A Thin Line Between WAR & Peace
Bruce Barton on America's Love ↔ Hate Relationship

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | September 11, 2017                     

“...all history shows that large and powerful sections of the population, while sincerely believing that they hate it; actually profit from war—politically, financially, or emotionally—and are therefore subconsciously divided in their opposition to it.”

Perpetually In Favor of War — by Bruce Barton (1951)

According to the current President of the United States and literally no one else, “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey were joyfully celebrating after the World Trade Center was hit by Islamic terrorists on September 11, 2001. That event plunged the country into nearly a decade of war against Iraq, which had no connection to the tragedy.

As tensions surmount with North Korea — whom the President recently, spontaneously threatened to wipe off the map — the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, proclaims that Kim Jong Un is “begging for war”.

Then she delivered an alarmist speech to the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank which pushed for the 2003 invasion of Iraq (Dick Cheney is on the Board of Trustees). Haley lied profusely about the nature of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) brokered by the Obama administration in 2015, and greatly exaggerated Iran’s overall threat to America. Even the plainly dishonest and biased Trump administration has been forced to certify repeatedly that Iran has not violated the nuclear agreement thus far.

Bruce Fairchild Barton (1886-1967) Any cursory study of recent or distant history shows that war is seldom very constructive. And yet the human impulse for war persists.

In 1951, the United States was stuck in its disastrous undeclared war in Korea, which one commentator at the time described as “a fight we dare not try to win; in a valiant effort toward defeat”.

Bruce Barton (1886–1967), a famous Christian advertising mogul, author, syndicated columnist and former Republican Congressman, spoke out frequently against the Korean War and war in general. In this vintage, yet timeless newspaper column, Barton challenged the assumption that Americans hate war, and examined the motivating factors that lead them to continually return to this deadly pastime.

March 4, 1951
By Bruce Barton

Abraham Lincoln liked to tell about a political friend of his in Illinois, a man named Butterfield, who was asked at the beginning of the Mexican War if he were not opposed to it.

“No,” exclaimed Butterfield.1 “I opposed one war. That was enough for me. I am now perpetually in favor of war, pestilence and famine.”

That story deserves to be much better known. The good people of America, the haters of war, should cut it out and paste it in the top of their hats to remind them daily that, in their thinking about war and how to prevent it, they too often proceed on a fundamentally unsound assumption. They assume that everyone hates and opposes war. Whereas, all history shows that large and powerful sections of the population, while sincerely believing that they hate it; actually profit from war—politically, financially, or emotionally—and are therefore subconsciously divided in their opposition to it.

You can see our politicians already casting themselves in the brave role of War Governors and War Senators. To them war comes as a kindly wind from Heaven to blow away all discontent and criticism with their mismanagement of domestic affairs. There is no vote-getter so faithful as the old reliable “Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream.”

War means full employment, millions in dues for union leaders, and plenty of dough in the take-home envelope. It means big crops for farmers, at guaranteed high prices.

To all sorts of routine-bound business and professional people it means a tingling release into the wide world of adventure and irresponsibility.

Doctors and surgeons at the front have, in a few months, a variety of experience that would not come in years of ordinary practice, plus the tremendous satisfaction of giving relief where it is most bravely deserved and urgently needed. College professors have a wonderful chance to rush to Washington to be all sorts of Important Persons at much more money.

A young friend of mine, returning from the last war, told me he had decided to study law. “I talked with hundreds of men in the army,” he said. “The two groups that were most eager to get back to their work were lawyers and taxicab drivers.”

“Which group was having the best time and hated most to go back?” I asked.

He answered unhesitatingly, “Teachers.”

War is inflation, and a booming stock market. It is a black market from which the unrighteous garner billions. It can be a blessed escape for the man in the dreary job, for the husband with the nagging wife. Such men would be heels for turning their backs on their jobs and their homes in peacetime; in wartime they are heroes.

Like Lincoln’s obscure and long forgotten friend, I, as an obscure member of Congress, opposed one war. I am now doing my feeble best to oppose another.

But I have no delusions. I know how deep-seated and powerful are the hidden forces that, often with utmost sincerity and even in the name of Peace, help to make broad and smooth the downward path.

1 Justin Butterfield (1790-1855), attorney and Chicago Whig politician. He opposed the War of 1812.

President Lincoln’s White House secretary, John Hay, recorded this anecdote in his August 13, 1863 diary entry.

• This entire column was entered into the Congressional Record by Rep. Katharine St. George (R-NY) on March 6, 1951.

THE WRATH OF GOD | Bruce Barton's prayerful anti-war sermon (1951)
Is War “Christian”? — Bruce Barton on God & War (1951)

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Related links:

A Great World Citizen | An Appreciation of Jawaharlal Nehru by Bruce Barton (1950)

The Crisis Technique | Bruce Barton on Emergency Powers (1951)

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