Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Comics: Bronx Angel--Politics By Another Method (Page 29)

Bronx Angel: Politics By Another Method, page 29.
Click here to see the page at full size.

Wow.  There's an egregious typo on this page.
Panel 2.  Shirley should be saying: 

"Clausewitz noted that war in inherently violent, and that this violence engenders hatred between combatant societies.  However, one should NOT forget that this hatred exists solely to achieve national foreign policy objectives."

This page is basically a statement of where my head was at about ten years ago.  And while I don't know that I necessarily feel differently now, I hope I'm not quite this cynical anymore.

If you didn't know, Carl von Clausewitz was a German war philosopher working on the Prussian General Staff during later portions of the Napoleonic Wars and immediately thereafter.  His widow published his masterwork, On War, shortly after his death, and it has since revolutionized modern military thinking about war between nation-states.  Napoleon created the levee-en-masse, but it was Clausewitz who gave it the name "total war" and who popularized this concept of war as a struggle between societies, pitting not just the armies against each other, but the entire nations, which are effectively the support structures for the military apparatus when war reaches the point where it is a contest of national survival.

I read On War as a cadet at West Point and became fascinated with this idea that "War is a continuation of politics with the addition of other means."  Essentially, that war is "politics by another method'; hence the title of this story.  The thing that really got to me was the oft overlooked concept of the "paradoxical trinity", the idea that war, politics, and economics are all facets of the same idea.  Economics is the science of distributing society's resources.  Politics is the process by which we decide how to distribute those resources, in concert with deciding the direction that society will take.  

War is what happens when people ultimately can't agree.  

War is taking by force that which you cannot take by persuasion or earn through economic activity (i.e. work).  And this story was my clumsy attempt at explaining that in terms of the real costs to the soldiers who fight our nation's wars, albeit through the lens of one particular war, which was ongoing at the time I was writing.  But this story isn't about the Iraq War, although that war provides its framework.  As I've said, I wrote this story basically for my dad, who was the time busy drinking himself to death.  It was an attempt to capture the value of the price he'd paid for the things he'd done, things done in the name of this great nation of ours.  

Which isn't to say that his choices weren't his, nor that they weren't choices.  He loved being a Marine, and when his service ended, so did the purpose for which he'd lived.  This was the proximate cause of his alcoholism.  But.  He was a nice guy before he was a Marine, and he had a lot going for him as a young frat boy in 1969 Knoxville.  But the fact was that society needed his service...

Here's the truth: there are things that are worth fighting for.  There is such a thing as a Just War.  

But as members of a democracy, it is incumbent upon us to decide what is and what is not worth fighting for and to appropriately weigh the costs.  If we lived in Pyongyang, we wouldn't have to make those decisions, but living here, in America, We are the government, and there's no abdicating our responsibilities.  For better or worse, we have the government that we choose, and it therefore involve us in the wars... that we choose.

Is all war really about money?

I personally think that war is about stability.  Some people have, and some people want, and today's global economics, global politics--global war--is about societies that have some control and satisfaction with the current world order maintaining it, while those that don't have those things try to wreck the balance.   

Well, the balance is worth maintaining.  Meanwhile, peaceful political and economic activity can cause real but lasting changes over time, and no one is arguing that they should be disallowed.  Beyond that, there is a need to decide what's worth fighting for and what aims can be achieved through that fighting.


So yeah.  This book was an ambitious project, and I don't know that it quite came off.  But thanks for giving it a try.


  1. I was always a fan of this story. Great story, cool art.

    This bit about the paradoxical trinity resonated with me because just this past Friday I was trying to read a bit more about the motivations of Philip of Macedon and why he started his expansion and it turned out that a big part of it was that they economically were bursting at the seams and needed room to grow. This didn’t make sense to me, but after reading your article, it actually makes much more sense.

    So thanks! :)