Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

W.J. Astore: Anti-war Pragmatists and Pro-war Fantasists

What if peace is really based on pragmatism, and war on fantasy?

Remember when those who advocated for peace were dismissed as “dreamers”?  The great John Lennon imagined a world where peace could reign, and he wasn’t afraid of the dreamer label, because he knew it could be more than a dream.  Peace is often presented as a fantasy embraced by soft-hearted people.  War, by comparison, is a harsh reality embraced by hard-headed realists, or so we’re told.

What if it’s the opposite?  What if peace is really based on pragmatism, and war on fantasy?  What if the hard-headed realists are really those who advocate for peace via dialog, diplomacy, treaties, and the like?  And it’s the warmongers who are truly the soft-headed dreamers?

Consider the results of recent American wars.  The wars in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) were total disasters.  Ditto interventions in Iraq and Libya.  The Afghan War approaches its third decade with no end in sight.  How are these wars pragmatic or preemptive or necessary or productive?  They’ve been based on fears and fantasies.  They’ve been colossal mistakes based on lies and fantasies of power.

Indeed, it’s the neocons who have been America’s leading fantasists, starting disastrous wars driven by an ideology of American exceptionalism and warrior masculinity in which they believe they can create and control their own reality irrespective of history and the facts.  These men can’t imagine peace.  All they can imagine is a world in which American military power creates a world “safe for democracy,” which means safe for their own greed and power and profit, including profit from more and more weapons sales.

We see this fantasy at work today.  Somehow, starting wars is sold as a way to prevent them.  Killing a senior Iranian general in a foreign country without the approval of that country or Congress for that matter is sold as preventing war.  The president commits an act of war in the name of peace.

To believe this, you must be a fantasist in the extreme.  We need to denounce these pro-war fantasists for what they are.  They may fancy themselves as hard-headed men of action, but they’re really thick-headed sociopaths guided by delusional fantasies.


William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), has taught at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School. He currently teaches at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. 

Copyright 2020 W.J. Astore.

War-weary: Tell me how this ends…

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