The Worth of War

December 13, 2015

The title of  Political Scientist Benjamin Ginsberg's book says it all, “The Worth of War.”In it he argues that war has greatly benefited civilization, and yes, has worth.


Always a good idea to balance a subversive piece like 'War Is Beautiful' with a mainstream pro-war piece like this. Thanks, TTBOOK, for the pathological balance.
- Greg Slater

If this interview presents a fair representation of Ginsberg's thought, then Ginsberg's thought is repulsive and dishonest, an intellectualized version of redneck sloganeering. He offers us the worth of war; why limit himself to war? Why not the value of torture, rape, and genocide as well? Or did Ginsberg actually assume listeners would understand him to be praising those things, since they so often accompany war? And does Ginsberg actually claim that Martin Luther King's main flaw was that he failed he generate sufficient numbers of mangled corpses? His sophomoric critique of nonviolence certainly seems to invite such a conclusion.

It is one thing to observe the paradox that war has at times brought benefits to society, but to leave it at that, and even to conclude, as Ginsberg does, that that makes war, as he puts it "worthy" from a "realistic" perspective, is profoundly stupid. If Ginsberg did not mean listeners to draw such a conclusion, why didn't he say so? Ginsberg offers no argument that those benefits could not have been more effectively gained through peaceful means; he does not address the possibility that the negatives outweigh the positives; and he ignores both the way war has resulted in constantly escalating state power and violence in this country, and the way war has resulted in the virtual collapse of basic social structures in many other countries around the world. Pray tell, good professor, what is the worth of war in the central African region and in Syria?

In conclusion, a breathtakingly awful interview.

I agree that the framing of the argument is quite obtuse. It's true, and quite obvious, that "progress" has been driven by the demands of conflict. The question is why is industrial "progress" considered worthy?