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War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier Paperback – November 4, 2014
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About the Author
Smedley Darlington Butler was a major general in the US Marine Corps and at the time of his death was the most decorated marine in US history. He was the only person ever to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor.
Jesse Ventura is a former Independent governor of Minnesota, US Navy SEAL, professional wrestler, movie actor, New York Times bestselling author, and visiting fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
David Talbot is the founder of Salon.com and author of history books Devil Dog (on Smedley Butler), Brothers, Season of the Witch, and The Devil s Chessboard. He lives in San Francisco, California.
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Top customer reviews
The book starts with the proposition that ‘War is a racket’ and asserts that big business mops up profits of the order 1000% more during Wars than in normal times. There are many examples in the text to illustrate it. Of course, this is accepted wisdom today. Still, the author makes an interesting additional argument that, while the Government has talked about setting limits on many things during a war, there has never been a call for any limitation of losses of those who actually fight the war. There is no scheme to limit a soldier to the loss of but one eye or one arm, or to limit the loss of life such as ‘not more than 12% of a regiment shall be wounded in battle or not more than 7% in a Division shall be killed’.
The second point made in the book is that it is not only the ordinary citizens who pay the bills for war, but the soldiers and their families as well, in addition to risking their lives. Apparently, there was a prize system up to and including the Spanish-American war and soldiers and sailors actually fought for money. Even in the Civil war, they were paid bonuses prior to going to battle. In the Spanish-American war, when a vessel was captured, the sailors were supposed to share in the loot. It was only later that the 'System' realized that costs of war could be reduced and all prize money kept by simply drafting the soldier, taking away the bargaining power of his labor. They were compensated meagerly by substituting money for the medals of honor , thereby appealing to the psychological need of the boys ‘to be decorated’. Enlistment also was accentuated through propaganda to make men feel ashamed if they didn’t enlist in the army.
The author does not take the easy route of just criticizing Wars. He gives a three-point prescription as to how to prevent wars as well.
First, we take the profit out of war. For this, he suggests that all the officers, executives, directors, bankers, speculators and the labor of all the industries which make profits through war - like the armaments, ammunition, shipbuilding, airplane building factories, banks - to be conscripted and put on a wage of $30 a month, which was the prevailing rate at the time the book was written.
Second, he suggests conducting a limited plebiscite on whether war should be declared, but only among those who will be doing the actual fighting and dying and not the general public.
Third - and this is an interesting one - he suggests that the military forces must be made sure that they are truly forces for our defence only, as they always proclaim. We must mandate that our navy operate within only 200 miles of our coastline, planes not farther than 500 miles from the coast for purposes of reconnaissance and the army never leave the territorial limits of our nation. This will make sure that they are truly only for our defence.
I suppose most people would consider the author a tree-hugging, bleeding hearts liberal but, whatever one thinks of the practicality of implementing Butler’s ideas of preventing war, one cannot argue against his idealism and the deep concern he has for the ordinary folks who lay down their lives and bear the brunt of the economic consequences of wars. I do think that he hits the bull’s eye when he says that wars will not be fought only when the ‘fat cats’ experience the same physical and mental pain that the ‘average Joe’, whom he despatches to war, experiences. Maj-Gen Butler sarcastically remarks that WWI was fought ‘to make ‘the world safe for democracy’ but a decade after the end of the war, a look at Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia and Austria showed us how well democracy flourished in Europe. One is reminded of the same argument of promoting democracy in the 21 st century in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya through wars!
The book is a very easy and racy read and it must be read at least for its idealism and passion.
by a seriously respected ad experienced
Definitely worth buying and reading if
above is your priority.
However, not really rich with information,
facts and data - just loosely argued
opinions. Lacks rigour.