War: The ultimate scapegoat

Posted: Jun 01, 2006 12:04 AM

In the movie "Wall Street," corporate raider Gordon Gekko announced, "Greed is good." And because Gekko was a villainous character, we knew that Oliver Stone's actual message was that greed is bad.

The truth, of course, is that greed is neither good nor bad. It all depends on the person. For instance, I have no idea if such people as Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and J.K. Rowling, were motivated totally by avarice. What's more, I don't care.

In the end, it doesn't matter in the least what prompted their astonishing achievements. What counts is that the world wound up with the electric light, the phonograph, affordable automobiles and a writer who's richer than the Queen of England --a world unimaginable even to the likes of Jules Verne and H.G. Welles.

Greedy is what other people are; we, ourselves, are merely prudent. Rainy days, after all, have been known to turn into rainy weeks, months and sometimes years. I suspect that even the likes of Donald Trump and Ted Turner occasionally wonder if they have quite enough cash buried in those coffee cans in the backyard.

Another word, like greed, that has an unfortunate reputation is war. The way some people say it, you'd think it was a four-letter word. Over the years, starting in 1930 with "All Quiet on the Western Front," Hollywood has made a cottage industry out of anti-war movies. 

Particularly in recent months, it's been impossible to avoid anti-war placards, speeches and bumperstickers. Well, it's my contention that, just as with greed, it's situational. Sure, sometimes, war is awful, but sometimes it's quite wonderful.

Consider a few highlights from our own history. The Revolutionary War gave us liberty from Britain and gave the world democracy. The Civil War preserved the Union and helped end slavery. World War II prevented the barbarians from over-running the earth. Against such magnificent accomplishments as these, peace can't hold a candle.

I realize that some folks are going to bring up innocent bloodshed as an argument against war. But, the truth is that, one way or another, everybody dies. Why is it only a big deal when they die during warfare?  For instance, in America, alone, 35,000 people will die this year from influenza; another 50,000 will die in traffic accidents; well over 100,000 will die of tobacco-related diseases.

Most of them will perish because they neglected to get flu shots or because they insist on drinking and driving or because they'd rather risk cancer than give up their cigarettes. So, while Americans go nuts every time a soldier dies while doing his duty, you don't see people demonstrating in the streets against the flu, and you don't see Susan Sarandon all over the tube haranguing against booze, and you sure don't see Michael Moore producing message movies about the horrors of nicotine and tars!

The reality is that while bad people--be they Napoleon, Hitler or Hussein--fight bad wars, good people fight good ones.