You Know You're Gonna Have to Face It, You're Addicted to War
Farhad Manjoo interviews
James Carroll, author of House of War
, over at Salon.
Carroll's specific complaints will ring familiar to any peacenik: He argues that since Sept. 11, 1941, when ground was broken at the building's site -- Carroll makes much of this date, exactly 60 years before United flight 77 crashed into the building's side -- the U.S. has embarked on a series of foreign policy disasters. Among other things, he believes that dropping nuclear weapons on Japan was a mistake; that we should not have developed, and then shouldn't have tested, the H-bomb; that we should have shared our nuclear knowledge with the Soviets and instituted an international framework to abolish nuclear weapons; that we were mistaken to think of the Soviets as our mortal enemies, and thus mistaken to have turned political differences into a near world-ending Cold War; that we missed many opportunities to end the nuclear arms race during that war, and that we were far more belligerent than the Soviet Union in how we conducted ourselves with those weapons; and that, finally, even today, though we no longer face an enemy that poses an existential threat to the nation, we're needlessly maintaining a military force that is more dangerous than any other force in the world, capable of instantly destroying all life on the planet.
What's interesting about this catalog, as Carroll points out, is that at various points in the nation's history, many men in government made similar arguments. Their cries were drowned out, though, by the culture of the Pentagon, which always wanted more -- more bombs, more planes, more ships, more war. It's this thesis, as well as Carroll's unquestionably solid research, that makes his story much more than a standard antiwar rant. Other than a few stock villains -- notably the mad bomber Curtis LeMay, the Air Force general who controlled the American nuclear arsenal for more than two decades -- Carroll doesn't characterize the folks who worked in the building as evil. "The Pentagon's is a story of ordinary people who acted with good intentions, faced tragic dilemmas, and resisted what they saw happening right in front of them," he writes. They didn't set out to make the mistakes they did; rather, institutional momentum led them astray.