Si Vis Pacem, Don't Listen to Joe Lieberman
If anything, the U.S. prepares too much for war and puts far too little effort into other aspects of statecraft.
As he usually does, Joe Lieberman is banging war drums:
A great Roman general said a long time ago, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” That is wise counsel worth following with Russia and Iran in 2022.
Hawks love to cite this phrase, which is originally traced back to Vegetius. He was not a “great Roman general.” He was the author of a military treatise written sometime in the late fourth or early fifth century. The exact wording from the treatise says, “He, therefore, who desires peace, should prepare for war.” This axiom often serves as a default justification for whatever hare-brained hardline policy hawks want to promote at the moment.
Hawks usually interpret this phrase in the most combative and militaristic way possible. It does not have to be read this way, but this is the way that hawks choose to read it. For someone like Lieberman, it is not enough simply to prepare for war. He wants the U.S. to seek conflict and rule out every path that might lead away from war. We see this in his recommendations for Russia and Iran policy: the U.S. must concede nothing, it must increase its demands, it must throw more weapons into both regions, and it must ratchet up tensions with more threats of U.S. military action as well. These are not recommendations to be prepared. They are a blueprint for stoking conflict.
Lieberman is the chairman of the poorly-named United Against Nuclear Iran, so it is no surprise that this is the Iran policy he wants. He is also an equal-opportunity militarist. He will endorse the same bankrupt coercive policies against pretty much any country that is at odds with the U.S. Just as he did when he was a senator, Lieberman wants to pick fights with all potential adversaries at the same time. It doesn’t occur to him that taking a hard line against Russia and Iran simultaneously might overstretch U.S. resources and put the U.S. at a disadvantage in both regions.
If anything, the U.S. prepares too much for war and puts far too little effort into other aspects of statecraft. Other states are well aware that the U.S. military is extremely powerful and our political leaders are only too happy to choose military options. Lieberman can’t or won’t admit that the current Ukraine crisis and the impasse with Iran are both products of hawkish U.S. policies that he supported, and when faced with the problems that overly aggressive U.S. policies have helped to create his only solution is to escalate further. As Josh Shifrinson and Stephen Wertheim pointed out recently, “What has brought about a crisis for the United States over Ukraine is not so much passivity as a legacy of overexertion, more of which would pose acute dangers.” The failure of “maximum pressure” against Iran is so obvious that it hardly needs to be explained. Listening to hawks put the U.S. in these bad situations, and it is a recipe for more failure and increased danger to listen to them again now.
Hawks like to present their aggressive policy preferences as a means to secure the peace, but these policies are typically destabilizing and make war more likely. Sometimes the costs of the war are borne by other countries, and sometimes the U.S. also suffers significant losses, but these conflicts are usually avoidable and all parties would be better off if our government had looked for ways to deescalate. If you want peace, don’t listen to Joe Lieberman or any of the other hawks that got us into these messes. When it comes down to it, they prefer war to compromise, and it is this aversion to compromise that keeps getting the U.S. into wars it doesn’t have to fight.