We live in a world of scarcity. Conflict results in such a world because multiple individuals may seek to employ the same scarce resources at the same time. For this reason, we have developed rules regarding property rights. The existence of such rules does not eliminate conflict but it does provide individuals with non-violent options for conflict resolution.
All conflict resolution has some cost. A compromise regarding ownership, for example, has the cost of time as well as potential dissatisfaction of one or more of the interested parties. From this non-violent starting point, all other conflict resolution gets progressively more violent and, therefore, more costly. Violent resolution can result in injury or death, each of which greatly increases the cost of resolution, particularly to the injured parties.
It is the high cost of violent conflict that makes it less desirable to those who will bear that cost. As long as an individual has other, less costly options, they are more likely to avoid violence as a means of conflict resolution. A corollary of this concerns individuals who do not pay the price of violent action: they are increasingly willing to entertain this option.
Modern wars are conflicts where those initiating and overseeing the resolution pay little of the cost: such conflicts are funded by, and fought by, other individuals under their control. Those in power will often claim that war is the last resort, though this is demonstrably false rhetoric: with little cost to themselves, they lack the incentive to seek non-violent conflict resolution. As a result, if we seek to eliminate war, we must either require those in power to participate or, more likely, remove their power to make such decisions.
Now that another unstable person has unleashed his fury on a group of innocents, the cry again has returned for confiscation of all the guns. Admittedly few will use the word confiscation, but the goal of gun control advocates is inevitably that. Well, not quite. These efforts are meant to take away privately held guns, leaving only government employees in possession of firearms.
Humans are flawed, we’re told, so self-defense is not an option where abuses might occur. Instead we should trust the government to protect us, as though “public servants” are somehow less flawed than the rest of the human race. Gun control advocates assure us that we have nothing to fear from those who have pledged themselves to service. Such was the belief when private gun possession was banned in nearly every tyrannical government preceding this one. But that could never happen here, we’re assured.
Yes, it can happen here. Just ask the families of dead students from Kent State University, the Japanese Americans marched off to internment camps during World War 2, and the people of New York confronted by Union Troops because they deigned to oppose war with the southern states. This country’s history is filled with instances of government barely held in check by a Constitution long abandoned by courts, legislatures, and a bureaucracy bloated with ever increasing power.
In a recent press briefing, “Defense” Secretary General Jim Mattis was asked what metrics he plans to employ to measure success in the longest war in U.S. history. His response was very telling:
“Yes, I’m not prepared to give those yet, because I need to get to Afghanistan, and I need to sit down in Brussels with the other nations and talk with them together about what the metrics are, and make certain we all put our heads together on this.”
For those keeping score, sixteen years of conflict were not sufficient to provide a seasoned military man any idea of what success looks like. The fact is, there have been no means to measure U.S. military success in Afghanistan to date and we are unlikely to have any in the near future.
One might assume that a goal in war is to defeat an enemy. However, in the “war on terror,” there is no enemy to defeat: terrorism is a means employed by an inferior force to strike at a superior force through fear and intimidation.
The primary reason that Gen. Mattis lacks a means to measure success in Afghanistan is that the ultimate goal of the U.S. government is perpetual war; such metrics for success would only stand in the way. Perpetual war keeps patriotism kindled, justifies ever expanding military “defense” spending as well as growth of the surveillance state, and equates to perpetual power for Washington.