The Problem with Economic Arguments Against War

April 10, 2017
April 10, 2017 Halsey English

The Problem with Economic Arguments Against War

In Response To Tim Preuss

In reading the latest article from my coworker and friend Tim Preuss, Americans Should Not Want WWIII, I feel compelled to respond. One of the glories of American life is that dissent can be the greatest form of compliment. My dissent is not really based on a fundamental disagreement; just in the evolution of the argument.

The article is based on the economic situation in the United States and its ability to go to war based on those factors. It makes an argument that Russia and China are much better positioned to enter into conflict with the US and therefore, risking a war that those countries will probably fall on the other side of is fool’s error. Using an economic argument in order to convince the country war is not a good idea is not a strong one, it relies on the same type of populism which I often decry when it comes from the Left, and I don’t pretend that I will accept it on the Right. My reply is not based on other arguments I have heard Tim make (and I mostly disagree with) based on Constitutional Authority and Morality, but those arguments are for me to make another day.

The economic argument against war

It is always an easy path to say that the economics of a country and the world at large are not prepared for, or put one party at risk for losing, the war based on the country’s internal and external economics. This can be boiled down to two simple yet immensely complicated questions. Can the country survive a war economically and should economics play a role in deciding whether a country should go to war? The answer is emphatically yes in the first instance and an emphatic no in the second. 

    1. Can the country survive a war economically?

The United States has traditionally been at an economic advantage when deciding to engage in conflict, but the dedication to that conflict is what decides whether it is an economically viable prospect. WWII was joined by the US when they were in the middle of the Great Depression and if ever there was an economic argument against war that was it.  In the end, WWII led to an economic expansion unrivaled in American history. This was because the necessity for America to ramp up its manufacturing base for war led to a huge investment both public and private in factories, workers, and technology in order to ensure victory.

The circumstances for this argument are heavily indicated now because weapons of war have become radically technologically advanced and America is in a position to ramp up the same type of internal resources to produce and manufacture weapons.  America has one of the strongest technology bases, and the only countries that are on par are rock solid allies (Israel and Britain) who are completely integrated in the American Military procurement process. It can easily be argued that a major conflict would jump start America’s technology sector in a way that isn’t based solely on consumption. This would be a huge economic boom for America (Pun Intended). 

The further argument is that, with the severe decline in American manufacturing and the resultant job losses that accompanied it, investing in the manufacturing base for weaponry and technology will come at a premium today. Warehouses, equipment and labor would be highly more affordable than they would in a time of extreme economic growth. The fact that the President and Congress are both being lead by Republicans would also drive the cost down as adhering to Union rules and wages would not be the first priority. The Republican dream of retraining unemployed workers for technology manufacturing would be easy to accomplish, because it would include a level of nationalistic motivation.

2. Should economics play a role in deciding whether  a country goes to war?

The purpose of war is, and always should be, is it necessary for the country’s survival to engage in armed conflict? If the answer is yes than economics should not be considered. If it is no, than it doesn’t take an economic argument to shoot down the prospect of war. If you are forced to use an economic argument for why war is not a good option than using feeds into the same type of economic populism that is decried by both the writer and others in general.

I will repeat my argument. The only cause for war, is when the President, as Commander in Chief, is presented with Casus Belli.

ca·sus bel·li
ˈkäsəs ˈbelē,ˈkāsəs ˈbelˌī/
  1. an act or situation provoking or justifying war.

There are further arguments to be made that President Trump, being elected and sworn in as President is the sole determining factor when deciding to engage in a military action against a foreign government, and barring a Constitutional reason for avoiding war is permitted to engage in these acts. Neither Tim nor myself is empowered to do anything but criticize or support.

I happen to fall solely into the criticize section of the stadium when it comes to the recent military action by President Trump, but my causes have nothing to do with whether we can afford it.

I would be happy to discuss the other arguments I have heard for or against the military action in Syria. I can be reached at or @halseynewsnet on Twitter.




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Halsey English

Halsey English serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Halsey News. An accredited journalist for more than 10 years, Halsey is one of the premier minds focusing on political thought and theory.
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