Webb on War
War is not one tool of national strategy among many — it is the most awful of human experiences. It is not to be used without a thorough understanding of and appreciation for its objectives, their importance and their consequences. And it is never to be undertaken half-way. If anything, Webb resembles Gen. Colin L. Powell and the generation of Vietnam veterans who ascended to the Pentagon under Reagan defense secretary Caspar Weinberger. (Unsurprisingly, perhaps, because he was one of them.)
But interestingly, Webb is agnostic in the novel about what his conception of the national interest is — offering instead what it isn’t. He offers guidelines for when and how to wage war, but, perhaps wisely for a novel, prefers to give a formula rather than solve a problem.
This is interesting (to me, anyway) on two levels. First, I’m about a third of the way through Something to Die For, which I bought off a remainders rack circa 1992 but never got around to reading, and just can’t force myself to finish given its general lack of goodness as a novel.
Second, I’m also about a third of the way through Matt Yglesias’ new book, Heads in the Sand, which I’m finding much better than Webb’s. I’ll write a more thorough review of it when I’m done but, suffice it to say, pretty much nobody actually has a parsimonious, consistent definition of what “the national interest” is vis-a-vis being worth going to war.