Biases Favoring War Are Overcome by Having Good Boundaries
Errors in perception and projection are reduced and defused when congresses and presidents maintain the Constitution’s good boundaries.
November 5, 2021
Consider the progression of modern USA-government long wars:
Like all people, government people involved committed errors. The errors most within the control of the USA’s people were the errors committed by the USA government people.
Negative Perceptions, Positive Projections
After World War II, USA government people gave North Korea to communist Russia’s government.
Entering both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, the USA government people perceived that communist governments had “dangerous potentialities for … disrupting [the USA’s] traditional institutions by means short of war.” The USA government people projected that building up for wars and fighting wars would keep communist nations from adding more client nations, making the USA safer .
Entering both the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War, the USA government people perceived that the Iraq and Afghanistan governments threatened the USA. The USA government people projected that wars would substitute new democratic governments, making the USA safer.
The USA government people’s perceptions were wrongly negative.
Communist governments haven’t disrupted USA institutions and have already collapsed or likely will . Saving South Korea didn’t make the USA more safe. Losing South Vietnam didn’t make the USA less safe.
The Iraq government didn’t have weapons capabilities that threatened the USA. The al-Qaeda government only was able to steal improvised weapons and succeed in one major attack on the USA, only before USA security tightened and only before the USA government went to war. The Taliban government didn’t have weapons capabilities that threatened the USA.
The USA government people’s projections were wrongly positive.
Military buildup and wars with communist governments lessened the USA people’s saving, capital investment, and productivity gains. The resulting reduced productivity gains greatly slowed the USA people’s outpacing of the communist-government-controlled people . This significantly delayed the final collapse of communist Russia and the inevitable coming collapse of communist China .
Wars with fascist governments didn’t substitute new democratic governments. Iraq is now controlled by the Iran government, and Afghanistan is now controlled by the Taliban government.
Failures to Learn from History
Hindsight wasn’t needed to foresee these outcomes.
People saddled with coercive governments like communist governments had always been outperformed by people with freer governments; this had been demonstrated archetypally by the rise of the USA people themselves to become the preeminent world power. The USA people had grown productive not by spending more on wars but by the exact opposite: having the world’s-smallest government footprint over a very-long time, so that the freer USA people’s capital investments compounded to exceed those of the more-coerced people everywhere else .
And people in religious factions, including fundamentalist-Islamic terrorists and fundamentalist-Islamic opium dealers, had always punched well above their weight class politically unless their cohesion and deep local knowledge were offset by well-led opponents . Long ago, Islamic pirates ran rampant until the USA Marines won on the shores of Tripoli. In much-more-recent memory, the Taliban government had defeated communist Russia’s government in Afghanistan.
Many such journeys are possible .
Government people can seem smarter if they amass more data; perceptions and projections can seem better. But the smarter that people seem to be, and the more successful that people are, the more they credit their success to skill rather than luck, and so the more they are blinded to their limitations .
If government people insist on taking into consideration opponents and strategies and manifold possibilities, so that their decisions remain highly complex and highly uncertain , then it is certain that government people will keep failing.
Changing the Things You Can Change
What’s needed isn’t to master opponents and possibilities, but rather to bypass all that by restricting the system under consideration to one that’s radically simpler.
The way for government people to see most clearly is to focus away from opponents and complex possibilities and to focus instead on what is simpler and is fully under their own control: themselves.
The Constitution establishes a number of powers that directly impact war:
Each power also is a boundary that, if maintained, disincentivizes war.
If congresses only constitutionally coin gold or silver money and borrow money, and don’t unconstitutionally print money , they’re less able to finance war.
They’re also less able to coerce us in other ways . Then we will outproduce the people controlled by potential enemy governments. Potential enemy-government people will become far-more likely to die if they attack us , and attacks will become far-less likely.
If congresses repeal foreign basing , and if senates repeal war treaties , these actions keep us from being attacked and in other ways drawn into wars. This leaves congresses explicitly in control of any entry into war.
If congresses pass boundary conditions for war (weapon-free zones, and no-approach buffer zones around military installations and equipment, on land, at sea, and in the sky) , and also pass rules-of-engagement cards , that together keep our people’s lives safer, they make war much-more potent against enemy governments.
If congresses declare war expressly against all enemy governments, continuing until the proximate enemy government and any supplier governments are eliminated, they require elimination of the threat. When war threatens our people, elimination of the threat is what’s morally required .
If presidents refuse to command troops to foreign bases except in war, refuse to unconstitutionally cede command under war treaties, and refuse to command offensive battles without congress-established funding, boundary conditions, ROE cards, and war declarations, they limit war .
Wisdom and Courage
Each of these boundaries was violated by USA congresses, senates, and presidents throughout the Korean War, Vietnam War, Iraq War, and Afghanistan War.
Disincentivizing potential enemies to attack, controlling our entry into war, keeping us as secure as possible in war—all these actions are directly within the control of our government people.
All by ourselves we can limit war. We just need to maintain the good boundaries that were established in the Constitution by men who fought a major war, who knew how to limit war, and who passed down to our government people detailed commands to limit war.
James Anthony is the author of The Constitution Needs a Good Party and rConstitution Papers, has written in The Federalist, American Thinker, Foundation for Economic Education, and American Greatness, and publishes rConstitution.us. Mr. Anthony is an experienced chemical engineer with a master’s in mechanical engineering.