Name Me a Single War that was Worth It?

on May 30, 2011
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War! What is it good for?

Ugh, it’s Memorial Day, I say to myself each year.

I’m one of those people who for four generations, at least, have had zero experience at war. I was too young or old to be in any Gulf War. My dad was five when WWII started—so too young for Korea and too old for Vietnam. And his father traipsed across Europe under a fake name (would my life have been different if I kept it – “Greenberg”?) to avoid the front lines of whatever war he was avoiding.

Who wants to be dead?



Even WWII. What did we do? What has Europe ever done for us since then?  Good thing we bombed the hell out of Europe so the IMF can go around raping everyone now. We can say, “Well Hitler was killing the jews! We had to go in there!”

Are you kidding me? He killed the Jews. It was already over for six million Jews by the time we stepped foot in Germany (and millions more displaced after much anguish). And the gays, the gypsies, France, parts of England, and whatever else Hitler felt like.

We only went in there after the war was already lost. We didn’t help anyone. We didn’t save a single Jew by going into WWII (or, at the very least, from the mid 1930s to 1945 six million Jews were discriminated against and then killed without our help). In fact, it’s well known FDR turned away some of the Jews he actually had a chance to save, who then ended up going back to Europe and dying (apparently the US had “immigration difficulties”  with them).

(the SS St. Louis containing hundreds of Jews was refused permission to dock in Cuba and the US, and many of the passengers ended up back in Europe under German rule)

Plus we kept a bunch of Japanese locked up while we killed millions of their citizens and reduced their culture to making matchbox cars and faulty watches for generations. For what? Because they were trying to take over China? Heck, what difference to us would it have made? I really ask—would it have made any difference? Are Chinese citizens, 50% in poverty, better because we nuked Japan? Twice?

And now Europe mostly hates us. 418,000 American kids killed there.

What war did we really need to go into?

WW I –  I kind of challenge anyone without looking at Wikipedia to even tell me what that war was all about? Some Archduke was killed. 117,000 18-23 year old American boys had to die there because of that?

Korea and Vietnam? – we already know those were a waste (thanks to M.A.S.H. – god bless TV). 33,000 Americans died in Korea (forgetting about the millions of Koreans and Chinese) and 58,000 people died in Vietnam. And by the way, we lost that one.

I’m not trying to be “pro-peace.” I’m more anti-stupidity. What happened there? Was our white picket suburban way of life threatened in those wars?

(the wedding of a 20 year old American Iraq war victim)

Iraq and Afghanistan: Over 40,000 American troops have been killed or injured there. Much more than died in the World Trade center tragedy of 9/11. And this ignores the 800,000 Iraqi civilians killed.

Tell me a single war that might’ve been good? We destroyed Iraq and now it’s helpless. We can’t even rebuild it. Afghanistan has been beaten back to the stone ages, and it took 10 years to find Osama in a mansion in Pakistan and we still don’t have the full story on that. I guess I’d be a horrible President.

Unless it was war with Canada (to get oil cheap, since they are by far our biggest provider of oil) I’d never go to war with anyone. Libya? They blew up one of our planes 30 years ago and we even let the guys free so they could have a hero’s welcome in Tripoli? What’s going on now?

(this 5 yr old girl watched US forces kill her civiilian parents)

There’s a squadron of guys in skirts playing bagpipes outside my door this very second on their way to the river. Down the street there’s a cemetery of crosses to commemorate the day. It’s a horrible day in commemoration of mostly dead 18-year-olds. Everyone who goes to war is certainly a hero. But the victims far outnumber the heroes.

I hate feeling like a “pro peace” person. That’s not what this is about. This is about those moments when you kill your own life, your own time, feasting on your own angers, sucking them dry even though nobody’s paying attention to you crying like a baby – when you could’ve been doing so much more.

You could’ve been building things. Raising a family. Starting a business. Ignoring the people who try to take you down every day at work, among your colleagues, your family. You could’ve been saving lives. And everything would be so much better.


[Update: I put this in the comments on my blog but adding it to the article here]

Someone mentioned earlier I was a “lazy ass” because my way of life has been defended and protected in these wars. A couple of points:

A) my way of life certainly wasn’t defended in Vietnam and Iraq. We can argue about the others, but whatever.
B) The children in the pics above (and I include the married couple) – was their way of life defended?
C) Iraq was perhaps the first war where I realized that people I held to the highest of respect (Colin Powell, for instance) were going to have to blatantly lie to me in order to achieve some agenda that had nothing to do with protecting me.
D) my “lazy ass” has hired over 1000 people and invested in companies hiring millions more. Hopefully these jobs create innovation and sustainability that lasts generations. Our way of life is about growth and prosperity. That ultimately leads to less death and killing (look at mortality rates here over the past century). We each should do our part.
E) Nobody is arguing whether or not these children are heroes. They all are. Its just a shame so many of them don’t come back and it’s a shame the many lies that took them there.



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96 Responses to “Name Me a Single War that was Worth It?”

  1. JamesAltucher says:

    I said the exact opposite of this statement: "You are essentially saying that my family and friends who have gone to war wasted not only their time but for some of them, their lives"

    I'm sorry you don't see that. perhaps some other time we can engage in a discussion.

  2. American says:

    That article is appalling and disgraceful. Not only is it filled with historical inaccuracies, but it is tasteless and extremely offensive. How dare you exploit that veteran by posting his wedding picture. You have no idea what he stands for and no idea what he believes in. Typical of someone like you…expressing your views so “matter of factly” and thinking as though everyone depicted in your article feels, or should feel the same way. How dare you represent him in this way! You are a sorry excuse for an American…

    No war worth fighting huh? How about the Revolutionary War?…a war that gave you the right to express your hideous views. Or the Civil War?…a war that was fought to end slavery and provide liberty to every man.

  3. Beth says:

    When you realize that the author runs a hedge fund, it make complete sense why he would write something like this. War gets in the way of his dealings with the devil and the money he lines his pockets with. Another disconnect between wall street and main street.

  4. ballsdeep24 says:

    The fact that you can write a piece like this and not worry about being censored or worse is a testament to the freedoms protected by our military throughout the years. Your opinion is valuable. I disagree with it. God bless America.

  5. Ryan says:

    You just so obviously got ripped to shreds, and you have nothing of substance to respond with.

  6. […] retreat who was quite a piece of work. He was in his late fifties and built like a barrel. A Vietnam vet and recovered alcoholic, he told the same stories again and again. He was often the only man in a […]

  7. NotSoSure says:

    Ok people, lets stick to a critique of the post and stop with calling the author names. All ad hominem attacks are always pointless. This post is absolutely the least informed,and frankly, ridiculous post I have ever read on EJ. And the all posts he made in defense of the original are even more ridiculous.

    But please do not think this post gives anyone the right to judge his character. I have enjoyed previous posts by Mr. Altucher in the past. He has a wry and self deprecating sense on humor which I personally find very enjoyable.

    Please stick to critiquing the post
    Please chill the fuck out and stop calling him names.

  8. Judy Arbic says:

    That was Some Read !!! Explained so Well the How Wars Are Wrong and for Profit…Sad, But True, and People are Brainwashed into thinking that this is the Right thing to do..I wish that I could Share this in an E-mail, or on Facebook..these Articles Need to get out to the Citizens, they are so Blinded by our Government..Thanks for Sharing What I have been Thinking all Along, but very few people feel like I do unfortunately..

  9. Judy says:

    I Agree with You James Totally..War Is Wrong, it is Just that Simple..We Need to Take are of our Own Countryand Leave the Rest Alone, Nothing Good has come of our Interactions in Wars..Too Many of Our People Suffer, and We Cause Much Suffering for Others..Keep Up the Good Work..

  10. dan says:

    I’m glad that you wrote this and are willing to defend your position. All the arguments, including yours, are emotion-based, and about what-ifs, and no one article is going to dull the aura of the blessed sainted murder and brutality the “hero” gives and receives; “glory” depends on when and where you are, how you identify yourself. The revolutionary war was not a victory in the chummy sense we have of it now (and certainly not to First Nations peoples, among the first to be shown that the new nation gladly renegotiated its agreements with violence). Not until the landed white male “gave” voting rights to women and then to blacks, a mere 200 years later, was there something resembling a free nation. If you want to see how free blacks are, visit a prison (though obviously more complicated than just that). What I’m getting at is there is plenty of historical support for the worthlessness of war, and don’t worry about supposed smarts of those who disagree with you, as you’ve been only glibly, rhetorically fact-checked, while other obvious wrongs are left to stand, as in the Lusitania being cause for our entry- Germany sunk it, but said they’d stop sinking ships, and did. It wasn’t until some two years later when they said they’d sink any ship in the North Atlantic, proved with the sinking of *merchant* ships, that the US decided to join “the war to end all wars”
    And yes, I disagree that Obama will withdraw from Afghanistan in any meaningful way (And I’ll be glad to eat crow on this, granted that he doesn’t just send “the troops” to kill elsewhere). He has shown himself to be the polite consessioneer at the fore of the imperialist enterprise (imperialism is the leadingest cause of war ever). He is fine killing with robots, and stumped on it in 2008. And yes, robots kill just as many “non-combatants” as fleshy killers do, because fleshy killers are still the non-omnipotent quasi-altruist ones actually doing the killing- but not chushily- they too suffer PTSD.
    You can only win a war if you’re a psychopath and/or a robot, or a nation of psychopaths and/or robots. Which is to say: No war can be won. The killing and destruction might stop, but the shattering of lives lasts over generations. dn! just re-aired their interviews with Gabor Mate, who argues that early childhood stresses, both direct and from parents, creates a mind/body environment where attention deficit and addiction can easily take hold.

  11. Robert says:

    You used that Marine's wedding day picture for shock effect. What a disgrace. You have no code. None.

  12. NotSoSure says:

    You follow my post about stopping the ad hominem attacks with a fucking ad hominem attack. You do not know the author and you have absolutely no idea as to his "code". Please add something useful to the discussion or take your toys and go home.

  13. Kris Nelson says:

    JA –

    I wonder if you thought all this would happen when you wrote your post? I've read your other work and this is by far the seemingly most unconsidered post you've published. It doesn't read well and your bastardization and simplification of history doesn't seem thoughtful. I wonder if this is what you intended? I wonder if you even thought about it?

    One thing seems to be true, your capacity to start a raving conversion and your capacity for moral relativism are both astonishing.

    I don't agree with your post. I feel that all of our human and social experiences are complex, and war is certainly incredibly complex. I don't like how you simplified this complex issue, went on a one sided tyrannical rant, and perpetuate the conversion with comments of greater offense.

    I wonder if you've considered the people that you've truly hurt with this post, and in doing so, in certain terms, completely goes against everything you stand for in this post. Whoever said "when you write about war you start a war" was right. How do you like the war you started? Was it worth it?

    You bring up and interesting point: War in retrospect is deemed moral/just or immoral/unjust, and we can't be clear proceeding war. For most, I think, pre-action is judged on intent; post-action is judged on outcome.

    We for the most part hate Iraq because we judge the intent as a lie and the result as a failure. The loss was not worth the intent or the outcome. (You're a business guy, this should make sense).

    We stand for WWII because the intent was judged as noble (though perhaps delayed) and the outcome was successful. In a sense, it was worth the sacrifice.

    I wonder, other than disliking memorial day (which to me doesn't have much to do with war but instead the people that fought and the families that sacrificed), what was your intent for the war you've started? Is it worth it? And our the outcomes worth the sacrifice?

    I have certainly posted my share of flippant and aggravating posts. Especially the Hummer article (which was really an article about spiritual materialism first and the environment second) and the Osama article (which was really an article about mindfulness and my observations of myself and our culture). I have pissed people off. I sort of like pissing people off. And I have a point to make when I piss people off. And I hope my points are well considered. And I am happy to admit when I've perhaps screwed up.

    Are you arguing at this point to continue arguing? Are you arguing at this point because you don't want to be wrong?

    How's the war, ol'boy?

  14. JamesAltucher says:

    I agree. But that has nothing to do with, say, Iraq. Or even the revolutionary war for that matter.

  15. JamesAltucher says:

    I guess I have more code than people who send 18 year olds to whatever country they want so they can come back like that.

  16. JamesAltucher says:

    I'm honestly really surprised that a pro-peace stance like this is taken so harshly in this forum. So many people eager to go to war at slight provocations and yet we all can enlist. I don't see anyone doing that. Again, really surprised. But war is part of the American religion.

  17. JamesAltucher says:

    Although it seems enlisting in war is not if it means your own flesh.

  18. Mat says:

    @NSS, I appreciate your attempt to moderate the comments here but using aggressive language is hardly the way to do that.

  19. American says:

    James…did it ever occur to you that maybe the "18 year old" believed in the cause, willingly joined the military, and was proud to fight for his / her belief, excepting any consequences that may come from it… of course it didn’t, because you could never relate to that way of thinking … a way of thinking that is completely selfless and admirable … every man and women that is overseas wearing our uniform does so by choice and freewill. These "18 year olds" have more honor and courage than you will ever have.

  20. war sucks but... says:

    …they died for whatever cause they were fighting for….the causes that you say weren't worth it. So A+B=C, right? Furthermore, do you know the couple in this photo? or are you exploiting there picture with no regards to their beliefs?

  21. Robert says:

    The Marine in the picture, his name is Ty Zeigel. Google him. I wonder how he would feel knowing you are using his picture like this.

  22. Colin Wiseman says:

    Sorry my mistake. I made a boo boo by calling it the Internet when I mean the World Wide Web (which is known colloquially as the internet these days).

    Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web. Look him up. The Americans invented the internet – at the time called ARPANET, which was (oh this is good) founded by DARPA part of the US Department of Defence to help basically go to war 😀 But what could be taken from this, is if Tim Berners Lee hadn't invented HTML, the Word Wide Web would be what it is today…and you can thank the Europeans for that. And you can thank America for building a system to help them go to war to be the core of the internet today.

    So can we agree, that Europeans have done 1 good thing? But let's not talk about the Scottish inventing TV, the Germans inventing the computer, the Scottish discovering penicillin in 1928 – ok pre WWII but still a biggie, but first time it saved a man's life was during WWII, 1943 the Swiss invented LSD, Jacques Cousteau invented the aqualung, Dennis Gabor for inventing holograms…am giving up here cause I just used Google to come up with these, so what did the Europeans ever do for the? That. And all that was during a war so wars are good for inventions.

    And sorry you didn't like the "Anon" bit, my browser remember the wrong settings 😀 Stupid computers and stupid internet 😀

  23. Heather says:

    Yes, I wonder also Robert how that soldier feels about using his photo this way but then this site uses provocative photos all the time to get traffic to this site. This is the perfect sleezy storm of bad taste.

  24. Paul says:

    war is part of the American religion

    No wonder you are getting flamed. Why don't you make these statements on one of your interviews on the networks. I'm sure your sponsors will love you.

  25. sally says:

    That is possibly the most ignorant comment I've read. No war in the last 50 years has been about anything but advantaging wall street, including the war on drugs. Given his profession, it's actually shocking that he would write this.

  26. Sally says:

    I wonder how that little girl feels.

  27. JamesAltucher says:

    Ask the NY Times, which originally published the picture. All I'm doing is pointing out how sad it is these heroes are so young. Did they fully understand what was happening? Do we even understand it? No need to attack me. I'm asking reasonable questions.

  28. JamesAltucher says:

    Yes, I agree Sally. And how she will feel about the US 20 years from now. And how her children will feel about the US. And the millions others like them that are being created ever day sadly.

  29. NotSoSure says:

    I also used "aggressive language" to refute claims made in Mr. Altuchers original post. You did not complain about my choice of language then. But you do now. Why is that? It seems your dislike of aggressive language is variable based on whether you agree or disagree is the message that is being aggressively put forth.

    I find it curious that all my comments blasting the original post were voted up and all my comments blasting people for making personally insulting remarks were voted down.

  30. wbtphdjd says:

    Grossly ahistorical, a killing flaw for an essayist making what is quintessentially a historical argument. At best, the title should be "Name me a single 20th century war that was worth it." The author singularly fails to consider the Civil War, arguably necessary to end slavery, or the American Revolution, unless the author would prefer to be an English colony still. Better evidence for the author's argument, such as it is, would come from Europe's wars of religion in the aftermath of the Reformation. Europeans killing each other over what flavor of Christian to be? Can you say, "pointless"? I knew you could. Please, raise the standard.

  31. JamesAltucher says:

    That makes me even sadder. Since we now know that we were lied repeatedly by our elected leaders. What a shame.

  32. JamesAltucher says:

    I think the war in the Bhavagad Gita was pointless. it was cousins arguing with each other. And so tens of thousands more had to pay the price. I prefer to think of the Gita as a metaphor for surrender to Vishnu / Krishna than as any kind of advocacy for war.

  33. JamesAltucher says:

    I just find it interesting that everyone stops their arguing once I suggest they enlist. I guess everyone can argue behind the safety of a history book but nobody would dare put their own skin at risk for the sake of our supposed justifiable wars.

  34. JamesAltucher says:

    I guess you consider peace, "banal"

  35. JamesAltucher says:

    Thank you, Judy. I've been really surprised by the response here.

  36. JamesAltucher says:

    Sasha, thank you. What's interesting to me is you present a reasoned view: i.e. war is a travesty, and yet your comment was voted to a "-2". I really don't understand the anger some people have.

  37. JamesAltucher says:

    Dan, thanks for this.

  38. JamesAltucher says:

    That peace is good?

  39. JamesAltucher says:

    Btw, the Revolutionary war was totally not worth it. What was so great about it? A few people wanted to avoid taxes and sent a bunch of 18 year old farmers to their deaths. What was so great about that? We probably would've banned slavery much sooner, also, if we had remained a colony of GB.

  40. JamesAltucher says:

    The Revolutionary War was about a few people not wanting to pay taxes. that's all it was about.

  41. Caroline says:

    This has been the most intellectually insulting, peace of absolute crap I have had the displeasure of reading. I will not bother pointing out the historical errors because plenty of others already have. I'm assuming you were trying to inject humor in your non humorous topic, when you stated you would go to war with Canada for lower oil prices. Just though I'd let you know we Canadians pay more for our own oil than you American pay, so I think that war maybe pointless just like your writing. I'm not a promoter of war but I'm not a promoter of ignorance either.

  42. JamesAltucher says:

    Yes, of course I don't think we should go to war with Canada. that would be nonsense. But, funny that you pay more for your gas thatn we do since Canada is by far the largest supplier of oil to the US.

  43. JamesAltucher says:

    Thank you, Sally.

    Also, just to add, I am only invested in peace-related companies. For instance, my biggest invstment at the moment is a company that helps soldiers figure out what the best anti-depressant is for them after they get back from war. Many soldiers come back with some form of depression or PTSD and it takes on average 8 years to find the right medication. Its horrible how little our hospitals are able to help these returning heroes and I am trying to figure out how to help them more in any way I can.

  44. Sally says:

    That is wonderful. Anti-war is pro-veteran.

  45. carlos says:

    Search: Report from Iron Mountain.
    This report seems to be an effort to determine the possibility of a world without war.
    According to this report, it seems that war serves the purposes of holding the very fabric of out civilization together.
    Meaning, that we are shaped, moulded , controlled and manipulated for purposes which are not revealed. Profit? Power? Certainly, we seem to be a digit within a calculation for someone……

  46. diplomacticmeans says:

    You are right, the American revolutionary war was about not wanting to pay taxes nor homage to some king across the sea, but you can not ignore the outcomes. The creation of a country and the declaration of independence are very good points. However, "All men created free and equal"? That part took years to really mean much, which brings me to the second worthwhile war: The civil war in all its forms. The North was not interested in having the South's property flooding their streets, nor was the South interested in losing their investments to the North. A country can not claim 'free and equal' so long as a large population remain enslaved.

    Interesting that you mentioned being willing to go to war with Canada. Is that because you think it won't happen? It already did though it wasn't about oil. Do not underestimate Canadians, 'The true North, strong and free'.