A. R. Moxon: War or Nothing

A. R. Moxon has a brilliant and brutal essay out today entitled “War or Nothing”, in which he describes a theme beginning in 2001 with the US’s response to the 9/11 attacks and continues all the way through 2020’s George Floyd protests and this year’s pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses. From it he describes “seven laws of living in a war-oriented society”:

  • Killing is not only an appropriate answer to killing, it is the only appropriate answer.
  • The worst betrayal possible is any opposition to killing.
  • The only appropriate answer to killing is not only killing—it must be disproportionate killing.
  • Any hypothetical future threat of potential attack justifies the same disproportionate violent response as an actual attack.
  • Any killing we do, not matter how indefensible it is, can only ever be self-defense.
  • Wanting to wage war makes you correct in a way that overcomes evidence or results or even coherence.
  • Killing is the only thing that will keep us safe from killing. Therefore, anyone who opposes killing represents a threat justifying further killing.

He’s not wrong. A taste:

And millions of us, who have been watching since 2001 or even before, can see how framing the apparatus of killing as indistinguishable from safety helps the apparatus of killing, but not how it helps make us safe. We can see how framing a country as indistinguishable from its murderous government helps that government, but not how it helps the country. We can see how framing all a county’s citizens as indistinguishable from its murderous government helps that government, but not how it helps the people. And we can see clearly how framing killing as the only way to bring safety, and any act other than killing as nothing favors those who want to see a world of death, but not how it helps honor the dead or keeps any of the living safe.

Millions of us think the bigger problem might be the killing. It seems to us war as the only option represents the greatest possible failure of human imagination there can be, and our wealth and resources and ingenuity seem to present many other options. Perhaps if we put our heads together, we might think of something else to do, that isn’t nothing but isn’t war, either. And even if many of us are foolish and ignorant about what that something might be, we think that seeking that something is better than not seeking it. And even if many of us are foolish and ignorant, many of us are not, and even those of us who are ignorant fools can see the way the suggestions and solutions presented by those who are not ignorant fools are ignored while those of us who are the most ignorant and the most foolish receive the most attention from our institutions of influence and power, to frame this whole act of imagination as ignorant and foolish.

And even those of us who are ignorant fools can see how this helps promote the ideal of war or nothing, but we don’t see how it helps us find something that is not killing but isn’t nothing, either.

God grant us leaders brave enough to consider responses to killing that aren’t more killing, but aren’t nothing, either.