What War Hawks Would Sound Like If They Weren’t Psychopaths

by | May 23, 2023

Modern warfare almost always leads to killing lots of innocents; if governments were held to the same standards as individuals, these killings would be manslaughter, if not murder.  This doesn’t mean that war is never justified.  But the reasonable hawkish mood is sorrow – and constant yearning for a peaceful path.  The kind of emotions that flow out of, “We are in a tragic situation.  After painstaking research on all the available options, we regretfully conclude that we have to kill many thousands of innocent civilians in order to avoid even greater evils.  This is true even after adjusting for the inaccuracy of our past predictions about foreign policy.”

I have never personally known a hawk who expresses such moods, and know of none in the public eye.  Instead, the standard hawk moods are anger and machismo.  Ted Cruz’s recent quip, “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out” is typical.  Indeed, the hawks I personally know don’t just ignore civilian deaths.  When I raise the issue, they cavalierly appeal to the collective guilt of their enemies.  Sometimes they laugh.  As a result, I put little weight on what hawks say.  This doesn’t mean their view is false, but it is a strong reason to think it’s false.

– Bryan Caplan, Ph.D., Voters As Mad Scientists: Essays on Political Irrationality

About Keith Knight

Keith Knight is Managing Editor at the Libertarian Institute, host of the Don't Tread on Anyone podcast and editor of The Voluntaryist Handbook: A Collection of Essays, Excerpts, and Quotes.

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