In Wonder Woman comics, the Amazon Princess often does battle with Ares. The God of War ceaselessly and eternally dedicates himself to instigating violence and fomenting war. He is especially difficult to combat since he doesn’t usually act directly. Most of the time he works covertly, behind the scenes, pulling strings and pushing buttons to ensure that greedy, ideological, or even well-meaning humans are tricked or prodded and driven to war. Two of Ares most powerful lies are convincing people that war is inevitable and that war is necessary to ensure peace.
Ares would have been proud of our 1990 Gulf War which was based on “a pack of lies” (see here). In the comics, he often takes the form of humans to influence events. He certainly might have taken the form of Bush Senior in snookering Saddam into attacking Kuwait. Then, he no doubt might have inhabited Dick Cheney to lie us into the second Gulf War and subvert Colin Powell into supporting him.
We really need Wonder Woman right now because Ares has long set his gaze upon Iran as the next great senseless battleground and he is hard at work to sabotage any possible deal with them that might delay his carefully laid plans.
Of course I refer specifically to the battle over approval of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly referred to as the “Iran Deal.” The opposition to this agreement is much more than merely an honest policy debate between well-meaning people of good-will. This really is a clash between those who align with war-imperative of Ares versus the peace-making ethic of Wonder Woman. For Ares, this Iran deal threatens to delay his plans to ensure uninterrupted and perpetual war.
While Ares and Wonder Woman may be only metaphors, these figures nonetheless personify our real, iconic struggle against those who are dedicated to the ideology of war and crave the plunder that wars yield. And the rest of us are not merely spectators of this struggle, we are participants in it whether we accept it or not.
But we cannot win this war against war if we do not understand our enemy. If we naively refuse to consider that anyone would actually WANT war, we cannot hope to defeat those who do. And make no mistake. There are many people with tremendous amounts of power and influence over the political process in America who greatly desire a steady stream of war and will do anything to ensure the uninterrupted flow of the war pipeline.
In 2011, the 100 largest contractors sold $410 billion in arms and military services with some of the highest profit margins of any industry. Is that a lot you ask? Well consider that the entire world-wide cell phone market is expected to reach $341 billion in 2015. So yes, the military industry is indeed humongous by any comparative measure with far higher profit margins to boot.
But the mobile phone industry has something the war industry does not. Cell phones wear out, get lost, and need to be upgraded constantly. The viability of their market, their prospect for sustainable revenue, has no inherent limit barring some completely unforeseen new technology to replace it. The war industry however has a fundamental sustainability and growth problem. Without a constant stream of new wars to consume all those bombs they produce, without a constant stream of existential crises to convince people to pay for wars rather than for the betterment of the human condition, their entire industry collapses. Their gravy-train of war hits a brick wall.
Simply put, the war industry withers and dies without perpetual wars, and the war-profiteers understand that uncomfortable reality even if you do not. And the most foolish thing is to imagine that there just happen to be enough legitimate “organic” wars to keep the war profiteers in business and satisfy their lust for profit. There are not. On the contrary, without Ares-grade machinations, the war industry would dry up very quickly. In fact, we have innumerable quotes that reveal the determination of the war industry to ensure a permanent war economy by any means. Immediately after WWII, corporate war-moguls terrified at the prospect of peace set about ensuring that America would never return to a peace-time economy. I still recall just one memo that was circulated decades ago. It was written by a former President of General Electric and it said something close to the following:
“We can anticipate in the foreseeable future a time when aversion to war might become an insurmountable obstacle to our corporate interests. We must therefore take every action to assure a permanent war economy in the United States.”
This is not an anecdotal wacky comment. This general sentiment has been repeated by corporate leaders over and over again, often proudly. And “every action” includes searching for enemies and creating new ones to ensure wars. It includes destabilizing other countries to make them ripe for war. It includes making sure the “defense” industry is too big to fail so that any cuts can be linked to losing jobs. It includes ensuring that we remain in a perpetual state of fear. And of course it includes blocking any initiatives like the Iran Deal that might result in peace.
Some of these warmongers may truly be motivated by ideology rather than profit. But it’s hard to separate motivation from rationalization. It’s difficult to know when ideology is just a rationalization for profiteering or when ideology is the pawn of profiteers. In any case, it kind of doesn’t matter. Either way, the result is reprehensibly glib calls to “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.”
The bottom line is that we must recognize that Ares is not a nice, well-meaning guy who may simply be misguided or uninformed. We must acknowledge that he and real people with financial and political power actually DO want war, even cataclysmic war. They have worked a long time to set Iran up as the next bad guy in their domino chain and they don’t want see those war profits slip away.
If we keep assuming, as we typically do, that our opponents don’t really want war, or that they don’t understand that their obstructions could lead to war, we cannot hope to combat them. As unthinkable as it may be, many opponents of the Iran Deal do understand it would likely lead to war and that is exactly what they want.
If we don’t understand that reality, the real nature of our opponent, we cannot hope to help Wonder Woman to defeat Ares. And she cannot fight him without your help.