Most articles condemning military adventures offer an explanation of the ‘true’ motive for a war, a motive that is different from the ostensible one. But for our leaders, there is no single reason why.
Some of them are mad. Some are nationalists. Some just do as they’re told. Most are men, and many were probably the sort of boys who carried on reading The Victor when others had moved on to Health and Efficiency. Some are driven by realpolitik, however unrealistic it may be; some have a missionary zeal to bring the light of explosions to places where now there is darkness. Some think bombing anywhere that isn’t Israel is in Israel’s interests. Most are egomaniacs who crave global fame but aren’t that good at sport. Some see money in it, for themselves or for their class.
Some think it will be valuable for the country, strategically. Some care less for country than for the triumph of global capital. Some genuinely believe, having weighed the pros and cons, that things would be better for humanity if it were subjected to a localised cull. Some don’t give it much thought. Some don’t understand their own motives. Some like some wars more than others; Kosovo was a big hit in the 1990s, among those who couldn’t see, and still can’t, that it was the start of a trend.
All of the above believe war is a good idea sometimes. They’re not doing it to wind us up. They’re sincere. Later they’ll say they’d never have supported it if only they’d known then what they know now. The thing we should know by now is that unpicking their motives doesn’t really help to demolish their case. People can passionately believe they’re right and still be horribly wrong.
Jeremy Hardy is a comedian and writer who regularly appears on BBC Radio 4's The News Quiz and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.