What are the sources of the interminable wars throughout the world today? Why are militant Muslims terrorizing Europe and America? What has caused the turmoil in Ukraine? Is Vladimir Putin desirous of reigniting the Cold War? Does he represent a dangerous threat to the West as his predecessors in the Kremlin did? What role do our own politicians and intellectuals play in this increasing eagerness for war?
The answers to the above questions will be determined greatly by one’s basic ideological beliefs. Statist mentalities, of course, see things differently than will those who espouse freedom and constitutional government.
For example, Dick Cheney will disagree vehemently with Ron Paul as to the sources, the motives, the morals, and the ultimate consequences of today’s wars. The only thing that rational minds seem to agree upon is that hatred, fear and aggression are pushing up the thermometer that measures social peace among people in the modern world. What follows is an attempt to answer the “whys” of this rapidly metastasizing problem.
The Military-Industrial Complex
In 1987, George F. Kennan, the famous historian-diplomat who shaped America’s Cold War policy of containment towards the Soviet Union in the post WW II era, wrote:
“Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.” 
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, many in the West expected that the massive militarization of American society existent between 1941-1991 would be cut back. The huge budget expenditures toward weaponry and fighting could be greatly reduced. Peace was at hand. But it didn’t happen. Washington’s establishment elites shifted into a higher gear of militarization instead. They quickly latched onto what Kennan was referring to. A new enemy had to be found, or the economy so dependent on a war footing would collapse. That enemy was given to them in militant Islamism’s desire to wage war on the West by means of violent jihad.
The neoconservative elites of Washington (led intellectually by Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Pearle, Robert Kagan, etc.) had always been bellicose in foreign policy affairs, and were perpetually on the make for new conflicts. Fellow compatriot, Andrew Krepinevich at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, testified in front of Congress in 1999 that what was needed in the post 1991 era was a “new Pearl Harbor,”  which would give the country a reason to flex its muscles of exceptionalism to the world. Kristol’s gang agreed wholeheartedly. The attack on the World Trade Center two years later would provide that “new Pearl Harbor” for them.
In other words, militant Islamism has declared war on the West. Thus the nations of the West must retaliate, and America is more than willing to do so. Its military-industrial complex, in fact, has a built in need for war in order to avoid a major collapse of the American economy.
Thus Orwell’s famous irony – that the dictatorships of modernity would eventually engage in “perpetual war for perpetual peace” – comes true. War has become a constant that all leaders resign themselves to, and many actively work for. Militant Islamists pursue violent jihad against an infidel West, while bellicose neoconservatives in America wage war to prop up their sagging economy.
This explains the Islamic source of war and the American source of war, but what is the role of Russia in all this? Are they the ominous war threat that our leaders in Washington continually proclaim them to be?
The Russian Threat
The historical view of Russia has always been that of a gargantuan imperial power that wishes to control much of the world via the Czars of earlier times or the Leninists and Marxists of modern times. America, under the guidance of thinkers like George Kennan, largely accepted this view throughout the past 70 years. But we must ask ourselves, is it still relevant? Does Vladimir Putin want to extend the ideology of the Czars, of Lenin and Marx, and perpetuate an imperialistic policy regarding Europe? Does he want to rule the world, or is he satisfied with ruling Russia?
Contrary to what the Washington elites tell us, all indications are that Putin is not an imperialist. He is basically a Russian nationalist who wants preservation and protection for Russia as a nation. All his moves and policies over the past 15 years have been toward this goal.
Unfortunately Washington’s neoconservative ideologues have a dominating need, as Kennan pointed out in 1987, to create a continual source of enemies to justify the continuance of massive military budgets to preserve their positions of power, both nationally and personally. Therefore Putin must be painted in ominous colors to the citizens of America.
Nowhere is this warped outlook more evident than in the Ukraine situation that has evolved over the last two years. David Stockman, former budget director under Ronald Reagan, has pointed out that the February 2014 coup in Kiev was not instigated by Russia, but by an aggressive Washington in conjunction with NATO. In violation of the 1990 agreement between George H.W. Bush and Gorbachev to keep Ukraine neutral, Washington’s goal was now to incorporate Ukraine into NATO and push missile bases up to the border of Russia.
Naturally Putin was horrified at the thought of missile bases on his border, as we would be if Russia was in Mexico with missile bases. He then took action to increase his military along the Ukraine border. And he sped up his ongoing plans to reincorporate Crimea into Russia (with its vital warm water port at Sevastopol) by inviting the citizens of Crimea to rejoin Russia. Crimea had been purchased from the Turks by Catherine the Great in 1783. It had therefore been part of Russia for over 170 years when in 1954 Krushchev inexplicably made it part of Ukraine. The citizens of Crimea voted in 2014 to return to Mother Russia. 
This should have ended the matter. The people of Crimea speak Russian. Their culture and traditions are Russian. Russia has every right to do this. But unfortunately the neoconservative elites of Washington have their own agenda that they wish to promote – “militaristic global hegemony.” Thus Russia has been demonized into an enemy. Yet they are not the aggressors here? Washington and NATO are.
This then is why war is metastasizing throughout our lives today. Islamist jihad grows in the Mideast, and military imperialism dominates neoconservative Washington. War fever is built into each of these societies, the former for metaphysical reasons and the latter for pragmatic reasons.
We in America have little control over the basic motives of Muslim societies, but we do have influence over our own society. We as a people must open our minds to a new foreign policy paradigm that makes peace with Russia and thus reduces the nuclear threat. We must cultivate revolutionary political leaders who view global reality through more rational lenses and are prepared to incur some economic shocks in order to dismantle large portions of the military-industrial complex.
Capitalism is a vigorous system that can shed its dependency on war and weaponry and convert to a peacetime economy. It won’t be without some temporary misery, but it can be done if the American people are left free to produce. Until this takes place, there will be no cessation of the “perpetual war for perpetual peace” that presently plagues our lives.
- From the Foreword to The Pathology of Power, Norman Cousins, 1987, pp. 11-12
Nelson Hultberg is a freelance writer in Dallas, Texas and the Director of Americans for a Free Republic www.afr.org. A graduate of Beloit College in Wisconsin, his articles have appeared in such publications as The American Conservative, Insight, Liberty, The Freeman, The Social Critic, The Dallas Morning News, and the San Antonio Express-News, as well as on numerous Internet sites.
He is the author of The Golden Mean: Libertarian Politics, Conservative Values
Email: NelsonHultberg (at) afr.org