Myth: War Is Necessary (summary)


War Is Not “Defense”bomber

The U.S. War Department was renamed the Defense Department in 1947, and it is common in many countries to speak of the war departments of one’s own and all other nations as “defense.” But if the term has any meaning, it cannot be stretched to cover offensive war making or aggressive militarism.  If “defense” is to mean something other than “offense,” then attacking another nation “so that they can’t attack us first” or “to send a message” or to “punish” a crime is not defensive and not necessary.

Read also: Myth: China Is a Military Threat

There Are No “Good Wars”

Among those who believe that only select wars are necessary, the most recent widely popular example in a number of nations, including the United States, is World War II.  This fact is stunning.  People go back three-quarters of a century to find a defensible example of one of our largest endeavors as a species.

Taking the claim that World War II was “a good war” on its own terms, here are some often overlooked facts, none of which — needless to say — excuse in the slightest the hideous crimes of any party to that war:

  • It is widely accepted that World War I was unnecessary, yet without World War I its sequel is unimaginable.
  • Ending World War I with punishment of an entire nation rather than of the war makers was understood by wise observers at the time to make World War II very likely.
  • The arms race between the two world wars was widely and correctly understood to be making the second war more likely.
  • U.S. and other Western corporations profited by enriching and arming dangerous governments in Germany and Japan, which also had the support of Western governments between the wars.
  • The United States had tutored Japan in imperialism and then provoked it through territorial expansion, economic sanctions, and assistance to the Chinese military.
  • Winston Churchill called World War II “The Unnecessary War” claiming that “there was never a war more easy to stop.”
  • Churchill obtained a secret commitment from U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt to bring the United States into the war.
  • The U.S. government expected the Japanese attack, took numerous actions it knew were likely to provoke it, and prior to the attack: ordered its Navy to war with Japan, instituted a draft, collected the names of Japanese Americans, and ignored peace activists marching in the streets for years against the long build-up to a war with Japan.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoye proposed talks with the United States in July 1941, which Roosevelt rejected.
  • President Roosevelt lied to the U.S. public about Nazi attacks and plans in an effort to win support for entering the war.
  • President Roosevelt and the U.S. government blocked efforts to allow Jewish refugees into the United States or elsewhere.
  • Facts about Nazi crimes in concentration camps were available but played no part in war propaganda until after the war was over.
  • Wise voices predicted accurately that continuing the war would mean the escalation of those crimes.
  • Nonviolent resistance to Nazism in Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, and even in Berlin — poorly planned and developed though it was in that day and age — showed remarkable potential.

War Preparation Is Also Not “Defense”

The same logic that would claim that attacking another nation is “defensive” can be used to try to justify the permanent stationing of troops in another nation. The result, in both cases, is counterproductive, producing threats rather than eliminating them. A defensive military would consist of a coast guard, a border patrol, anti-aircraft weapons, and other forces able to defend against an attack.  The vast majority of military spending, especially by wealthy nations, is offensive.

Defense Need Not Involve Violencenonviolentactivism

Evidence shows that the most effective means of defense is, far more often than not, nonviolent resistance. The mythology of warrior cultures suggests that nonviolent action is weak, passive, and ineffective at solving large-scale social problems. The facts show just the opposite.

People under attack can refuse to recognize an attacker’s authority.  Peace teams from abroad can join the nonviolent resistance.  Targeted sanctions and prosecutions can be combined with international diplomatic pressure. There are alternatives to mass violence.

War Makes Everyone Less Safe

War mythology would have us believe that war kills evil people who need to be killed to protect us and our freedoms.  In reality, recent wars involving wealthy nations have been one-sided slaughters of children, the elderly, and ordinary residents of the poorer nations attacked. And while “freedom” has served as a justification for the wars, the wars have served as a justification for curtailing actual freedoms.

Read more.

Resources with additional information.

Other Myths:

War is inevitable.

War is beneficial.


  1. Pingback: Building a Global Movement to End All War by David Swanson | Dandelion Salad

  2. Capitalism Kills says:

    Poverty, isolation, low wage, not having your needs met and precarity should be understood as making war very likely.

    Capitalist inequality and economic competition of all against all should be understood as making war very likely.

    • You can never force everyone to be of one mind. Even that requires, “war”. Therefore, you can never have peace.

  3. Capitalism Kills says:

    You cannot win a war by defense alone and if your war plan is defense only then you are doing your enemy a favor by letting him fight an open ended war of attrition against you until he wins.

    In war you have to win and this means destroying the enemy before he destroys you and this means offense.

    There is no such thing as defense versus offense.

    It’s always offense vs offense and the most offensive wins.

  4. Capitalism Kills says:

    Japan was colonizing and offending other nations. That’s why Roosevelt took the moral high ground and refused to talk with the war criminal Japanese.

  5. Capitalism Kills says:

    Nonviolent resistance requires “esprit de corps”, something that has been totally exorcised from the masses by our individualistic and competitive private market capitalism.

    You cannot have nonviolent resistance in a society run by the philosophy of “everybody for himself” and “lift yourself by your own bootstraps”.

    Whenever somebody starts criticising capitalism and appeals to solidarity, the capitalist apologetics are quick to resort to name calling, hatred and threats of violence.

    In their wildest dreams they wish to hunt the poor and needy so that nothing will hinder their impulse towards economic wealth.

    Individualism and economic competition = violence.

    Wars will end when the world will be violently conquered and a global hoplocratic authority will be instituated.

    The first emperor of China ended all wars between the warring tribes to form a single nation under a single rule.

    Brutality and violence was his only ingredients and the recipe worked. It is a shame that Qin Shihuang was a mere mortal because had he been immortal, he might have completed his goal and reunite the whole world.

    China has unfinished business to complete. What the first emperor of China started, China must finish.

    This world needs a brutal and fearsome global leader that inspires terror in the minds of everybody.

    Thay is the only way you will end all wars and bring peace on earth.

    Humans are stubborn mules. Humans have reason annd heart, but onlu uses those attributes last, when they are forced to.

    If you want peace, love, equality and justice on earth, you will have to violently FORCE it on humanity.

    There is no other way.

    The way to a man’s reason and heart is through violent force.

    • I agree with the capitalism comments . but as far as world peace goes, Im more optimistic that the vast majority of humans instinctively want peace, love, and happiness. So when the vast majority are educated and not filled full of propaganda, we will have peace.

  6. Ohhh yes cowards probably need some moderation about comments cuz iz can hurt their soft feelings.. awwww

  7. ALOT of first hand knowledge, dictates a response (war).otherwise, the forever toxic/stupid,will always have the upper hand.

  8. anonymous says:

    This is absolute bullshit. Whoever this article is blind in the head. Whether people like it or not, we all have to engage violence whenever necessary. If you can’t defend yourself from any villain, that bastard will wipe you out.

  9. Who wrote this if you mind me asking?

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