to talking about this as unfun of a topic as it is. And yet these significant periods of our past, are important to talk about. And they’re important to understand what led to them. So hopefully we can help avoid them in the future. So stay tuned for future episodes. There’s a lot to unpack, a lot to talk about. We look forward to talking about this with you guys. Thanks for subscribing as always. We hope this is enjoyable and educational for you, Brittany. Thanks as always. And until next time, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.